Stage 20, Sep 24, Fromista to Carrion de los Condes, 20.1km, total time 5:20 hrs

Peter, a self-professed hermit walker from Germany, in a time span of 2 hours, uttered no more than 20 words. However he showed me how to start with meditational walking. It’s about finding the point of balance between pacing the walk and the breath: rhythmically inhale for two full steps, exhale for other two steps and so on. Focus for 5 km to a moving point below the road surface and about 1 step ahead. Once you have done the first 5 km, then move the focus point to 5 to 10 steps ahead. If the mind got distracted or starts wandering, then go back to shorten your focal point.

Today the itinerary was dull enough to start practicing. Tomorrow morning the first stretch is 17 km long with no villages or stops. If I master the technique today, I thought, tomorrow I will have a powerful tool to condition my mind. Fact was that it is a lot more difficult than it seems. Assuming you can keep a light mind with the short distance focus, a total different story is to maintain the mind focused when you have many more external factors with the perception range of your senses. First of all you become very sensitive to all sounds around you: the birds, the wind, the storming of the trees, the distant barking of an annoyed dog. The awareness of other walkers on the road becomes
unbearable: the mind immediately switches to check the other person, whether he or she have been met before, whether they want to engage in a conversation, and ultimately what to say in response to the usual: “Buen Camino!”. How difficult is to keep our own center regardless of external conditions! The meditation trial was disastrous, but I am determined to practice more tomorrow.

Worth mentioning was the visit to the templar church of Santa Maria de Villalcazar de Sirca with a magnificent retablo and conserving the remains of ancient royalty of Spain. Villalcazar has been a famous pilgrim stop since the XII century when it became a commandery of the Knights Templar. A few historical buildings now hosting auberges and restaurants, are giving the place an out of this world feeling.

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The last stretch of road along the highway could not be suitable for further meditation. Another improvised healer in Burgos sentenced that walking diseases happen because our walking posture is wrong. I interrogated my faithful shadow to check on my posture. One good thing about walking westward is that your shadow is proceeding you and is there for you to talk to as a travel companion. In the mornings is long and slender. The head is far away and seems not so available for sharing, but around midday is comes is chubbier and closer. Then the shadow is telling the truth: my posture is horrible. I walk like a cowboy with spread legs and oscillating sideways at every step. Even my reading spectacles hanging from the neck are a sort of endless pendulum. The “healer” suggested then: “close your legs, and narrow the side gap between your feet, keep your core muscles contracted all the time, and stretch the spine”. I have so many things to correct for tomorrow’s stage now!

In Carrion not so many things to do. There are pilgrims everywhere. Mostly old, and sad. I do not want to mingle and hear stale stories again tonight, so I checked in at an Hostal, a sort of lower grade hotel with individual rooms with a private bathroom. The lady at the desk is offering me a room with three beds, and want euro 40 to keep it for me only. I only offered her euro 20 for a shared accomodation hoping that other pilgrims would not sign in for a shared room. Anyway the señora assured me that she would have offered the other two beds only to chicas (girls). And in facts after a short while a soft knocking at the door introduced the promised two chicas: two grandmothers from Texas!

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