The legacy of the Camino…

At social gatherings, the questions of the many people not having seen me after my return from the Camino pilgrimage walk, are inevitably very similar.

Surprisingly my answers are not. I mean, the basic facts and stereotypes are necessarily repetitive, but I just realize that my introspection is gradually evolving and revealing new aspects I am learning as I hear myself while telling to others. My answers are now more elaborated and more calibrated to the audience.

Surely not dramatic breakthroughs, but an increasing awareness of another brand new experience of mine, which has been completed and is gradually being elaborated to form new vision, reflections and thoughts. Most of the people I am casually meeting over some wine and snacks have no intention whatsoever to do something similar, most are too young or professionals too engaged in their jobs or in raising young kids; some are dubious and defensive for the possible threat to their own life beliefs and endeavors, and quite determined to look for the loopholes of contradiction instead of opening up to what new is out there for them.

My elation and reward is however when I can sense a small seed inspiration creeping through the many layers of self-preserving skepticism and planting itself deeply inside the imagination layer. Passing the message, that’s the legacy of the challenge!

I do not have the skills nor the ambition to become an evangelist of sort, to preach the right against the wrong. As in few past occasions, though, I witnessed the power of experience as opposed to just intellectual or religious theories or dogmas. The simple sharing of my rounded-up experience, it’s the most effective way to pass the message.

Even this blog, in which I have painstakingly entered my daily impressions, thoughs and sometimes a few disoriented remarks, it’s a sharing and a legacy of an experience. A friend commented that I have bared my soul, perhaps too much, and that now I am more vulnerable, as the readers were connected in a somewhat intimate relationship with my feelings and my soul while I still do not know exactly who are all the persons that red one , a few or all the pages of my script, let alone to know their true inner feelings or thoughts.

If all this would be sufficient for at least one person I reached to start his or her own Camino in  goodwill for a true search of the meanings of life, then my soul has not been bared in vain.

Tying the last strings…..

Dear readers and supporters,

Thanks to your undivided support and encouragement, I managed to meet my goal to reach Finisterre from Lourdes covering the actual distance of 992 km in just 39 days.

Besides the satisfaction of having been able to walk the distance in good health and spirit, in good will of the Lord, and to have experienced total freedom and happiness, another goal was also to raise some funds for an adopted Charity, the Student Advisory Centre of Singapore (SAC)

The SAC social mission is to help  children from financially disadvantaged families meet their basic food needs and help them progress out of poverty through education.

In a few days, on November 30, the fund raising event shall be closed. I am very thankful to the donors that have already contributed either directly or indirectly.

This post is a reminder for whoever still wishes to give a contribution to do so. For the ones that are desperate since they wanted so badly to donate, but lost the link to the donations collecting website, here it is again:
https://www.give.sg/TeamGIVE/Lifepilgrim/walk4change

The amount of each contribution is not relevant as much as the number of donors. So take a few moments from your busy schedule to give a concrete sign of solidariety.

God bless you all.

The essence of Happiness

On a late morning of a lazy Sunday, I am reading one of the columns of the Straits Times, about the hardship of being happy. Incidentally it  is at page 46, Nov 18, in the “Think” section. How appropriate!

The article wittingly written by John Lui is a light review of the book “The Antidote”, by Oliver Burkeman. The book is about the vanity of material gratifications in the First World’s recipe on the pursuit of happiness. In essence the article is hinting that according to the author of the book, happiness is directly linked to the quality of your thoughts rather then the power of your hard achievements.

I have not read the book and I am now quite attracted to the idea of getting a copy. What makes it quite attractive is that the book seems to be relatively thin compared to the heavy tomes written by other super-achievers.  I cannot resist however to draw a parallel between the comments in the article with my experience about the importance of breeding healthy thoughts. Obviously these will be my own opinions, and hope that the wise Burkeman won’t be too upset with me, should he happen to read these lines.

During my  long hours of solitary walking along St. James walk, I learned how to become familiar with more universal needs, through the increasing awareness of the mass of human beings involved at once  all together on their arduous  life journeys. Each individual journey shares the very basic needs with the other fellow pilgrims, and your own misery is often the same misery of others. So what’s the point of being irritated by the behaviors of others? Or by the selfish desire of complaining about a perceived violation of a personal right, or by the inadequate delivery of an expected service?

I told to myself: ” Do concentrate on your shortcomings, offer sincere apologies to whomever you may have hurt, and move on with a clear mind. Likewise do not focus on the wrongdoings of others, and be prepared to forgive”

I came to realize slowly how the shift of my attention from the commiseration of my personal shortcomings to the awareness to the voice and the stories of the other walkers, was positively affecting the quality of my thoughts and my inner happiness as a consequence.

Once sedated the roaring of my inner grievances, I could enjoy like a child the beauty and the calmness of the surrounding nature and the positive appreciation of true happiness hidden in being the first to offer a smile, or a greeting, or the simple sharing of some food.

It is a well known theory on how the hosting of positive, serene and healthy thoughts can help to achieve your personal and also professional targets. Now I believe that the soft agent of success is eventually the  happiness that comes from living in harmony with simplicity. So, in a process where happiness is the root cause, positive achievements are natural consequences.

Epilogue

In a leap that transported me 10,000 kilometers and 1,000 years forward, I am now back to the super comfortable lifestyle of my sunny Singapore and to the usual chores and challenges of the professional life.

image

This is certainly true for my physical body. But the mind is still far behind. I find myself staring at the ceiling during my jetlagged sleepless nights, revisiting mentally my trip step by step, stage by stage, face by face, still wondering about what really happened and how it will affect my future from now on.

I have over a thousand pictures to sort out by subject, date, reference before I miss out the important detail that prompted me to take the picture in the first place. I am concentrated in deconstructing the bidimensional and static images in an attempt to add the background sounds, the smells, the color of my mood and overall feelings of these life fragments before becoming just agglomerates of stolen bits and pixels.

I have dozens of emails of people I shared with essential moments of happiness, joy, wonders and discoveries, and also of pain, disappointment, perhaps also of little despair and recovery. These people, once my daily companions of a common project, now are just like me, back to the ‘normal’ occupations in their tespective countries, and it is hard to picture them literally out of their abused walking shoes and outfits. I hope to keep an occasional contact with all these people, to remember how we were and how we could likely be again if we just want to.

Was it worth? No single answer is possible to this question. Most of the time, people from my ‘normal’ circle of friends, colleagues, or just simple acquaintances, set a critical eye on me to spot the big differences ‘before and after’. Most comments only limit the consideration that, yes, I have lost some weight but not as much as they expected.

I know that the answer lies at a much deeper level. In the day to day journey on our inner Camino, the small changes which we are able to commit consistently are the ones that will generate the bigger differences in the longer term. I can sense these small changes happening shapelessly inside me. I am monitoring any new spontaneous approach in response to the life stresses and the small rewards I am collecting from an increased awareness and open attitude towards others and how I relate to them.

But what about the idea that the whole purpose if my trip was designed by the Lord to touch and affect others? In my two-way conception of the deterministic world, there is always the prejudice of being the sole recipient of the effect of my actions. Both good and bad. But what about if instead I was just an instrument to create an opportunity for others to reap a much more needed benefit?

I would probably never know a certain answer to this last question, but I am now more considerate in feeding just my ego and believing I am the key actor for my own wellbeing. In reciprocity, I am now more conscious that the decisions and effort of others will have likely a much deeper impact on me, once I will keep an open mind to allow myself to resonate at the same frequency of the universe.