I saw a great documentary, Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, this past weekend (actually saw it for the second time) at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. This beautiful film gives us an intimate view of this famous spiritual pilgrimage. I highly recommend the film, particularly if you have an interest in spiritual journeys.
If you missed it while it was in town, go to the website, www.caminodocumentary.org, to find out whether it is going to be screened in your city. If it isn’t, I understand that the DVD is going to be available in the fall and can be pre-ordered through the website.
I have a keen interest in spiritual journeys. It would be fair to say that I have been on a spiritual journey most of my life and that my journey has intensified since I began studying Medical Qigong with Master Nan Lu.
What are the components of a spiritual journey? In Walking the Camino, we see that a spiritual journey is at its heart a personal, private journey. It requires that you have awareness that you are seeking a deeper understanding about the meaning of your life. Or you might begin with a recognition that your life is not fulfilling, or is not working. This awareness may come to you through illness or personal loss, through financial difficulties, or family and relationship problems, or from a deep sense of emptiness in your life.
Paradoxically, despite it being an intensely personal and private journey, it is often a journey taken within a larger community of seekers.
In the Camino, pilgrims are supported by complete strangers who they meet on the path. And they get physical and spiritual sustenance from the people who house and feed them along the way. These are people who lives are dedicated to supporting the Camino pilgrims.
From the Buddhist perspective, this community is your sangha. In every spiritual path, community, fellowship, is vital. Through our community we have the opportunity to see ourselves more clearly. A strong, loving community allows us to confront the parts of us we have the most trouble with, those aspects that we don’t want to see. This helps us realize our deep commonality with others, and to open us up to love and compassion.
There are those who travel the spiritual path alone. This, too, is well known. But those on a solo journey are joined and supported–beyond space and time–by others who have done this before.
The Camino, like other spiritual journeys, is guided by a connection to something that links us to that domain that is much larger than we are. Whether we call that God, or the Tao, or All That Is, the journey is a path to reconnect to this Presence.
Currently, my spiritual journey is guided through my relationship with Master Lu. Being a student of a Master is deeply humbling and involves deep trust and faith. A true Master’s purpose is to help you become free from the distortions that block you from living your life’s purpose and from being who you really are.
Another component of the spiritual path is that it requires real physical commitment. Typically, the journey pushes you to go beyond what you thought were your physical limits. The Camino is a 500-mile pilgrimage! In Qigong practice, sometimes you do practices for hours, or you have to work through significant physical pains and other ailments. These physical challenges often lead to physical crises, moments when you feel sure that you are going to break. Your body becomes the mirror for your limiting beliefs about yourself and your capacity to heal and transform. As you continue through these challenges, your understanding about yourself and your capabilities expands. Fears diminish or disappear. A new inner confidence appears.
A direct encounter with Nature is another important part of spiritual journeys. In the documentary, we see the shifts that occur as pilgrims navigate their encounter with the beautiful land through which they walk. At first, pilgrims focus on their complaints about weather, about their shoes, their backpacks, their belongings, all manner of inconveniences. But after awhile, most discover that they are carrying too much, and they shed what they recognize is non-essential. In this simpler version of themselves, they have a deeper and more direct encounter with the land. And this transforms them.
Interestingly, not everyone who is called to do a spiritual journey, like the Camino, has planned to do it for years. Not everyone realizes that they are answering a spiritual call. Sometimes, it looks like a chance event. In this, we see the limits of the mind. The journey may be part of your destiny. The spiritual journey helps us realize that there are things that our minds cannot grasp.
Students who have done the Dragon’s Way® Program, repeatedly hear that this, too, is a journey. And it is. You become connected to a large supportive community. You become lighter as you shed many different kinds of weight, and transform this to new energy you can use. Once you begin it, your life will change in many unexpected and delightful ways. It will help you recognize and go beyond many self-imposed limitations.
The biggest aha after watching Walking the Camino is that you don’t have to do The Camino in order to have these realizations. When you accept that you are on a spiritual journey, your life is your journey. There is no “promised land” to reach. Each step you take in your life is on your promised land. It can be an opening into an expanded world where you see yourself deeply connected with everyone and everything around you.