Jen’s Fitness Forum
The Way of Saint James– that’s where I’ve been.
It was an incredibly enriching, inspiring, soul-opening journey that marked in me a definite before and after. Over the next few weeks I will share my experience, starting with the Way’s history and metaphor, moving to the physical, continuing with the mental and emotional, and finally arriving to the spiritual evolution and lessons learned.
For those of you who don’t know, the Way of Saint James is a 510-mile pilgrimage that begins in France and crosses the Pyrenees Mountains to northern Spain, continuing through the Basque country, Navarra, la Rioja, Castilla y Leon, and finally arriving to Galicia, where the apostle Saint James’ tomb is buried in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. For over a thousand years, people of many different backgrounds have walked this pilgrimage and made the enormous sacrifice to reach the remains of Saint James and what was thought to be the “end of the world” in ancient Europe. Today people make the pilgrimage for a wide variety of reasons, including religion, spirituality, health, a search for meaning, or tourism. Although the Way is one, the journeys are many.
The pilgrim begins his Way with the joy of having a clear-cut goal. He has a start point and an end point, and for thirty days in between, he walks. It all seems very simple from an outsider’s perspective, but the pilgrim is faced with many challenges along the way. There are ups and downs, winding paths and long, straight roads. There are bridges to cross and mountains to transcend. Through bitter cold mornings and scorching hot afternoons, torrential rains and stormy winds, the pilgrim walks.
He learns to surpass physical pain and exhaustion, as well as mental and emotional obstacles. Little things bring him pleasure when a shower, hot meal, and bed become a luxury. He lives minimally. Everything in his pack is extra weight, and over such a long distance, one pound makes a big difference.
On the same note, the pilgrim comes to understand the value of his possessions. Things aren’t readily available like they are back home and suddenly that Ziploc bag he normally throws out after one use is like gold. The pilgrim uses what he has and what nature offers him. He comes to find that with generosity, good intentions, patience, observation, and an open spirit, he will get what he needs.
Although the pilgrim walks outside, his journey is inward, and it is this that helps him understand and find balance in his life. His daily lessons do not come from walking a certain amount of miles, but rather from learning to listen to his body, mind, and soul. Enjoying each unique moment as it happens makes the experience exceptionally valuable. On many occasions, the pilgrim must take a longer route, while on others, a shorter one is chosen, always depending on what he is learning that day.
Continuously advancing does not necessarily give him more knowledge or understanding, and arriving first will not always provide him with his answers. Many times it is necessary to slow down in order to better identify and contemplate a situation. The Way is not a race.