St. Jean to Roncesvalles: Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.

IMG_4251

Toward the middle of every Camino hiking day, you hit a silent, steady stride. With so much land behind you and so much ahead, there isn’t much to think about other than the current trail. The forest eventually returned, reminding us how much easier it is to breathe when protected by a thick canopy of trees.

I distinctly remember passing a giant stone that read “España” on my first trip. Either we missed it in the haze of the day, or it never existed in the first place. Either way, you do simply walk into Spain. They stamp your passport at the albergue when you arrive and that’s it. No ceremony, no checkpoint.

IMG_4887

The heat, humidity and knee pain really began to wear on me in the final several hours. Once you know the end is near, it requires much more discipline not to fall apart. As we crested one of what felt like a hundred hills, we spotted a path of pilgrims way up ahead, ascending yet another incline. How could we possibly still be going up?

Continue reading

Advertisements

Day 20: The Day I Became a Catholic Buddhist

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

12967992_907226818219_1766165424591321834_o

Traditionally, I was raised in a rather predictable Catholic fashion.  Until we moved in 1998, I went to Catholic school, memorized the textbooks, participated in the school’s morning group prayers, and went to church with my family on most Sundays.  I didn’t understand that there was an option to believe anything otherwise.  Every Catholic kid from our church was introduced to the religion in the best possible way, through a caring man named Father Charles Hudson.  He told stories in a conversational, calming tone, he spoke to the whole audience, he preached kindly and collaboratively about other religions, he invited other spiritual groups to Mass–he was an open-minded, inspirational dude that left the world quite suddenly at the age of 61 after a heart attack.  He was known for his extensive list of humanitarian work, founding a hospice center, and creating inspiration tapes for the ill.  My mom said that you couldn’t get near the church for the funeral, it was so packed that people spilled out into the parking lot.

I was lucky that when all the anger brewed up in me later in life, when the broken politics of the church sent me running from Christianity, I had people like Father Hudson (and awesome Catholics like my grandmother) to remind me it wasn’t all bad, there were those that rose above the ulterior motives of the outdated system.  However, I took a sharp left turn in high school, when the community surrounding my hometown church went against any teachings of the religion.  To me, this group of parents acted like a special club for those with outwardly “perfect” lives, and only those that followed the rules were welcome to socialize with the grade-A Catholics of the town.

And so, after a fateful trip to a bookstore one afternoon, I found Buddhism instead.  I was at that age when everyone seemed to be finding Eastern religion, but the snooty comments thrown my way about being a part of a “typical and predictable” trend, only pushed me father away from what felt like a bitter Western tradition that was losing members by the day.  Buddhism simply made the world seem clearer.  Instead of focusing of accruing good deeds to be given good fortune, you are encouraged to revel in the discomfort of pain and confusion–these were the challenges that helped you grow into a more caring person.  Fear and sadness were nothing to blame yourself for, they were emotions recognized as passing clouds that, in the meantime, could bring you closer to understanding someone else’s suffering. Continue reading

Day 6! A Short Camino Story by the Fire

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  Today’s theme is, “Enough is enough.”  Whatever that means to you, feel free to comment, link your blog, or repost online with any stories of your own.  Thanks for reading!

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

12976859_907227072709_6394334881463048669_o

With the interest of returning to hike the Camino again, I’ve been reading several forums about how much things have changed since 2009.  When we hiked, there were no smartphones, no apps to guide our path, and no way to check social media without putting a Euro in a router at a hostel.  It was also pre-The Way, a beautiful movie that helped spread the Camino’s tradition, and apparently significantly boost its popularity.  Understandably, technology and popularity brings along as much bad as it does the good.  I’ve read countless posts about the overcrowding of hostels, squabbles over wifi speed, and a commercialization of the hike.

Continue reading

Day 2: The Farther You Go…or, That Time I Rapped with Nuns in Spain

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  Today’s theme is, “The farther you go.”  Whatever that means to you, feel free to comment, link your blog, or repost online with any stories of your own.  Thanks for reading!

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

Day 2: The Farther You Go…or, That Time I Rapped with Nuns in Spain

Although I attended six years of Catholic school, I wouldn’t say I came out of it much of a Catholic—at least not in the traditional sense.  I developed a strong resentment toward my patronizing and judgmental school experience, full of plaid jumpers and a brutal social caste system, and then totally cut the cord in high school when my church yelled at my family for not sending me to CCD even though my mom was going through serious chemo.  As usual, people not following the teachings of the church scare away its followers.

12973534_907226543769_6311921339945343143_o

But when the Camino de Santiago fell into my lap during a program in college, I reconsidered the role religion had played in my life up until then.  To put this story in a nutshell, I studied the Camino that year and then decided to walk the whole kit and caboodle with my friend Claire after we graduated in 2009.  It was a turning point in my life, as well as a turning point for how I viewed organized religion.  I wouldn’t say I ever had a “come to Jesus” moment—if anything, Buddha became even more of my jam, but I did leave with a greater inner peace about the original intentions of the Catholic traditions.  I left with a new belief in humanity, and new hope that community can triumph over a broken system, no matter which tradition is followed.

Continue reading