“Imagine a flower, that yellow flower that after a time becomes white to sow its seed,” Claudine was telling me the other night. “Imagine that flower, and think of your problems. I am not aware of your problems, I do not know what they are, but think of them like this flower, in your hand, white. Then…” She blew the imaginary flower in her hand, letting her fingers fall as her breath poured between them. She looked at me and shrugged. “Why not?”
We had been discussing how we had come to the Camino for one reason or another, but that we were finding that we would continually find more reasons the longer we were in our own heads. I said I found it hard to keep seeing these things come up, that I just wanted to fix them all. And she’d replied with, “Why do they all need to be fixed? Let them go.” It was a notion I hadn’t considered.
“When they are on the wind, they will find another spot and go from that ugly problem to some beautiful flower. And maybe it will come back to you one day and you can see it in a better way then, when it had left and come back. Until then, stop trying to hold onto those seeds and let the wind take them.”
This woman I had met at a gite a day prior. I’d reminded her of her daughter who was a good few years younger than me, and she also played the ukulele. They’d asked me to play that night, and Claudine had been over the moon to see me not only play, but take joy in sharing my gift. It felt so good to give it, I didn’t fully remember the moments with Steff, of being so nervous and not wanting to be scrutinized for fear of finding out I wasn’t as good as everyone else said.
Claudine had been through a lot. Just before she was my age, she’d had an anyuresm, and the doctors and her boyfriend (now husband) had no idea if she would pull through. Four months later, she had survived, with no memory to speak of, not even short or long term.
It took her four years to rebuild her life during such a depression.
Slowly, her memory became better for creating the new life that wasn’t as it used to be, and she would remember vague things of her past. But she never fully recovered from then.
She is now 52 years old and walking all the way to St. Jacques.
I continue to meet these people on the path with problems that I find, when mentioned to me, are much larger than my own. I find myself looking into myself, looking at my core to open myself up more to love and all of its possibilities, but then I hear of those who are walking to forget that they lost a loved one, to remind themselves that a surgery didn’t take away their health, or as a way to come to terms with never being able to have children.
Who am I on this trail?
I feel like a person who had some first world problems, that she wasn’t able to have the perfect kind of cheese, and then visits a household where they are just glad to have cheddar at all, or even just milk.
It starts to make me wonder how much I hold myself back over such simple problems, which I understand that so many would beg to differ, telling me my own issues are still as important as the others while walking the Way, but I still see how easy it is for me to take a problem and make it much bigger than it actually is, and using that as an excuse to hold me back from my capabilities and dreams.
I had to take a rest day due to a slight leg injury that several other people on the Camino received from straining themselves a bit too much while walking. All said that a rest day would do me well, so I chose a city that also was known for massages and spa.
The gite I stayed at had a husband who did the massages, so I requested to have one in the morning so I could spend the rest of the day catering to my body’s needs.
I have never had a deep tissue massage. But let me tell you, it isn’t the relaxing-you-can-practically-fall-asleep massage I typically get.
First of all, I was completely nude, and the massage was back and front. I was used to having barriers of some sort. He also spoke to me during, telling me to take deep breaths and relax during the most painful parts of the massage, which is a lot harder than you’d think. Accepting the pain by letting it go just goes against the grains of what is natural. Lastly, it was the most non-sexual but connected massage I’d had since my craniosacral massage at my acupuncturist.
The whole thing was focused on listening to the body. Too often, the mind itself is talking, talking, talking. It forgets about the body. We walk without thinking, breathe, even eat without thinking. We aren’t paying attention to how our feet connect with the ground.
When he was finished, placing a sheet over me and leaving the room, I felt myself suddenly tear up as I realized how I’d thought I’d been listening to my body, but I’d really been ignoring it, for the longest time possible. My feet hurt from walking? Of course they do, I’m walking miles upon miles a day–stop thinking about it. My shoulders hurt? Well, that’s what happens when you carry something heavy for miles upon miles, stop thinking about it.
I started to wonder what I really did know about my body, despite my feeling I’ve loved it for years, accepted it.
He came back in to make sure the oil was off of my feet and to talk about the experience I’d had. I said I’d never quite had a massage like that, and he said that the mind and body need to be connected more than just simply telling yourself they are connected. “You look yourself in the mirror every day and tell yourself you are beautiful, but how will you accept that without connecting your body to that notion, knowing your body?”
He explained that while the mind is like a network system, like the hardware of a computer, but the body it is inside still needs to be taken care of and noticed. They don’t really work without the other. The mind can’t be used without a body, and a body can’t be used without the mind. The most important thing was that a mind could never truly be present within life unless the body was present, too.
And to, ultimately, let it go.
“That is why people walk the trail, after all,” he said. “Listen to your body as you walk every step, let go of those thoughts holding you down. It’s simple, really.”
So simple, people take off three months to walk and figure it out.