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|Posted on August 23, 2015 at 3:48 PM||comments (0)|
My husband, my daughter, and I embarked upon the journey of a lifetime early this summer from June 13 through June 23, 2015. In celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, we set out to walk the last leg of the Portuguese Way of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The route began in Tui, Spain with its destination ending in Santiago de Compostela, traditionally the location of the crypt and remains of St. James, the Apostle. This segment of the Camino is approximately 100 kilometers.
The history of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela dates back well over 1000 years with Christians making this pilgrimage since the Middle Ages. Today pilgrims can walk, bike, or take to the path on horseback with a variety of objectives in mind, particularly spiritual. A minimum of 100 kilometers by is required to obtain a “compostela” or certificate in Santiago. Proof is obtained by having a credencial stamped along the way.
My reasons for undertaking this journey were largely spiritual but also for enjoyment and celebration of my marriage. Some of my own personal insights gained along “The Way” include:
The key to accomplishing anything is perseverance. It is not about being the best, the fastest, the smartest, the nicest looking, or even good enough; the key to success is simply not giving up. The fastest person doesn't always finish the race. A slow and steady pace is particularly relevant for the long haul. One can quickly lose steam along the first few kilometers and deplete reserves needed to last the entire 100 kilometers. Drinking up all of the water and eating all of the granola at the first leg doesn’t get one very far. I have often heard of individuals in counseling say to me that it took them “a long time” to accomplish something. I am always quick to add, “But you did it!”
So if it takes several years to get a bachelor's degree or even a doctorate; so if it takes a long time to get a promotion at the job; so if it takes forever to clean through your living space; so if it seems like it is takes forever to find a soul mate. Whatever the situation might be-- don't give up--persevere. I always say, if at first you don’t succeed: Pray, cry, and try again!
Don’t fret falling down but more importantly learn to get back up and carry on. Don't get discouraged at the prospect of a fall, but be encouraged at being able to get back up again. I didn't actually fall on the Camino but the fear of falling definitely slowed me down. There were many slick surfaces, rocks to climb, and paths to maneuver. Life in itself has its series of slippery slopes that need to be conquered. The classic mark of a procrastinator is the fear of failure. These types often do not even get past the starting line. But the fall isn’t the problem nor the worst part of it. Remaining face down in the mud is. The challenge with most addictions is being able to stay the course even after a relapse. A cupcake binge should not get one permanently derailed from a diet. Get back up, shake the dust off, and then proceed the course. And if it happens to be an issue of a sinful nature, Catholic Christians have recourse to starting anew through participation in the Sacrament of Confession. The old saying goes that Christians are definitely not perfect, but they are forgiven. Isaiah 40:31: They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall walk and not be weary. They shall run and not faint.
It’s just as hard going downhill. The hills on the Camino were definitely challenging. Some went on for a couple of miles or so. Climbing a hill can be extremely exhausting especially when the temptation to turn back presents itself. But just as in life, there is no turning back. One thing I quickly discovered is that no matter how tough it was going up, going downhill was not any easier. It is a joy to arrive at the mountaintop. But all roads do not end at the summit. What goes up must inevitably come down. I quickly discovered that a different set of leg and knee muscles were required to make the descent. Life has its peaks and valleys. We are presented with unique challenges in each scenario. Perhaps there are many uphill battles. But it’s never all uphill. And we don’t necessary gain momentum going downhill. Some of the worse crashes occur at the foot of a mountain. Lives can sometimes snowball when we don’t know how and when to put on the brakes. I remember in my days traveling in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee there would be sand banks along the side of the road for runaway tractor trailers. The descent must be made at a slow and steady pace.
It’s not only all about me. One principle taught in running a business as well as learned in walking the Camino is that any group is only as fast and efficient as its slowest member. In our little walking trio-- the holdup would be me. My 52-year-old pace served as a ball and chain for my 17-year-old and even my husband. However later on in the journey another’s upset stomach or someone else’s toe blisters became concerns and affected our progress in other ways. One has to learn to be concerned with the disabilities and shortcomings of each other on the same journey. If one of the members of the group only has the capability to walk 10 kilometers a day, then the maximum for that group is only 10 kilometers a day. Productivity becomes a team effort. If one wins, we all win. If one is incapacitated, we all become incapacitated. It’s in everyone’s best interest to look out for each other.
Be open to the kindness and advice of others. One encounters a lot of strangers along the Camino that become friends along the way. Fortunately these days it is much safer than back in the Middle Ages where pilgrims were often attacked, robbed, and left for dead (thus necessitating the building of the Reyes Catolicos centuries ago in Santiago which began as a hospice to help those who had been injured). Over the course of several days we encountered many familiar peregrines. It’s important to be willing to accept help from others, to be willing to ask for directions, and to be willing to give assistance. But there is one caveat: Be careful about asking directions from a cross-eyed person in a foreign country who doesn’t speak your native tongue. We were trying to locate the birthplace of St. Anthony of Padua when in Portugal and almost became lost trying to find the patron saint of lost things! Something got mixed up and lost in the translation and we found ourselves going in the opposite direction. So the lesson here is to exercise prudence in discerning good advice. On the other hand, when we were in need of a taxi on another afternoon and asked a restaurateur to call one for us, he volunteered to take us himself and he even tripped on the pavement on the way to his vehicle. Upon completion of the journey he refused to accept any form of payment. We were very grateful for his generosity.
We heard all sorts of advice about preparing and going on the Camino. My advice: it is all relevant and helpful. Just like in life those who have gone before have something to say to us to help along the journey. It is prudent and wise to take their insights into consideration.
Small things matter. For instance see how long one can walk with a tiny rock in a shoe. Paying attention to detail is very important along the journey: the weight of one’s daypack is can make a significant difference. Someone I know on the journey decided to bring three books along the daily walk. After a day of lugging all of that extra weight, that same person decided that only one book would suffice.
Be prepared but also be willing to embrace the unexpected. Getting lost once in a while is part of the journey. The best laid plans can run amuck. Fortunately most of our journey was under sunny skies and the paths were well marked. But we did have to contend with a heat wave that hit throughout that part of Spain and dealt with temperatures that approached near 100 degrees F. We carried extra rain ponchos in our packs but never had to use them along the Camino. Most of our meals and lodging were planned ahead of time but we did have occasions when it was difficult to find a place to have a bite for lunch and dinner was often past 9 pm when we were used to eating at 5 or 6 pm at home. I have often heard that the most successful people in life are those who are willing to roll and adapt to the curves and changes in life.
Don’t expect to lose in 7 days what accumulated over 7 years. One hope in walking 100 km was that I would lose a lot of weight. But the Camino is like in life. A temporary change in one’s physical activity might cause a temporary weight change but permanent results don’t occur unless there are permanent changes. This can apply to whatever changes one wants to make in life. We have to be committed for the long haul.
Have a goal. Figure out what motivates you. Having a goal and dividing it up into smaller accomplishable tasks is helpful. We would walk so far in the morning and then have a pre-determined amount of distance to go in the afternoon. Often as the morning dragged into the day, I looked forward to stopping along the way to have a cappuccino or charcuterie at a certain milestone. Taking small breaks along the journey is important. We often would pop into Churches to cool down, admire the architecture of the buildings along the way, take in a breathtaking view, or engage in a water break under a shady old bridge.
But finally don’t forget that the process of the journey is just as important as the destination. For some reason the Camino brought back memories of my pregnancies. I carried two healthy children to term. Although each pregnancy was not easy and was full of challenges, I enjoyed each moment of the process. Thanks be to God, at the end of those two pregnancies I experienced the full joy of giving birth to my beautiful children. But at the same time I experienced some nostalgia at the remembrance of the precious time of carrying them in my womb. I felt the same way about the Camino. With my Compostela in hand, I was excited to have reached the final destination but simultaneously was a little bummed that the journey had come to a conclusion. There were so many sites, experiences, and friends that were encountered along the way. I actually wouldn’t mind going on another Camino!
The Good Walk. There is a manner in which Pilgrims greet each other along the Camino: “Buen Camino!” Which in Galacian translates as” have a good walk” or can even take on deeper meaning in signifying, “follow the right path.” Fortunately it was a very good Camino indeed! Much can be said about discerning the good path and following God's will in our lives!
|Posted on October 28, 2012 at 5:33 PM||comments (0)|
Common fears and misconceptions about seeking help
Initiating counseling is a very big step for most people. In fact it is very common to have some apprehension about seeking professional help with personal issues. There are concerns about whether or not treatment is done with compassion and respect. Fear of experiencing shame, ridicule, and humiliation can be an inhibiting factor. They wonder if the counselor will treat them with unconditional positive regard and be non-judgmental. Some have anxiety about the social stigmata associated with mental health issues and have serious questions about confidentiality. Another person might believe that their situation is so unique that no one on this earth has ever had to deal with such issues. On the other hand, there are those that might think that their circumstances are not that significant and hope for eventual resolution with no type of intervention. There are some who feel that in asking for help they are a bother, a nuisance,or that they might be a disruption to the status quo. They might wonder if counseling is really worth the time. Finally, there are those who don’t know how to go about getting the help that they need.
Getting help is a sign of strength not weakness
Mustering up the motivation to seek help is a significant step. It is actually part of the healing process. This is not just because it is the very first step. Asking for help shows a level of commitment for change. It is actually a sign of strength and a good indicator for future healing. Let’s just say that the person who goes to counseling with a willing and open heart has a better prognosis for healing than the one who goes into it kicking and screaming.This is not only intuitive but also backed up by studies. One has to want to be helped.
Compassionate and well-trained professionals
Most counselors and therapists, if not all, go into the field out of a desire to help others. Many have a deep well of compassion and sincere concern for the well-being of their clients. Counselors are trained extensively in the principles of ethics. In order to obtain a state license they are committed to abiding by the rules of confidentiality, client privacy, and rights. Counselors are required to study diversity which involves a lot of focus on treating persons from various cultures and orientations. This is because everyone on the planet is different. All counselors and clients have unique personalities and backgrounds that they bring to the process. Just as there are no two people exactly alike (even twins are different), every counselor using the same theoretical approaches will end up putting a personal spin to it.
On the other hand, people are not so different that counselors cannot find similarities. No one’s problems are too big or too small. Everyone has issues. Think about it. Is there anyone who truly has it all together? This is not talk about characters from movies, popular television programs, or novels. Is there anyone who in real life does not have challenges? Life is a journey with hills and valleys. No one is unscathed from trials. Even the picture perfect family has issues scratching below the surface.
A person is not a diagnosis
One concern about the counseling process is with labeling a person with a disorder. In fact, some therapeutic approaches to counseling avoid diagnosing altogether. If done haphazardly the diagnostic process itself can indeed pathologize a person. Some clients have concern about diagnoses on their medical charts following them throughout their entire lives. Insurance companies require diagnostic labels for payment. However, such information given to a third party is protected property as there are specific laws pertaining to patient privacy and confidentiality. Obviously counselors that do not accept insurance reimbursement in most cases have fewer parties involved with a client’s personal information. Whatever the situation, it is important to remember that a client is not a diagnosis. A person with depression or anxiety has just as much dignity as a person with a heart disease or high blood pressure. A person would never be labeled a heart attack or a hypertensive. Neither should one be called a manic or a schizophrenic.
Some not so obvious ways people go about asking for help
There are many ways that people might go about asking for help. While some do actually scream for it, many do it nonverbally. They drop clues and ask in ways that are not so obvious. Children often beg for help by acting out and/or misbehaving. This is because unconsciously they discover that attention for negative activity is better than no attention at all. Some teens and young adults might show a dramatic change in their behavior for the worse. A previously good student might suddenly start failing most subjects in school. A person who is previously outgoing and talkative might become significantly introverted and reserved. Someone who is usually calm might become more easily agitated or have frequent crying episodes. Or a person might appear to be unrealistically happy. It is common for some to deny they need any help. Or another might have trouble just asking.
An example of motivation and being persistent for change
This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 10:46-52) features a man who is insistent on getting the help that he needs. Bartimeaus is a blind man and a beggar. Upon hearing that Jesus was near, Bartimeaus shouts, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me”. Others tell him to be quiet but this causes the blind man to shout even louder and to be even more persistent and annoying to those around him. As a result the Gospel reads: “Jesus said to him in reply, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man replied to Him, ’Master, I want to see.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Him on the way.”
The squeaky wheel gets the oil
This passage is probably among the best examples of someone being motivated for change. Bartimeaus persisted in spite of the discouragement of others. And his efforts got results. Ever hear of the saying that the squeaky wheel always get the oil? He didn’t allow his life circumstances to hold him back. He asked, he sought, he knocked on the door, and “he threw aside his cloak,” for help. His healing was so life changing that upon receiving his sight, Bartimeaus “followed Him along the way.” His old cloak was left in the dust.
I wonder how many of us are blind or in need of insight but are found weighed down by misconceptions, circumstances, and inhibitions? An important piece of this Gospel account that cannot be overlooked is the role that Bartimaeaus’ faith played in his recovery. Bartimeaus surrendered himself blindly to Jesus. He abandoned himself in order to obtain help. “Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has healed you.’ Jesus’ healing was such that it made Bartimeaus whole, not only physically but also spiritually and emotionally.
A lot can be learned from the humble cries of this blind beggar