Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 97 - It's a question of faith...

16 Days into the new year. How did that happen? I blinked an eye and life just ran away at a speed that threatens to take my breath away. In three days time it will be exactly 100 days since I started writing this blog. One part of me wants to fast forward to July 2012 and another wants to press the pause button.

The past couple of weeks saw the ending of one year and the start of another. I've been fortunate to have my dearest friend in the world visit after the new year's festivities and now life is falling back into a familiar pattern again.

 Or so I thought.

For the last couple of weeks I've been thinking about priorities. Sometimes one has to be still and evaluate. Evaluate what you want from life. What is important and what can wait. What is negotiable and what is not. What makes you happy and what doesn't. What to keep and what to discard.

No matter in which direction my thoughts have taken me in the last few weeks, I keep coming back to one realisation. The one constant, the one reliable factor and the one saving grace in all of our lives, whether we acknowledge it or not, is our faith. Without my faith in God and everything it represents, nothing can ever really work.

We spend so much time and energy on other things/areas of our lives that growing our faith and understanding the impact thereof on our lives is often the one crucial thing that we neglect. A neglect that can cost us so much more than we realise.

So in 2011 my energy is going to be directed towards building on my faith. Understanding how I'm supposed to implement it in my life and how I can ultimately contribute best to this world and be the happiest I can possibly be as a person.

I once heard the Dalai Lama say that the ultimate goal of his religion is 'to be happy'. So simple, and isn't that what we all want? To be happy.

So with all of the above in mind, I started reading what other people had to say about how they experienced religion or 'spirituality' on the Camino.

This is what Tony Kevin had to say in his book 'Walking the Caminino': ' ...there was no magic,revelatory moment in Spain; rather, it was a series of little steps forward, towards a slowly opening door. My pilgrimage opened my heart wider to God; it washed away my emotional constrictions and defence mechanisms; it enabled me to pray more freely and unforcedly than ever before in my life. It gently but insistently urged me to confront my life, warts and all. Everyone I met on the pilgrimage played a part in this: the Mother Superior in Granada who put the first stamp in my passport, and all the priests on the way to whom I introduced myself in churches after Masses and who blessed my journey; Juan, the innkeeper in Alcaracejos who was the first person in Spain to hail the inner significance of what I was trying to do; the hospitable lay brothers at Alcuescar; Marit and Karin; Tim and Liz; Richard and Aldo and Nigel; the woman at the lavanderia in Rionegro; John and Marcelino in Laza; the man in Albergueria who hung up my scallop shell on his ceiling; and every fellow pilgrim or villager or innkeeper or hostalero I met who wished me 'Buen Viaje!' on the way.'

He goes on to describe how he often went to evening Masses in the little Spanish villages and how different it was to going to Mass as a young man when it was simply part of an obligatory daily routine. He even bought a little Spanish prayer book so that he could take part in the congregation's spoken prayers.

'In Spain on the camino, I was living my religion rather than thinking about it on an intellectual level. The pilgrimage wasn't a mental exercise in theology on the move. I was not working through ideas about religion and politics, or religion and society. I was giving that part of my brain a rest. What was happening to me was a felt thing.'

'Now, as Santiago was finally approaching, I felt that my heart was as cleansed and refreshed and open to God as it was ever likely to be in this life on earth, and I was happy'

I accept that not all people have the same experience on the camino. Some of the blogs I have read simply relate the experience that the writer had walking from point A to point B, never touching on anything spiritual. Others spend pages on that particular aspect. I hope that my experience is going to be similar to what Tony experienced. In fact I know that is what it's going to be like. I can't wait.

In fact, we might be going to Portugal in the next few weeks and I am seriously thinking about doing a walk from Porto to Santiago either before or after our trip. It's just a thought at this stage but in December of 2009 I had a very strong thought pop in my head as well and six months later I stood at the summit of Kilimanjaro...

So just when I thought things have fallen back into the familiar pattern I'm discovering that this is going to be a year packed full of surprises. And I plan to tackle 2011 with a renewed commitment to my faith and everything that it represents. This is going go be a good year, I just know it!

In keeping with today's theme I've decided to post some of the photos that I have taken in and of churches, both in Cape Town and in Portugal.

If you've walked the Camino I'd love to hear if your experience was similar to Tony's or was it totally different?

One of my newest pilgrim friends has just completed his walk to Santiago and I have asked him to write a guest post that I'll publish here as soon as I receive it. It's not the first time that he has walked 'The Way' as the Camino de Santiago is also known and I am very interested to hear all about his amazing journey - undertaken during one of the coldest Decembers that Europe has seen in many years!

Here's wishing you all a wonderful 2011 - may all your dreams come true this year!


  1. Hi Emilene,

    The Dalai Lama also said "The very purpose of our lives is happiness and joyfulness. That is very clear. If you contribute to other people's happiness you will find the true meaning of life".

    I am sure that your blog about your endeavours is already making that contribution.

  2. 14 years ago I had an experience that caused a complete paradigm shift in my faith. I have struggled to figure out what I believe ever since. I do believe that God hears our prayers, who and whatever "God is." And to walk with your home on your back for six weeks is the best way I know of to connect with that energy, that 'being.' Walking each day gives you the time to really SEE the beauty of Creation, and to pay attention to what is truly important in life.

    If God indeed is "in us" then I must say I did rediscover my faith on the Way. I found God in small kindnesses I received from others - a bottle of icy water when I was thirsty, a fan to cool my face, a shady place to rest when I was exhausted, a glass of homemade gazpacho, a clean bed.

    I also found God's strength in myself, as I rediscovered the "me" I thought I had lost.

    My wish for you, Emilene, is to rediscover what is most important to you.

    I believe the Camino and God can provide that experience.

    Buen Camino!

  3. Hello dear friend, I still need to send you tose CP albergue locations but now, I stumble on this precious page of yours.
    Faith .....
    what a complicated matter. In my 62 years I have found little of pther people's experiences to be mine, BUT listening and reading them, thinking of what I have heard and read has contributed to my spiritual life today.
    What an easy and beautiful part of my life.
    The Camino was not the beginning of my Spiritual growth, but as someone said, carrying my house on my back for 5 weeks brought me closer to the faith I have today than anything else. The good people, the loving jestures and beauty everywhere on the Camino Frances made me KNOW that I was loved not just by family and friends but by the god inside me. Love to me is the essential part of faith and I learned that unless I loved myself for better or for worse I would not grow in my faith.
    In the past almost 2 years since I returned from the CF I have met people here in my home area whos faith guides me. They say that I guide theirs too.
    If I can sum up how I got to where I am with my faith I have to say that I just let go. I accepted me for who I am, I have worked hard to push ego out of my life by accepting that I am good enough, that I am worthy (that is a whole different topic).
    I talk to my angels all the time when I am walking. I ask for things and I get them. Here is a great example. Last September when I was walking in Portugal on my way back from Santiago I was alone. I got lost 2 days in a row and so I told my angels that unless I need to meet someone special or learn something from another deviation from the path, I needed them to keep me going without getting lost. So on I went and sometime throughout the day I was walking along, lost in my own thoughts when I heard a bell inside my right ear. I looked around to see what animal was wearing a bell but no being was anywhere. That bell was really close. I continued about 5 or 6 more steps and I heard it again. When I turned to my right this time, there was a Blue (returning way marker) arrow on a post almost hidden by ivy. If I had not looked up right then when the bell sounded a second time I would have missed my turn onto the path and been lost again.
    I know my prayer was answered at that moment. Go figure, the coincidence was too great.
    So my sweet pilgrim friend, let go and let god, your angels, your guides, what or whom ever make themselves known to you because I believe you are them and they are you.


  4. Emilene, I am so looking forward to reading and seeing your experiences both before and after your 'walk/journey'.
    Your photos are magnificent.

  5. Thanks for joining Mailbox Monday- I'm a confirmed email subscriber and GFC follower!

  6. Dear friends

    Thank you so much for your comments - I appreciate the input and just LOVE hearing how much of what I am hoping to get from the Camino is relected in the summaries of people who have already walked the walk!

    I just love writing down my thoughts and exploring all the aspects of the Camino - if one person is motivated to either walk as well or to simply join me here on my journey, I am over the moon!

    Here's to a peaceful, happy 2011 for us all!

  7. Right back at you, emilene. Have a great year, and enjoy your life. You are a nice lady.

  8. Love your photos. I think life is best lived if done on "some kind" of spiritual plain.

    My faith sustains me.
    enjoy your journey

  9. JJ - I certainly intend enjoying this year - look forward to reading your amazing blog in 2011.

    Wendy - Thanks, I need to get that camera out, I haven't really taken many shots in 2011... You should read about the Camino - I have a funny idea it's something you might also enjoy doing...

  10. Just saying hi. Hope all is well.

  11. Today, I feel like I've lost my faith... how does one find what is lost? Where to look? I need to return to Spain and walk...


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, I welcome your input!