Friday, May 20, 2011

Trail Mantras

I am mainly walking alone these days, which I find I really like.  I go at my own pace, stop when I am tired, take pictures when I feel like it, get a drink in a cafe when I feel like it, poke around a village or not, as I feel like it.  This is the first time in my life that, for any extended period of time, I am accountable only to me.  I don´t know when I´ll get tired of walking on my own, but for now I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Walking alone means LOTS of time in your head, so I have developed trail mantras to fill up the empty space in my head.

The first and my favorite, is singing ¨We Are Walking in the Light of God,¨ the wonderful South African hymn that my church sang to me on my last Sunday.  It is the perfect mantra--I sing it over and over and over, all the verses.  We are walking, singing, praying, dancing in the light of God.  I will sing this for hours while I´m walking.

It is also quite adaptable.  Today I nearly missed a yellow arrow because I was in a sort of zen state of walking.  Luckily the peregrinos walking behind me yelled and pointed out my mistake, so I started singing, ¨We are watching in the light of God, we are watching in the light of God.¨

This is also my climbing song.  When I hit a hill I start singing, ¨We are climbing in the light of God, we are climbing in the light of God.¨ But if the hill goes on too long, or is too steep, I bring out the big guns, the Jesus Prayer.  ¨Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of David, have mercy upon us.¨ Between the singing and the praying, I´ve always made it so far.

In the afternoon, when the sun gets hot and my feet get tired, I find I need more concrete encouragement than the spiritual, so I switch mantras.  I adapted this one from something that my friend Kari came up with.  It´s sung to the tune of ¨Going to the Chapel.¨

Walking El Camino and I´m gonna drink cervezas*
Walking El Camino and I´m gonna eat some tapas
Yes, my feet are tired but my heart is glad
´cause I´m walking El Camino today.

(*cervezas is Spanish for beer)

This song is also very adaptable--you can insert vino for cervezas, and whatever body part is currently hurting the most for feet.  It gets a little weird, though, when I find myself singing, ¨Walking El Camino and I´m gonna get married...¨ But whatever fills the time and my head.

Snapshots from The Way
Spening a wonderful evening at an albergue run by a group of gentle Dutch Christians who offered wonderful hospitality, a great dinner, and a lovely contemplative prayer service.

The fabulous view from that same albergue of the spire of the village church and beyond a rolling valley of Spanish farmland

Walking for 6 miles through that lovely farmland, with all shades of green from palest green gold to dark hunter green, then pausing to watch a farmer bail hay--just like home in Nebraska!

Stopping at the famous ¨wine fountain¨ outside Los Arcos, which dispenses free wine to all pilgrims, and hearing the custodian of the fountain scold two non-pilgrims for filling their water bottles.  Personally, I find I don´t have a taste for wine at 10 in the morning.

Walking and walking and walking through sun with the village of Sansol glimmering on the horizon, never seeming to come any closer not matter how far I walked.  I had become fixated on having a bottle of cold sparkling water there and was convinced it was like some mythical enchanted city.  I finally made it--only then I couldn´t find a cafe.

Stepping into the lovely 12th century church in Torres del Rio--a tiny octagonal shaped space that soars to a perfect dome.  Two pilgrims, a husband and wife, suddenly began to sing Gregorian chants, there in that place where pilgrims have sung praises to God for a thousand years.  It was just incredibly, absolutely perfect.  I sat with tears in my eyes thinking how incredibly blessed I am.


  1. I swore when i walked the Camino in the spring of 07, that they moved the church spire farther away every time I looked away. You can only walk one step at a time - eventually, you arrive.
    Darlene in Toronto

  2. Renee, it was a delight to get to meet you yesterday, and share a quick lunchtime in the alburge! Buen Camino from the alburgue in Najerre, Karin

  3. Karen--I´m sorry I didn´t see you again. Hope we cross paths in the future. I´m a bit ahead of you, in Azorfa and probably going to Granon tomorrow.

  4. Exactly, Darlene--it DOES look like those steeples are moving. Probably best to put your head down and keep walking.

  5. When climbing sttep hills I use at various times the Jesus Prayer, the Lord's Prayer (often the calypso singing version), Psalm 23, and the Hail Mary. They all help with that altered state of consciousness and meditation/trance that helps immensely both physically and spiritually in the hard sections, both hills and strong winds!