(Keeping to my pledge to write thirty-four blogs, one every Monday, on how the Camino continues to affect my life– the same number as the days I walked the 500-mile pilgrimage)
Without planning to, I’ve ended up talking about many of the Ten Commandments of the Camino in these recent posts. But one I haven’t reflected on is the Fourth one: The most important luggage that a pilgrim carries is an attitude of seeking. “
This commandment makes me curious; what was the writer trying to say? It seems so obvious to me that the Camino or any pilgrimage exists purely for the soul that is seeking. In the Middle Ages, it was often a way of seeking penance, seeking healing of body and mind, and certainly on the Camino, it was a seeking of a miracle. That is still true today of pilgrimage in some aspects, as well as the seeking of adventure, the pull of travel, the discovery of what is not known. Underlying all of that is, for most, there is another sense of seeking that is hard to define.
Phil Cousineau calls the seeking a “cry of the heart.” Ibn Battia, another spiritual traveler, calls it “an overwhelming impulse.” St. Augustine called it “restlessness”. Emily Dickinson suggested “a thirst.” The seeking emerges from a sense of something missing, an emptiness, a a lack, a hole to be filled. It can be covered up by busyness, distraction, addictions of any sort, worldly success and achievement, and lots of plans for the future. But sometime, the sense that not all is complete emerges in every soul, I believe, if only for a moment. And in my experience, I name it as the separation we feel from that which created us–God, Source, Love, the Universe, the Divine, the Holy or any name that holds the Ineffable, the Mystery.
In the book The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin, he writes, “There was an idea in the Middle Ages, that by going on pilgrimage…. you were reinstating the original condition of man. The act of walking through a wilderness was thought to bring you back to God.” Seeking implies movement; it is not staying in the same place. The soul is urged forward. But in the case of pilgrimage or any meaningful travel, it is the pull of the whole person, body and soul into that which is not known; it is a seeking without knowing what one will find or even what one is looking for. And in so many writings on pilgrimage, emerges the word “transformation.” The seeking of something to fill the hole in the soul– and to do this by walking. There is an alchemy. The seeker is changed into something new.
Even as I write these words, I can remember that insistent urge that wouldn’t leave me alone. I knew there was More. And even More to the More. And it set me out on the five hundred mile walk of the Camino Frances. And I, for one, was transformed by it. At first, I couldn’t speak about it. I hardly told anyone of the inner change, as I couldn’t really understand it with my usual mind. It felt precious, as if I would lose it. But now 15 years later, it is still here. I can see in retrospect that it was a change that kept evolving, moving. Over the years that followed, what I learned of love and trust and suffering on the Camino deepened. I’ve had lots of time to practice, and I am still practicing these continuing Little Caminos.
Yet what I didn’t realize until writing this blog post was this: While I still believe there will always be More to the More, and I love to continue to be led and guided on that journey, I no longer feel the intensity or the depth of being incomplete, or that yearning that compels me, or that restlessness that won’t rest. It’s a miracle to me to realize this. I am growing content. I am able to be still. I am trusting what I was seeking is already here. There is no more trying. Even to say that I am seeking, takes me out of being present to what is here now–heaven in this moment.
I’ve always been drawn to the words that Jesus spoke to those who listened. “Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened unto you.” Perhaps this week my Little Camino is to simply to rest in the fuller knowing and granting of those promises.
I have been seeking and I have been found.