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)
Sometimes I look at my book to see what I was doing on the day that corresponds to the day of this post. On Day 19 of our Camino, Steve and I were in Mansilla, this town marked by a very friendly albergue staff that were dedicated to using healing arts with the pilgrims. Many were lined up to be treated by a smiling woman who assured us that everyone would have a chance to be with her. I wrote that this place had an aura of refuge and rest. It was here that we took our second full day off on the Camino. Although welcomed by our bodies, it was hard to stop our forward momentum toward Santiago.
This is the little Camino that I still lingers with me–to practice and learn how to rest and receive.
This past weekend on retreat, I not only did no work, but I was fully waited on for my every need. I began to see so clearly how this still feels unfamiliar to me. Growing up on an Iowa farm, I can truly say that I never slept in until I was in college. I was up for chores and farm work by 6:00 a.m. every morning of the week. “Those pigs aren’t going to feed themselves,” my dad would say. The times of rest were after supper and on Sunday. After church, we had four hours in the afternoon to ourselves before evening chores, but we rarely rested. That was the time to meet with friends. Not working, not being busy was always named as lazy and getting soft. My dad would say, “Who do you think you are? Zsa Zsa Gabor?” (a famous actress of the time). Personal worth was work and achievement. And that is how I framed my life.
It is no wonder then that finishing the Camino in 34 days, and walking the entire length of the Frances route seemed as if there were no options. I couldn’t understand (and judged) those who didn’t. I see that now. While being a good worker is a good attribute for getting along in the world, it has taken a toll on my soul and my physical body over the years by not balancing it with rest and receiving the help of others.
I think a lot about surrender these days–what it really means and how it gets lived out. Specifically for me, I feel my ego creak and groan with the thought of surrendering my life to just being present, and letting my response to life unfold from that stance. Oh my gosh, you should hear the internal arguments! They range from making me feel guilty (there’s so much that needs to be done in this world), to shame (what kind of person gives into indolence?), to fear (well, what will you accomplish or who will you be?), to pity (oh, I guess you’re just aging), and if none of those work, the ego pulls out the guns (so are you just going to sit around and rust and die watching TV or staring out the window?) I actually know that none of these voices are the voices of my benevolent God who loves me like crazy just as I am– but still, they are there.
I do answer these voices, thinking of them as just scared little children. It’s not only okay to rest and reflect, it is in the way of divine order. As we enter winter time, I see how the trees, the animals, even the rivers slow down or hibernate and take rest. Everything will be okay. Of this I have sacred certainty. Everything will be okay.
Those scared egoic voices don’t understand that the surrender I contemplate doesn’t mean I won’t respond to the needs of the world and do nothing with the rest of my life. It means the surrender to knowing that I don’t need to do anything to be loved by the Divine or have worth. If I am called to respond, I will–but it will not be driven by guilt or shame or fear of reprisal. There will be ample rest, a slower way of being and greater compassion for my body and soul.
So there it is; the question I keep calling to myself: what keeps me from loving myself as passionately as I am loved by God? That surrender. That work. That way of being.