(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)
It’s been a week now; last Monday night I felt this scratchy throat coming on and thought, “Oh, this is how my colds used to start.” I’ve used up so many tissues that I’ve given up and gone straight to a whole roll of toilet paper instead, walked around bleary-eyed in my house trying to convince myself it’s not so bad, and sneezed and coughed enough that I’ve given my abdominal muscles a good workout. I haven’t had a good old cold since January of 2020. All this to say, I’m sniffling my way through writing this blog and not knowing what to write about on how the Camino has kept influencing my life.
But I can say this: we did schedule two rest days in the thirty-four day journey, exactly as was suggested by our guidebook. And on both occasions, it was difficult to take a rest. Not that our bodies didn’t need it. But we had become addicted to walking and achieving those next fifteen miles per day. When I read my own book, there are places I want to shout at myself, “Take a break! Stop pushing so hard! Your body needs a rest!”
Learning to rest has become my adult practice; my first teachings about rest were a combination of the following: “Work hard now–there will be plenty of time to rest in heaven.” “Get the work done first, then you can rest and enjoy it.” “God gave us six days to work and one day to rest.” “Rest is rust.” Rest was not valued. In fact, rest was considered a slippery slope to laziness. I didn’t know what “sleeping in” was until I went to college.
I remember when we came upon a real shepherd on the Camino. He was leaning back against a tree, legs crossed, watching his sheep. A string ran through his hands, attached at each end to a tree and a bell. I didn’t want to gawk so I’m not sure how he used it, but I assumed he rang the bell every so often to get the attention of the sheep. I wrote in my book how we watched as he got up, all the sheep stood at attention and as he ambled off, the sheep followed with little need for a dog to herd them. What strikes me today is how differently this shepherd did his work. So relaxed. Time for rest. There was something about his whole demeanor that impacted me. He seemed so authentic and so in tune with himself, nature and his flock.
This time of being sick, giving in to the need for naps, reading on the couch, watching British mysteries on T.V. hijacked me from the intended list of things to do for Christmas. I have been resting. I didn’t feel like doing anything on my normal routine– meditating, exercising, cooking or getting my daily long walk in. I’m slowly learning to value “being” over “doing” in my life. But it’s harder than I want to admit to change the groove and belief that my work is my worth.
Isn’t it ironic that ultimately it’s not what we do, but what we receive as grace? In a spiritual sense, there really is nothing I need to do. In fact, my greatest practice is learning to receive.
I have received the gift of rest this week, so perfect for the time of Advent, the time of waiting and wonder. I’m not minimizing my discomfort with having a good old cold, but the Camino did teach me that the times of discomfort and difficulty were the very times that broke through my old habit patterns and showed me something new. A Camino without struggle isn’t a Camino that transforms.
So I relearn the value of rest this week. And walk a little further on that path.