Finisterre: Beyond Our Imagining

The day after we finished walking the 500-mile Camino, Steve and I opted to go see another significant and historical part of the Camino—Finisterre, Latin for the “end of the world.” The Romans named this far west point of Spain thus because at that time, it was believed that there was no more earth beyond this shore. 

In Camino history, this is believed to be the spot where the patron saint of the Camino, St. James, first stepped onshore in Spain. Gradually this became the place where pilgrims went after reaching Santiago to watch the sunset and burn their clothes, believing they were forgiven and reborn by the pilgrimage. It is about 90 km. from Santiago to Finisterre, or a three to four day walk. We opted to join other pilgrim friends on taking the one-hour bus ride to this seaside village; our bodies needed rest.

I remember standing on the rock at the edge of cliff, above a sea illuminated by the low sun. Surrounded by remnants of burned hiking shoes and sooty pieces of clothing, I felt the presence of the other pilgrims who were like me, yearning to return home to themselves. Wanting to burn away old patterns that no longer served. Wanting to simply be. 

As I stood there, I tried to imagine being in a world where understanding of our earth as a sphere was unknown. And even though I know this from a scientific standpoint, as I looked out, it did seem as if the firma terra had ended and all else beyond was deep ocean and an endless horizon.

As I continue this blog, I’ve felt drawn to move from calling it the Little Camino to framing it around the word, Finisterre. What lies beyond this world had always intrigued me, from the time I craned my head back as a child to look at the world through the stained-glass windows of church. Seeing the world through these pattens and colors softened my usual view and opened my heart to something more than my eyes could see. That first urging of the Spirit has guided me to keep seeking, knowing that I will be found as I am finding. 

 “We are in this world, but not of it.” This is one of the tenants of the Diamond Approach path which I follow. As well as the Way of Jesus, who spoke these same words when asked about who he was. What does that actually mean in my life? How do I walk on earth, yet live knowing there is so much more above and within that is my true home?

I thought again of this as I received a cross of ashes on my forehead for Ash Wednesday and heard the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” When I was a pastor administering this rite, my colleague and I changed it to, “Remember you are stardust and to stardust you shall return.” It’s true. The earth is made from stardust and our physical bodies will return to that same dust. But saying “stardust” implies that we belong to a huge universe of possibility. 

I watched that possibility last night as the skies above my house flew, soared, danced and pulsed in the wonders of the northern lights. Just when I thought there could be nothing more dazzling, the skies lifted their skirts and do the flamenco. Seeing red in the northern lights with the naked eye is so so rare, but not only did the edges of the rivers of light glow red, a huge red cloud appeared and stayed at the end of the valley. I kept blinking to be sure I wasn’t imagining it. The sky pulsed with energy, as if was breathing–urgent puffs and then long sighs. After an hour or more, I had to retreat inside to watch as the temperature dropped to one degree. And it was then that I noticed my soul. It was full of color. It was dancing. It was of exuding joy. I couldn’t go to sleep. I was AWAKE and ALIVE. My feet were on the earth, but soul had left to “trip the light fantastic.”

I am not sure what will frame the coming blog posts—and in a way, not knowing is so freeing. Yet I wonder—was this generous experience of light a glimpse into the answer to my question–when I am awake and alive, I am touching the beyond? 

Little Camino, Day 34! And Then There Is Joy

Keeping my pledge to write thirty-four weekly blog posts on how the Camino continues to impact my life–the same number as the days I walked this pilgrimage.

It is the final blog of this series–and a new one will begin next week (wait for it ; ) But for today I want to remember the moment of completing the pilgrimage we had set out upon.

“As we reached the center of the plaza and turned to see the face of the cathedral, the low clouds parted and rays of sunshine fell down on us. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I felt a new kind of joy that tumbled inside of me and lifted me up off the ground. We had arrived. We hugged. We kissed.We had someone take our picture.” A dream had come true.

Certainly the immediate joy was that the rigor of the journey which we had set for ourselves was over. But there was a joy in knowing that the Camino had started some new work of transformation–work I knew intuitively was the work I wanted to do more deeply in my life as the road led on. And one significant part of that work was allowing more joy into my life.

I just finished a Diamond Approach weekend retreat on Joy two weeks ago. It really is the intention and blessing of this benevolent universe. Yet I came to realize how easy it is to tamp down Joy. If there are so many people suffering, should I have joy? If the planet itself is being taken for granted, is it reasonable to live a joyful life? Can Joy show up in hard places? The answer in this teaching was, “It’s not easy, but it’s possible.”

This essence of Joy has many facets–it it playfulness, lightness, wanting, curiosity, a sense of yellow, a flourishing, an expansion, a spaciousness. Its sacred impulse is “I wish.” That revealed to me how it may be hard to wish for what I want because I’ve been disappointed so many times. Or I still operate under religious teachings that emphasized putting others first and serving their wishes, but not mine. Wishing for what we want, what gives us Joy may be associated with being selfish or with guilt for wanting. Being playful brings up some doubt that I’m acting childish. It’s so interesting to see that essence that I want so much in my life, I doubt and question and don’t trust.

Yet I’ve never forgotten that Jesus said, “I came so that you may have joy and have it abundantly.” Joy is a sacred gift and has a sacred purpose. Can I receive it?

When I reached the end of the Camino, I had so many regrets and sadness about how I walked it. And yet, I had joy a the same time. I think the strange possibility in Joy is that perhaps, with care, we can hold seeming opposites together at the same time. The world can suffer greatly and yet I can find great joy in many ways. I can be playful but also mature. I can be afraid to explore and also be curious to learn what is around the next corner. I can want something selfishly, and I can want something just for pleasure of wanting it and feeling how happy it makes me.

There is the much quoted wisdom of Howard Thurman who said. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The teacher of this session, John Davis, asked two important questions: “What would it be like to see a person or an experience that you’ve had many times as if it was the first time?” Or “What would it be like if you knew it was the last time?” Could I experience the joy of that moment?

There is a powerful force in Joy that wants to be made manifest in me and in the world. It can break down the clutch of the ego that is afraid of things being “too much”, and let me just be.

As this section of my blog closes, I have a deep joy for all of you who have followed the Little Camino over the past thirty four weeks. Thank you for your support and comments. This Little Camino going forward is too obvious– to let joy be abundant in my life and scatter that beautiful essence wherever the journey takes me. Buen Camino!

Little Camino, Day 33: Acceptance Reimagined.

Keeping my pledge to write thirty four weekly posts on how the Camino continues to impact my life, the same as the number of days that I walked this pilgrimage.

I’m posting this late on Monday; I’ve re-written the post three times. It still doesn’t say all I want it to or as clearly as I wished. But it is time to let it go and let it be. I know I have much more to explore about this movement within me. Here is my first pass at it.

When I was a young girl, I was curled up in a ball on the stairs of my home, sobbing. I’d just been told my two-year-old brother was going to die. My mother came to sit beside me and held my hands in hers. She didn’t say anything and listened while I asked how could this happen, why did this happen and where was God in all of this? Then she leaned in and whispered, “Some things you just have to accept.” Accept? That was it? What did that even mean? I didn’t think how hard this was for my mother–that she must have been asking the same questions I was. And this was the answer that she was holding onto to steel herself for the days ahead.

I did trust my mother, and I could tell she was speaking from her heart to me. But the questions remained. I felt helpless and useless against this news. What good would just accepting do? As I grew in years, the questions came again and again as I faced challenges. It seemed naive and foolish to just accept what was happening. There was all this talk about surrendering to God–was that accepting? But as a young woman I wasn’t sure I wanted to give up my hard-won personal power to an image of a male authoritarian God which still prevailed within me. Accepting had shades of giving up.

It is only more recently that I’ve come to understand acceptance in a radically different way. In fact it feels like a whole paradigm shift for how I view life. It was this question that shook me. “What if you just accepted your experience without judging it? Neither rejecting it but also not approving of it?” It seemed so simple. What if I leave out any judgment of what is happening in my life? Just stay with the fact that what is happening is happening? This is reality. Why fight to change it or fight to keep it the way I want it?

Here’s an excerpt about this process of accepting from Soul Without Shame (pg. 96.) “You don’t have to like your experience; you simply don’t resist it. Resisting your experience is the same as not trusting the movement of true nature–believing you must control things to ensure movement because you do not experience the larger flow of reality. By not resisting, you don’t get stuck or fixed on a particular feeling or concern, so our experience is able to now flow and transform more easily and naturally.”

To return to the news of my brother dying, this is a stance not really available to a child. It is a realization of an evolving spiritual journey. I’m almost 72 and just now it makes so much sense to me, but not before. And yet I want to write about it as it feels like the next step on my pilgrimage. So from this place, if I was to receive the news that my brother was going to die, I would still have the deep sadness of loss that comes with loving another who is leaving. I wouldn’t like it. But I wouldn’t resist this news either. Because it is the truth of what it happening. I believe this is what my mother was pointing to. The ego and the inner judge want to be control and to protect and keep life between the lines. But the true self takes a step within, and is simply present with what is. In this way I can be helpless and give up the ego–which is fact, not wise at all. Again, my mother’s repeated saying throughout her life was, “It is what it is.” I used to be annoyed with that saying–like it was a cop out. But now I understand.

Fifteen years ago, my wanting to be wise like this was put to the test as I walked the Camino. My ego and the judge ran the show, even when I wanted to just let things unfold. But I was aware of my resistances and fears. And that awareness is where it started. Just being aware. There’s no trying in this shifting. It’s allowing and accepting the change that is occurring. Maybe that’s another definition of grace.

I have a new image of God that is far different from the one of my nine-year-old self. It is one that is with me and not separate from me. As Paul writes in I Corinthians, as a child I reasoned like a child: (I might insert, I only knew myself as my ego), but as an adult I put an end to childish ways. As an adult, I am able to live with mystery. I am humble enough to know I only see through the mirror dimly now. There is Being, the Reality that I will see face to face. But for now, I accept what is happening. Or as Jesus taught us to pray–“Thy will be done.” My ongoing Camino.

Little Camino, Day 32. More on Othering: and my Explanation.

Keeping my pledge to write thirty four weekly posts on how the Camino continues to impact my life, the same as the number of days that I walked this pilgrimage.

I am posting this blog on Friday instead of Monday as I am leaving for a week at our cabin, a place with one bar of cell connection on a good day. I need to explain my last post before I leave.

Last week when I needed to make a correction to my blog. I had only heard about the beating of Tyre Nichols that week through the comments of my husband. “Another black man beaten to death by five police officers,” he said with deep regret. “The footage is just awful.” That was enough for me to decide not to watch it. I knew I was too tired from an overnight flight home to handle seeing that violence. And I will confess that I couldn’t handle seeing George Floyd beaten either. Again I was told the story and that was enough for me to join in prayer and in mourning for all the ways we misunderstand and hurt one another.

So imagine my surprise to learn how I had my own assumptions on this beating. My original post said it was by five white police officers. My husband read my post right away, and quickly told me of my mistake. “It was five black police officers.” This shook me awake. I hope I can explain how it made me see that I had put white police officers (maybe all of them) into a category of being racist. And I had put all black police officers in a category of not being racist. And I wasn’t aware of this at all until my assumption was there, pardon the pun, in black and white on the page. I didn’t see them as individual humans, connected to me.

Again I set up a strange othering.

A few days later I was asked if I would take on a new person seeking spiritual direction. I’ve had several new directees lately and decided, that no, for the first time I would say, not right now. Maybe later. Then I learned that she was Muslim woman refugee. Right away I said I would take her on. Why the change of heart? Maybe because I have a heart for the refugees? Or a sense of superiority that I could help her or guilt that I should offer to listen with her–her with so much challenge in a new culture? Maybe all of these.

But the person who was asking told me that this woman didn’t want to be tied to her story of being a refugee. She was tired of that identity. She wanted to be seen as another woman seeking questions about her relationship with God and growth on her spiritual path. AGAIN, I saw how I had othered her, put her in a category that was separate from me, I texted back to my friend who was asking and said, “It’s good to remember not to other the person that I’m trying to include.”

On the Transformational Listening website (www. there is a quote from an unknown author: “The way to make a better world is to make better humans.”

I understand those words to mean that I need to continue to do my own work at being a better human if I want, and do want, to live in a better world. I need to accept myself first as being human–a human that needs to learn how to love herself better, so she can love others from a place not filtered through prejudices and shame. A place where I don’t project my own pain and bias onto others. A place where I “see no stranger.” Thank you, Valerie Kaur. I see no stranger in myself or in the human community, or even separate from plants, animals, the planet, the universe.

Yes, it seems an insurmountable aim. But here I am, willing to look at two instances in my life last week where I was blind. That is a step, maybe two. I also am committed to finish a book group that is studying, A Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown. I’ve tried to read it on my own more than once, but it hits too close to home. With the support of the group, the book is opening up so many doors I’ve closed to my own loving. It takes a bit of courage to look at it. Yet it’s another step.

As I finish this blog, I think of you who will be reading it–on this same Camino–wanting a better world where a person isn’t beaten to death and a woman is not forced by violence to leave her home country. Not an easy walk this. Struggles along the way. A lot of worry and fear. Some regret. Deep sadness. Some hope. Yet, the journey home to loving ourselves and loving others is only accomplished by taking the next step. That’s my Little/Big Camino not just for this week, but for however long I am blessed to walk this pilgrimage on earth.