weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Our Common Ground

“For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive—and we are legion—the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life for us and for our nation. . . . Parker Palmer

Have you ever noticed when you are hiking that when you meet someone on the trail they often will recognize you with a greeting and a friendly smile? They will sometimes even give you advice or warn you of some possible obstacles or dangers to look out for ahead on the trail.

During our Camino walk this was even more pronounced as you passed by other fellow pilgrims. There was a real connection felt we each other. Fellow pilgrims just loved sharing with each other the challenges that lay ahead for you or give you some great little tips that would assist you on your journey ahead.

Why are folks so friendly and helpful during the times I am hiking in nature or when I was walking the Camino?

I wonder if maybe it might be because we are sharing some “common ground” together? In the case of meeting other fellow hikers on the trail, could the common ground be our love of being in nature and how it seems to heal us and make us better? Maybe it might be our shared love of being outdoors and exercising? Maybe it is the sense of adventure that comes with hiking, what you might see when you hike this trail (wildlife or new vistas you have not seen before)?

The “common ground” with our fellow pilgrims on our Camino walk was likely due to the sharing of a common goal, walking the Camino where we literally were walking on the same path that so many, many fellow pilgrims have walked for hundreds of years! We also shared the hardships and joys as well of this walk and loved sharing it with the many pilgrims we met along the way.

So, this got me thinking about how very divided our United States is right now and how can we begin to see the “common ground” that we share together? As the quote at the beginning of this blog states, maybe we need to look into our hearts to overcome our fears of each other and realize we are all connected together.

It is challenging to look into “ones heart”, to take a critical look at ourselves. It takes a higher level of consciousness to seriously consider our biases.

“How can we learn to see, to see what’s really there, to see what our neighbor sees but that we’ve always missed, to help others see what we see, to open our eyes together and see what we’ve never seen, or even been able to see?” Brian McLaren

“It is our highest ethical calling to learn how to see.” Rabbi Hartman at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem

I have recently found a new podcast, called “Learning How To See” that I am finding quite helpful in exploring the biases that can be present in us and in many cases we may not be aware of. We all have our “blind spots” that prevent us from truly seeing. It is only as we keep discussing, keep thinking, keep talking that we are able to recognize our “blind spots” and then perhaps move forward onto “common ground”.

I hope you might find time to listen to this new podcast and let me know what you think.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Month

Del Campo Peak

As we enter fall and the first snows begin to fall on the mountains, I love to get up and capture some images of the fresh snow on the mountain peaks. The is Del Campo Peak, which I have always loved. It is such a beautiful rugged looking mountain!

It was one of my first true mountains I climbed. I was taking the Boeing Alpine Climbing course and this was one of the mountains we climbed.

Live yourself into a new way of thinking

“We don’t think yourself into a new way of living you live yourself into a new way of thinking.” Richard Rohr

The Camino is a experiential type of thing.

I read a number of books about the Camino and watched a couple of movies on the Camino in preparation for the walk. Yet, it was the experience of walking the Camino, that drew out of me the Camino’s true value and lessons. Walking the Camino, I came to a new way of thinking on life. It changed me.

If you have been following my blog for these past 6 years since we walked the Camino, you likely have got an idea for how the Camino changed me. Here are few important lessons I have learned and how my thinking has changed as a result.

  • Be present to the moment, use all your senses to soak it up. Stay in the moment as long as possible and be curious and keep an open mind and heart.
  • Get outside and walk in nature regularly. I am especially fond of walking in the forests. It is a healing balm for your body, mind and soul.
  • Human Being” is way more important that “Human Doing“. Avoid filling your days with constant activity and to do lists. Just being present and still is of true value.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. Less is more. It is a very freeing experience to move “downward” rather than “upward” in terms of possessions. The less we need to protect and prove.
  • Live with a heart filled with gratitude for everyone and everything.

There are so many other wonderful bits of wisdom I have learned from walking the Camino. The writing of this blog for the last 6 years has really helped to crystallize my thinking as well.

This experience has led me to want even more experiences like this. I will close this blog with one more thought on this idea of living into a new way of thinking.

“You think like the people you cocktail party with.” Richard Rohr

Oh, how easy it is to remain cozy and comfortable, surrounded by people who think just like you, vote just like you, worship just like you, use money just like you. We are all called to break free to live in larger circles of love. I have found that when I “change sides” by going to those who have very little, the poor, I have learned the most about life through this experience and my thinking has been changed. I highly recommend this!

I hope this blog today provided you with some inspiration to try and live your way into a new way of thinking!

Blessings and all grace abound,

John

Photograph of the Month

Tree Shadow Speaking

During this past week, I had a chance to go on a hike to Lake Ingalls in the Central Washington Cascade Mountains. I was monitoring the dark shadow being cast on Esmeralda Peak as we started up the trail. I was struck by the great contrast. When I saw the outline of this old tree shadow, I knew I had a great shot if I could position the shadow against the brightly lit Esmeralda Peak. I had to climb a bit off trail but I found the perfect alignment I had envisioned. Viola!

It seems to me this old tree was speaking to me of its past in the shadow it casts on Esmeralda!

Transforming Wounds

“There must be, and if we are honest, there always will be at least one situation in our lives that we cannot fix, control, explain, change, or even understand.” Richard Rohr

We are in such a “wounded state” these days, we are all suffering and wounded by the coronavirus pandemic, the social injustice protests and now the wildfires that have swept across the Western states. “We Cannot Breathe” seems to sum it up for us in 2020. We are suffocating and dying. We are all suffering losses and are wounded right now.

What do we do? Do we seek to blame, accuse and attack others? I know for me, when I am hurting, I almost immediately seek to blame someone. Who is responsible for my hurting? It is so easy for my ego to quickly identify the easy answer as to why this is happening to me.

“Whatever is not transformed is transmitted.”

This is one of my favorite quotes for it reminds me to see more clearly that if I am hurting and wounded, I must look deeper beyond the easy and quick ego satisfying explanations. I have learned that it seems only in my human suffering is where true transformation can begin.

One of the reasons folks give for walking the Camino de Santiago is, they just need to “clear their heads”, so they can think clearly again and maybe make some important life decisions. That is one of the beautiful things about walking the Camino, it gives one time to think and to dig deeper into their lives. Maybe they have suffered a loss of a loved one or a job and are trying to figure out how to work through this loss.

It is in embracing our “necessary suffering”, that seems to be programmed into our life journeys, that we are able to “break open the heart space” so we can experience a transformation. A change in our hearts and minds.

Here are some deeper truths I have learned through exploring my wounds and the wounds of our country.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced me into new patterns in my life. It has really slowed me down to a much more deliberate pace of life. It has greatly simplified our lives and shown us that we can save money if we are not always out eating out and traveling all the time. I have become aware of my deep connection to the “consumerism culture” of America. In some ways, it has made our lives a lot like the Camino walk, in the way that it has greatly simplified it and helped us focus on what is really important.

The death of George Floyd, exposed the our nations “great wound” of systemic racism. This got me to exploring my own lack of awareness of my “white privilege” and the role it has played in my life. In reading more about systemic racism, I am beginning to understand how it has robbed people of color of opportunities that I have enjoyed (great education, a great job and wealth through home ownership). I also now see, that we do indeed have a long road ahead of us, to repair the damage that has been done for so many years.

Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced. —James Baldwin

You can not heal what you do not acknowledge. May these unprecedented times of loss and suffering, lead us all to open up our hearts to search what areas of our lives need to be transformed.

May grace abound in your life!

John

Photograph of the Month

Opening Our Hearts

This image is a composite of two images I captured and merged together. The heart shaped rock I found during a visit to Apache Junction, Arizona and the ragged hanging root on the side of a trail during hike to Fremont Lookout in Mt Rainier National Park.

The Great Unlearning

In 2014, I had two important life events occur, that I now see created a fundamental shift in my life.

  • In March of 2014, I retired from Boeing after 39 years and then in September, Terri and I walked the Camino De Santiago, a 500 mile walk across Spain.
  • In April of 2014, our first Granddaughter, Katherine was born. We began being caregivers 2 days a week a few months later.

These events shifted my life focus. For the majority of my life up to this point, I was focused on producing and building. I looked with the eyes of utility, I looked with an engineers mind. How can this be something that will help to build our wealth, help me get promoted, help support our family. How can I use this to make something from or use it in some way? How does this thing work? What is it made of? Can I use it for something? Do it have a practical use?

Then came retirement and the Camino and grandchildren and my focus began to change. First came the long 5 weeks of walking across Spain. I was retired for about 5 months, my mind was still thinking a lot about my Boeing job and the people I worked with so many years. I wanted to make the transition to retired life without returning back to work at Boeing. I figured this long walk might just help me do this.

In early September of 2014, Terri and I began our Camino walk and our lives were stripped down to the basics. Get up early, get ready quickly and head out walking at dawn, then walk all day, find your place to stay the night, wash up, eat dinner and get to sleep to begin it all again. It was in this “simple Camino rhythm” that I began to change. I started to slow down my thinking, as it was no longer about producing and accumulating and building. It was a slow immersion into nature and the rhythm of the day. I began the process of unlearning the way my mind had been trained all these years to see the world. I began to see things “as they are, in themselves, by themselves, for themselves, not for what they could do for me”. I yielded to the Camino and what came our way, open to seeing what each day would bring.

When we returned from the Camino and we began our care giving for our granddaughter, Katherine, the great “unlearning” continued. Children are a gift for us as they help us to see the world through a new lens. They truly love things just as they are. They are not thinking of how this thing is going to be of use to them or how it will help them to produce more or be of some utility. They are simply seeing with open eyes and a sense of wonder. They yield to it and just love it for what it is. As a grandparent, I found myself yielding to their view. Unlearning that “utilitarian mind” that was so important for the first phase of my life.

Now, here I am almost 6 years removed from when we started the Camino walk and our twice a week care giving, and I have to say, I am still working at “unlearning” and yielding more and more to the “childlike” version of myself.

I practice this on the many hikes and walks in nature that I love to take as well as during our imaginative playtime with our two grandchildren (Katherine and Freya). I have discovered that it continues to be the perfect training ground for my “Great Unlearning”. What a freeing experience this has been!

To simply yield to the beauty of the little violet flower. To yield to its naked existence not for what it can do for me. The most simple person can do this and the most educated person can do this but actually the educated person does it with great difficulty. It takes a lot of “unlearning” I am finding!

I hope you also find this truth too!

Blessings and all grace,

John

Photograph of the Month

Take a Long, Loving Look

I had a wonderful mystical experience a few weeks ago hiking the meadows of Mt Rainier with the wildflowers in full bloom. I spent a lot of time taking “long, loving looks” at the flowers and the mountain landscapes.

This little dainty is the seed head of the Western Anemone. I love some of the names of this flower, “tow-head baby”, “dishmop”, “Mouse on a Stick”.

We Are All Connected

The Camino de Santiago continues to have a strong worldwide appeal and in fact, in 2019, a record number of pilgrims walked the Camino. The pilgrim office in Santiago de Compostela, reported that 347,578 pilgrims received their Compostela certificate.

Terri and I loved meeting and getting to know our fellow pilgrims that lived in so many different parts of the world. This long walk together really did bond us together in a very special way.

I remember the our first day, as we headed up over the Pyrenees mountains, with so many other pilgrims. It was was the hardest day day of the entire walk due to the distance and elevation gain. Good thing we all were so fired up with such great energy and excitement!

Over the days and weeks ahead, as we moved from village to village, we started to develop relationships with many of our fellow pilgrims. Each of us on a long walking journey together, all connected by our desire to make it all the way to Santiago de Compostela. We all suffered together with our blisters and sore legs and feet. We had opportunities to share meals together and to get to know a little about each other. We shared our sufferings and joys of each day.

We had a real sense of connectedness to our fellow pilgrims. We cared about each other and looked out for each other. It was like were all seeing each other with “different eyes”, eyes that saw how we all had a deep connection with each other. Oh, the magic of the Camino, helping us all to see the inner grace and connectivity of all. To be able to look at each other as fellow pilgrims and not by all the other categories we love to pigeonhole people into without really getting to know them.

I recently have been convicted to try to stop my incessant efforts to divide up and categorize people with my calculating mind. To stop my efforts to put everyone into a box for the purpose of control. To stop being so arrogantly certain of every person and situation I encounter. This is hard stuff I am finding. It take a rewiring of my brain to do it.

I am practicing the surrendering of my desire for certainhood and control and clarity of everyone that comes into my “field of the moment.” I am striving to see everything and everyone equally, a fellow pilgrim and a child of God.

One thing is for sure, we could REALLY use a good dose this way of thinking right now as we struggle as a nation here in the United States! Our long journey to Santiago de Compostela began with one step. So, lets all remember, we have today, we have this moment in time, where we can take a step forward, looking out and seeing each other as “fellow pilgrims”. Each of us connected and a child of God.

Grace and blessings,

John

Photograph of the Month

Look Deeper

I called this image “Looking Deeper” as that seemed appropriate for this blog entry. We are all called to look deeper into each other and see our connectedness “fellow pilgrims”.

I took this picture of the slot canyon called “Canyon X” near Page, Arizona in 2008. I revisited it just this week and made this updated edits to give it a real sense of depth.

Conversion to Solidarity

One aspect of walking the Camino de Santiago, that Terri and I experienced, was how it tended to draw us closer to our fellow pilgrims over weeks of walking. I suspect it is the day after day of walking with each other, experiencing the joys, sorrows, pain and blisters of this long walk. There is great solidarity in the shared pain and joy of walking the Camino. The old saying “you have to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasin’s” or in this case “hiking boots” seems to ring true for truly understanding what it is like to walk 500 miles together.

I have been thinking this week, about the importance of solidarity, as I was reflecting on the ongoing protests following the killing of George Floyd by the Minnesota police officer, Derek Chauvin. We are at a critical moment, a tremendous shift is taking place in America. People coming together and taking to the streets, not just for one day, two days, three days, but constantly. The great suffering and pain of racial injustice that society has systematically imposed on people of color has reached an inflection point. Many are saying that they’re not going to stop until we get the change that we need to turn this around in terms of what’s happening to Black people. We really do still live in a racially tilted, inequitable, unfair society.

So, taking a lesson from our Camino walk, I say we need to start to move and walk day after day in solidarity with people of color. Real change can begin when we develop friendships with people of different backgrounds and life experiences so we can share their joys and sorrows and begin to feel their pain and the way life is more difficult for them than it needs to be.

I can tell you this by the experience I have had walking with my friend, Rob, who has been homeless and has many physical and mental handicaps. Life has not been kind to him and he has become someone most everyone has given up on. I began walking in solidarity now for over two years with him. I can not tell you how it has changed us both forever. No matter how many books I would have read, or classes I took, they would never have taught me what I have learned about homelessness and poverty and mental illness from walking with my friend, Rob.

Part of the radical work of justice is that we have to imagine something that no one has ever taught us before. There is much we can learn when we walk in solidarity with those that have experienced the pain and suffering of racial inequality. I know I will be seeking out any opportunity I can find in the weeks and months ahead to be converted by a solidarity walk with people of color.

I realize that there is a lot more change needed in our society to make lasting change to the systems that are the root of the social injustice but I see this as one step forward I can take.

May we all walk together for justice and peace,

John

Photograph of the Week

Solidarity – The Forest and The Fern

This is an image I created recently from a silent walk alone on a hiking trail up near Darrington, Washington. I exited the trail when I saw the lighting, trees and sword fern and they looked so beautiful nested together. I created this very painterly effect from the photograph I captured.

Liminal Space – Between Two Worlds

20141007-O'Cebr-Triacast-12-EditLiminal space is an inner state and sometimes an outer situation where we can begin to think and act in new ways. It is where we are betwixt and between, having left one room or stage of life but not yet entered the next.”      Richard Rohr

Here is a quote to think about!

It seems to me that our world has entered a “Coronavirus Liminal Space“. We are “betwixt and between” two worlds. We are in a time of our lives like we have never experienced in our lifetimes. There is an opportunity now for us to think and act in new ways.

Our Camino experience was a “Liminal Space” for me as well. Walking the Camino just after I had retired from Boeing, I found myself  leaving behind one stage of my life and  entering my next stage of life. The Camino walk helped me to process, think and pray my way through as I headed into this new space, life after Boeing. It was a very special time in my life I will never forget.

I wrote a Camino blog post just after returning from the walk, called “Human Being vs Human Doing”. In this post, I was wondering how life would be different as I exited my “Camino liminal space”. I used the following quote:

“If we are not careful, it is all too easy to fall into becoming more of a human doing than a human being, and forget who is doing all the doing, and why.”

I think that the “Coronavirus Liminal Space” has helped me to focus again on the value of being vs doing. I am finding that it has slowed me down, much like our long Camino walk did.

In the slowing down, I have found myself much more aware and present in the moment. I am working on trying to be “happy in my own skin” without a lot of doing, just being. I am seeing that I am not defined by what I have accomplished, or what I have purchased or what great trip we have been on recently.

Thanks to my “Coronavirus liminal space” I am seeing life anew and trying to think and act in new ways.

My prayer is your all remain safe and healthy!

Blessings and all grace to you,

John

Photograph of the Week

Liminal Space

I thought this image kind of fit the idea of this blog “A liminal space” since it evokes a sense of timelessness. The image of this old gnarly tree was taken during a trip to Colorado in 2012. I revisited it recently and added the cool night sky using a “sky replacement” feature in the Luminar 4 editing software tool.

 

 

 

Groundhog Day

well-its-groundhog-day-again-gigapixel-studioOne of the things that happens to you when you walk, day after day, continuously for over a month, is everyday begins to feel the same. Each day had a similar routine and rhythm to it. You wake up, get out as quick as you can before dawn and start walking, follow the yellow arrows all day till you find a place to stay the night, shower, do your wash, eat dinner and journal and fall asleep to do it all over again the next day.

Terri and I have been feeling like we are re-living our Camino days again as we are now about month into social isolation lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. I complain that I do not even know what day of the week it is anymore. They all seem the same.

This made got me thinking recently of the 1993 movie, “Groundhog Day”, starring Bill Murray as Phil Collins, a TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event, is caught up in a time loop, repeatedly reliving the same day. Day after day, Phil Collins wakes up in the same location at the same time on Groundhog day.

He is confused, disoriented and questions why is this happening to him.

Does that sound familiar to any of you? I know I am experiencing some of these same emotions these days.

Watching “Groundhog Day” again this past week I reflected on this movie and I started to see some deeper meaning and truths that were helpful to me and maybe will be for you as well. You see…

Bill Murray plays this very shallow and self-centered guy. He feels that the whole world revolves around him but now he was face to face with a new reality. Everyday was the same as the day before. He becomes more and more frustrated, confused and disoriented.

This poor guy was praying for a change in his circumstances. Yet…

“The circumstances we ask God to change are often the circumstances God is using to change us.”

I know that, for me, I have been feeling a bit like poor Phil Collins a lot lately. I want long to have return back to all the wonderful connections with family and friends we enjoyed. It seems like every day there is something we had planned that is now cancelled. In fact, looking down the road it seems there will be more ahead.

So, what to do about this? Maybe we need to take our lead from Bill Murray’s character, Phil Collins. He figured out how to get out of his “personal hell” he was experiencing. He decided to change how he was living. He found happiness not by feeling sorry for himself and but by deciding to be a better version of himself.  To acquire new skills and looking out of himself to others.

We all are suffering losses, can we use this pain and loss to transform us? It is time to look inside ourselves and see what needs changing. How can I be more generous and thoughtful? Can I develop a new skill that will bring joy to myself and others?

When will these “groundhog days” end? There many things outside our control these days, yet there is one area we can control. Making the decision to change ourselves.

Blessings to all and stay safe and well!

John

Photograph of the Month

Unnamed Falls – Mt Rainier

I sure can’t wait to get back to hiking again!

Here is an image I took of a unnamed falls somewhere on the trail leading up to Mystic Lake on the North side of Mt Rainier. I took the image back in August of 2006.

 

Just Keep Walking

20140917-Just keep walkingOne of the ways that Terri and I dealt with the enormous challenge of walking 500 miles was to not focus on how far away we were from the end of our walk. This was really helpful especially in the first week or two of walking. We never really focused on how many more miles of the walk we had left to go till we got within the last 100 miles or so. This little trick really helped. We only allowed ourselves to focus on the day ahead. We just kept our head down and kept walking.

I have been thinking about this a lot recently as we endure week after week of staying in our homes and not venturing out except for essential activity. It is truly unprecedented times we are living through right now. We are on a very long walk together in social isolation. The end of it seems so far away it is hard to imagine we might have to go to early summer till we get relief.

So, my advice to you all is to “just keep walking” and do not think about how far we have to go yet. Focus on the now. Just what we have this day in front of you. The Camino slowed us down quite a bit and we just focused on the beauty all around us each day.

I pray your and your family are safe and well and let us all keep focused on our day ahead and look for the beauty all around us.

Blessings and Beauty to you all,

John

Photograph of the Week

See The Inner Beauty

To see the beauty around us we must slow down and really look at all of creation and the inner beauty of those around us. A humble heart is also a great place to start as well.

This creative image is a composite of two images I took one from this year during our stay in near Santa Cruz, California and the other during a hike to Fremont Lookout in Mt Rainier National Park.

 

Patient Endurance

141006-Camino Photos-5-1-EditI was reflecting this morning the virtue of patience. I recognized that it took a lot patience to walk all the way across Spain! This long walk requires one to endure a lot of physical pain and discomfort and to overcome and endure that emotional ups and downs that are seemly inevitable. It takes a lot of “patient endurance” to get all the way to Santiago de Compostela!

In my reflection this morning, I was also thinking of how love is tied directly to being patient. For indeed, it seems to me the heart of patience is love. For as the Bible says, “Love bears all things”. It such an essential virtue to have if we want to really love others.

In our caring for our two grandchildren two days a week, we certainly have been reminded of our calling to remain patient when our patience has “worn thin” and we are about to “lose it”. It takes a lot of grace to remain patient and calm and to instruct and guide them in their development. We know from research on early child development, that these first five years are critical and I would dare say that patience is a key virtue for all care givers of the young.

In our lives we have a choice each day on how we live our lives out. Do we want to be a more loving all our relationships? What does it take? I think a good place to start is to work on building the virtue “patient endurance”.

Blessings and grace to you,

John

Photograph of the Week

Wings Like Eagles

Speaking of patience, I know that great wildlife photographers have to have a lot of patience. They are also very knowledgeable of the ways and behaviors of the animals they are hoping to photograph. They put themselves into position and wait and sometimes they wait a long time and never get the shot they want.

I have never really been that great at wildlife photography but sometimes you do get lucky and I sure did when I captured this shot of an eagle up in the Skagit a couple a weeks ago. This eagle I think got tired of me talking his picture so much and then just took off. I snapped the shutter at just the right moment. Viola!