weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Clearing Out Space In Our Minds

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“The thing about possessions is that they rent space in our minds. Everything we have requires mind space, and I probably don’t need to point out that mind space is limited, so the more you crowd it, the more confusing things become.” Matthew Kelly

One of the reasons some folks walk the Camino de Santiago is to sort out their life. They might be at a critical point and are not sure what direction they will be going, they may have suffered a loss of a spouse or loved one, the break up of a marriage or a loss of a job. They need clarity amid their confusion.

When one walks the Camino, you carry just the pair minimum with you, the amount of possessions one has is limited to what is on your back. That is why the quote at the top of this blog is so important. The possessions we have take up space in our mind. The more we have the more they fill up our mind. Walking the Camino forces one to carry limited possessions and so as a result it helps us clear up our minds.

I am such a nut about technology and yet it comes with a price. The more technology stuff I own the more it crowded and confused my mind becomes. I certainly have felt the effect of this over the years. I see now more clearly the cost of owning a lot of stuff.

Simplifying through the reduction of stuff is a good way for one to gain more clarity. Less is more.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Springtime in Eastern Washington

Spring in Eastern Washington is special as everything is green and the flowers are out everywhere. It is a great escape,as well, from the sometimes rainy side of the mountains in Spring.

This image I feel really expresses it well.

The Practice of Constraints

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One of the gifts of walking the Camino, that I did not realize till I reflected on it later, was the gift of solitude and silence that it gave us. This gift was provided by the very nature of the walk. There is just a lot of time where you are isolated and walking with just your thoughts. There is a natural constraint in place that gives you the chance to be in silence and solitude. It gives one space and time to think. It is a gift for sure.

We recently spent a week on the Washington coast in a town called Moclips. It is a isolated town that has almost no cell service or commercial businesses. It had natural constraints that allowed us to be in solitude and silence. Our goal for this Spring getaway was to not go and do but to sit and rest and soak up the silence and solitude of the ocean. Our mission was accomplished. It was a gift we received by the natural constraints that were in place and our desire to not do but to be.

I realized from this ocean solitude and silence experience that if I want to experience this more often in my life, then I must practice the art of applying constraints, for you see we I seem to be incapable once I return to my life back home of having these extended times of solitude and silence. I find that once I return home, every moment of my life I fill with music, social media, reading and podcasts, my photography projects, and all those duties and responsibilities that make up my life. These are individually not bad, per se, but collectively they make it so hard to achieve these moments of silence and solitude, that are so important to my health and growth and creativity.

So, what I have learned from the Camino and from our time at Moclips, is that one it is going to take discipline (see my last blog), to apply constraints to my life if I want to experience these special times of solitude and silence. For it is in the “classroom of silence” that we are able to see with clarity and contrast those areas of of life that are most important and where we find our creativity as well.

So, I am looking forward to working on the “practice of constraints” in my life. What can I stop holding on to and drop that will free me? Can I stop all those silly notifications I get constantly from my phone that distract me? Can I get off that computer and go for more walks instead. It is all about creating the space as it does not come to me naturally, it seems.

I hope this message resonates with you as well if you are also finding yourself needing some silence and solitude in your life.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Solitude

We had lots of great storms during our week on the Washington coast but also some special moments between storms to explore and enjoy the peaceful and solitude of the ocean.

Discipline and Self Control

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“You can not be happy without discipline. In fact, if you want to measure the level of happiness in your life, measure your level of discipline.” Matthew Kelly

Walking the Camino de Santiago is an experience of discipline. To walk the 500 miles, you really need discipline. You must be committed to a rigorous daily physical regime that goes on for about 5 weeks. It is a commitment to a full day of walking then resting, eating and sleeping, all to begin again the next day and the next day until you reach your final destination, the Cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela.

I am including a quote from the book , “Perfectly Yourself” by Matthew Kelly, which I have been reading during the year’s season of Lent. I have found the book to be filled with some great wisdom. This particular “wisdom”, I see is, oh so true. When I am applying discipline and self control in my life, it leads to good things in my life. I am a better person because of it.

Another mistake I have made is when I took on the attitude or the mistaken notion that freedom is the right or ability to do whatever I want. Again, when I live like this it has led me to some places in my life that when I reflect back on later, I have regretted. I am not happier like I thought I would be.

It has been my experience, that discipline and self control are important to a healthy and happy life. Maybe you also have experienced this in your lives, as well?

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Sea and Sky

This was taken about a month ago during a weekend getaway to Moclips, WA. A very dramatic sky that evening!

Simplify – Be Free To Dream

20140910-Pyrenees-74-final-1One of the issues we faced as we prepared to walk the Camino was to get the weight of our packs to the 20 lb range. We pared down as much as we thought we could but still it turned out, like so many that start the Camino, we were carrying too much weight. After about a week of walking, we realized how burdened we were with our heavy packs. We decided to simplify and reduce the weight of our packs by sending the stuff we stripped out of our pack forward to our destination city (Santiago De Compostela).

Oh, how nice it was too drop that extra weight! It made a difference as we resumed our walking. We found that our lightened load allowed the freedom to be more present and aware as we walked. We had more energy as well. It was a welcome relief.

I find myself looking back at this time and I realize that I am in constant need of shedding stuff to find more energy and freedom. Our lives are complex and filled up with so much stuff that burden us down. We are constant need of simplification.

I was thinking about our dear granddaughter Katherine with her amazing imagination and ability to weave a story and to dream. I wonder if some of this comes from how her life is so much simpler, there is less clutter and complexity.

I think there might be something to all this. The more we simplify and reduce the complexity of our lives, the more we can be free to dream, the more energy we will have and the more freedom we will feel. The more we can be present to those around us as well.

It seems to me that this is the way to go but alas it does take self discipline and self control in our lives to say no more often to those things that sound so good. I want to do it all. Yet too much is too much. Simplification is better.

Hope you all find a way to reduce and simplify the clutter and complexity of your life. I know I have a ways to go!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Skellig Michael – Stairway to Heaven

With St Patrick’s day upon us I thought I would revisit a photograph from our trip to Ireland in 2016. This image was taken on Skellig Michael island where monks inhabited this remote island off the coast of Ireland in the year 500. Talk about simplification!

True Colors

 

180226-Fun with Kids-3-Final“The voice of the authentic self calls to us ceaselessly from within. Traditionally it has been called the voice of conscience, but regardless of what name we give it, we all have this quiet, gentle voice within us, and it is our truest guide.” Matthew Kelly

One of the special opportunities that both Terri and I were looking forward to when we decided to walk the Camino, was the chance to have lots of quiet time to think and reflect and pray during our long walk. Time to seek out that inner voice within. I know we both certainly experienced that in our long days of walking.

It was a very important time for me as I had just embarking on a new phase in life as I had just retired. What would be next in my life? Looking back 4 years later (yikes, 4 years?), I can say without any hesitation that I have found my “true colors’ in my retirement. It has been all I could have hoped for and more! I am living a very fulfilled retirement. I feel a strong sense of purpose and a great energy to my “work” of retirement. I think a lot of the credit is due to this important period of my life walking the Camino and getting my head straight. Listening to that “quiet, gentle voice within”.

I titled this blog this week after the song called “True Colors“. Terri and I have listened to the Justin Timberlake version of this song, from movie “Trolls“, a lot recently as it a favorite of our two little grandchildren. In the movie, the heroine of the story is Poppy , who is a relentlessly upbeat and courageous little troll, who at one point in the movie becomes very sad and she loses all her vibrant colors and turns to grey like her friend Branch (a very cynical and sad little troll). Ironically, it is her friend Branch, that helps her recover her “true colors” bring her out of her sad funk. They both end up turning into vibrant colors from their drab grey.  They both rediscover their “true colors”. Then they do what all happy trolls do, “Sing, Dance and Hug”!

We all can can get distracted and off track in our lives and find ourselves anxious and sad at times. Sometimes we just need a friend like Branch to help us out of it or maybe we need to take some time to getaway and to listen to that quiet, gentle voice within us. It is the voice within us, that truest guide, that is helping us to be the “best version of ourselves” and leads us to our “true colors”.

You with the sad eyes
Don’t be discouraged, oh I realize
It’s hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
The darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
This world makes you crazy
And you’ve taken all you can bear
Just call me up
‘Cause I will always be there
And I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
May you find and let your “true colors” shine!
Blessings and all good,
John
P.S. The image at the top of this blog was created from a photograph of our granddaughters coloring art on a window. Kay and Freya’s coloring on the window was a fury of multiple colors and I took it a bit farther 🙂
Photograph of the Week
I took this image during a walk on Sunset Beach which is between Moclips and Pacific Beach, Washington. Very dramatic sky to say the least!

Saved By Beauty

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“The world will be saved by beauty” Fyodor Dostoevsky

I read this quote in a book about the life of Dorothy Day . I understand it was her favorite quote. Although, I have not concluded reading this book, I can say from what I have read, she was truly a very special person. What stands out so far for me about her, is her burning heart of action for those that were marginalized in society. She was a woman of words (she was a journalist and author) but she also was a woman of action. She was a social justice advocate and political radical for change to the systems that enslave others. She paid for it, though, with beatings and jail time, but she persevered. I would say she lead a “beautiful life”. Her beauty was deep.

I was thinking about beauty and how we use the word in our language.  The first image I get when I hear the word, is the beauty we find in nature (like this photo at the top of this blog, from Costa Rica). As I mentioned, in the past, walking the Camino de Santiago, we enjoyed a lot of beautiful sunrises, as we walked across Spain (we had to get up before dawn many times to assure we could make our day’s destination). A beautiful sunrise or sunset can do wonders for us, it lifts our spirits and we feel instantly better in almost every case. It is something innate in all of us, I believe.

So, if I think of beauty in this way, something that lifts our spirits and makes us and others feel better, then maybe beauty can indeed save the world. I know there was an amazing beauty in Dorothy Day’s life. She lifted the spirits of those that were downtrodden in society and she was a strong advocate for changes to the “systems” that pushed them and kept them down. She was beauty.

We see beauty all around us in those caring for others who just need a little help. We can be beauty in how we treat each other. We can lift the spirits of others by what we say and do. We can be beauty, too!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

The World will be Saved by Beauty

Ok, so I saved my best for the last, this photograph is from a sunset in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. A true beauty!

 

Listening to our Inner Life

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“One of the elements of what makes a person extraordinary, I have come to believe, is when their inner and outer lives are in accord.”

This quote is from a book I am reading on the life of Dorothy Day, written by her granddaughter. The quote seemed to catch my eye and I wrote it down as it seemed like something that I wanted to think about more. A short while later while on our airplane ride to Costa Rica, I had a chance to watch the movie “Wonder Woman”, that was released last year. It is amazing to me, how often I will have a new insight or understanding come to me several times in different ways, usually near in time to each other.

That is why I titled my blog this week, “Listening to our Inner Life”. It is important to take the time in our busy lives to “ponder” and and “think more deeply”. This as I have said, is the one of the greatest benefits that Terri and I found in walking the Camino de Santiago. Lots of time for thinking more deeply.

Getting back to the Wonder Women movie, though, the insight I had was how Wonder Women  was a true heroine and did extraordinary deeds because she was true to herself in that she did not let the dangers she faced or the opposition and ridicule she encountered keep her from living out her purpose that she was created for in the first place. I believe that when we are living out of our deep inner purpose, we indeed can do extraordinary things.

We have been made for a purpose and we are on a journey in our lives to undercover it so that we can align our “inner and outer lives” and do great things. I leave you with another quote from a book called “Perfectly Yourself (discovering God’s dream for you) by Matthew Kelly. It is a good one for us to think about.

“We can become so preoccupied with what we have and we do we lose sight of who we are and what we are becoming.” 

Blessings and all good,

John

P.S. The image at the top of the blog was created from a photograph I took on a beach walk in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. I loved the heart shape of the rock formation I found and thought it was perfect for this blog article.

Photograph of the Week

Patterns of Nature

Ok, I know that my last blog “Photograph of the Week” was of trees but they are so darn much fun for me to photograph. My eye goes to them all the time. This is from a tree in Costa Rica. Costa Rica had some awesome trees!

 

 

Natural Rhythm – Stay in Sync

170105-Lake Stevens-10We are heading off, at the end of this week, to Costa Rica. Our son, Matt, is getting married on a beach in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. We have done a lot of preparation and planning for this trip. The wedding will be in a very different climate, environment and culture that it will make it a truly unique and memorable experience.

One interesting thing about Costa Rica is that it is near the equator, and the length of the days and nights are evenly distributed. The sun rises and sets at around 6am and 6pm each day, year round.

This past year the Nobel prize for Medicine was awarded to three scientist for their discoveries about how internal clocks and biological rhythms govern human life. Here is how one article, I read, summarized this research.

“Life’s tough when everything’s out of sync”

The research points to the fact that  being good to our natural rhythms improves daily physiological and psychological function — and ultimately short- and long-term health. Reducing the wear and tear on our internal clock keeps it fresh, and robust.

It is interesting to note that with few exceptions, all organisms on the planet follow a circadian clock. From daffodils to sparrows, zebras to humans, everything under the sun follows the pattern of the sun.  The rising and the setting of the sun is still the primary influence on circadian rhythms.

Walking the Camino, one certainly gets into the natural rhythm of the day and night, as our rituals varied very little and we were very much in tune with the rising of the sun and its setting. I am curious what a few weeks stay in Costa Rica will do for helping us stay in natural rhythm, as we very much will be in tune with the sun rising and setting.

We all can make lifestyle changes and they can be a great gift to ourselves. Keeping in sync with our natural rhythms (e.g. when we go to bed and wake, when we eat and stop eating) and they are all part of keeping our circadian rhythms in sync and have great health benefits it turns out.

Let’s all stay in sync this year!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Look Up and Behold

Winter has come to the mountains and I have had a chance to spend a little time out on the Mountain Loop Highway, with my good hiking buddy, Bob Maier. I have found the some of the more interesting images are found when we look up and all around as we hike, while, watching our steps, of course, 🙂

 

Consume and Criticize or Create and Bless

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“Unsolicited advice is just criticism”

I heard a podcast this past week on criticism that I made an impression on me and I have done a bit of soul searching as to how it might apply to my life. I guess I have to admit I am guilty of this undesirable behavior. I love to consume information on a variety of  subjects that I find interesting to me (e.g. autonomous vehicles,  artificial intelligence/robotics, blockchain, social media addictions, etc) and then I go around giving my unsolicited advice to anyone who will listen. Although I had good intentions, I now see it was not really helpful at all.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and unsolicited advice is the mortar.

Oh, those darn unintended consequences.

It is so easy to be the critic and yet so hard to be the one that creates something and blesses others with it. It takes positive energy to create something that blesses others and I realize now that simply passively consuming and criticizing takes little energy and tends be more destructive of others.

I find that taking time out to pause and think, with a good dose of silence, is a good recipe for creativity and blessing. I am more likely to emerge from this period ready to create and find ways to bless others. In the long silence of the Camino walk, I found lots to time to think and came out of it very inspired to try new things. Certainly, the encouragement I received from everyone after I got home to continue writing this blog, is a good example. It continues to be a creative outlet to for me and I believe it has blessed many of you.

Let’s take this opportunity as we gather together with our family and friends at Christmas, to spend some quiet time thinking and generating some creative ways that we can bless others. I for one am going to try and focus on this approach rather than being the one that is providing unsolicited advice!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Manzanita Evening Glow

I created this image in the past week from a photograph taken during our annual family getaway weekend to Manzanita Beach this past March. I love the way this image makes me feel. I feel calm and soothing and hopeful. Not sure why just do.

P.S. Image used at top of the blog I created from a hike this past week to Whistle Lake up near Anacortes. I threw a rock into the lake to capture the concentric circle waves and it seems so perfect to use for this blog now.

No Neutral State

We can never be morally neutral, either we are growing in virtue or falling into vice.  We never have the luxury of simply being in some neutral, holding state. There’s no moral neutrality.  Either we are growing in virtue or sliding into virtue’s opposite. That’s true for all of life. A thing is either growing or it’s regressing.

I thought this might be a good quote to post to start this blog. It certainly gets one’s attention. It really speaks to an important aspect of living a full and happy life that has real meaning, it seems to me. We can not stay stuck in neutral, so to speak.

The physical and emotional struggle of walking the Camino de Santiago is the constancy of the walk. There was no neutral state, you had to keep moving (or at least that is they way we did the Camino). We were moving most everyday of the walk. Going ever farther away from the starting point of the walk and moving closer each day, to Santiago de Compostela, our final stop of our walk.

Like the Camino walk, we are also on a journey in our lives heading toward our final destination. I believe we must be committed in our life to continuous growth in the virtues (Humility, Generosity, Chastity, Kindness, Meekness, Temperance and Diligence). See there is no neutral state, so if you are not working to grow these virtues you will be moving away from these virtues and into an unhealthy state of being that is full of oneself with little concern for others. I know that not everyone may agree with this but for me it seems to ring true. If we all strived to live these virtues, what a beautiful world this would be! So much heartache and sorrow comes to us from not striving to these great virtues.

But the fact is, that growing in the virtues does not come without focus and effort and grace. I don’t become an pilot because I love to fly in an airplane. I have to have the desire but more importantly I have to put in the work to get to the point where I can be certified as a pilot. So just desiring to be more virtuous is not going to work for us either. Just desiring to walk the Camino does not get you to Santiago.

So I am challenging myself and all of you to also take the virtues as a measuring stick. Where do I need to grow more in virtue?

Blessings and all good,

Photograph of the Month

God’s Hole

This image was taken during a car ride home from a hike/photography trip to the Skagit/Chuckanut Mountains. My friend, Bob’s son, Karl, refers to the mystical opening of the clouds and rays of light shining through as a “God Hole”.