A Three-Part Journey

With any spiritual journey or even a simple vacation, we rarely immerse immediately to the degree we would intend prior to going. It’s a process that we go through from one phase to the next. I know this well through experience. First we have to wrestle ourselves away from our everyday world. Then whatever else comes to provide the segue, if we face it head-on, takes us to that place of intent set prior to departure.

I knew Barbara Mahan as a traveler on my Peru programs way back. I didn’t know until recently that she’s now walked the Camino four times. In one of her blogs she wrote about the phases I mentioned above but specific to the Camino. A volunteer in one of the albergues told her:

The Camino can be viewed in three parts …The first part … is the physical Camino. The body gets tired and all a pilgrim can think about is how hard it is to get through each day…The second third of the Camino … is the emotional Camino in which a pilgrim´s heart is engaged and expanded. The last third … is the spiritual Camino.

I remember reading a similar description in Kevin Codd’s book To the Field of Dreams. I appreciate these disclosures. In most of the online forums and publications, pilgrims focus on practical matters. Those are necessary but I’m so much more interested in the spiritual aspects. That’s why I’m going. Barbara sent me an issue of La Concha newsletter, a publication of American Pilgrims on the Camino, and invited me to read Thin Places by Thayer Woodcock.

 …the boundary between the sacred and the everyday feel ‘thin,’ are everywhere along the Camino de Santiago …These places were glorious, and moving, and powerful beyond words…

But it is the albergues…that remain with me. Sacred moments lying in the small personal space of my bunk, surrounded by darkness and by the sounds and smells and sheer human presence of my fellow pilgrims … all of us breathing together as we made the journey to sleep, to Santiago, and beyond.

 Each night in the dormitory, this thin place of conspiracy, I felt knit into kinship not just with those who surrounded me on a particular night, but with pilgrims who had made similar journeys for centuries before me…

I resonate completely with what the author says about those times and places when the veil is thin. It had already come to me about slipping my footsteps into those of pilgrims of many centuries. It will be such a powerful metaphor to carry.

My Spiritual Take-Alongs

I’ve already written about the down-to-earth preparations I’ve made and things in that dimension I’ve chosen to take with me. This is the last blog entry I’m making before I leave home, and the subject matter of this post seems also the place to share my spiritual take-alongs.

I’m part of a small group of women friends who get together about once a month. We provide a safe haven for each other and discuss elements of life we may not disclose to others. It’s been quite precious to me. At the beginning of each year, we have a ceremony when we take time to choose a metaphor for the year. It’s been uncanny how the year’s intent comes about. My chosen metaphor for this year is momentum. I’d say it reflects the phases of the Camino for sure. So momentum will no doubt frame the journey as it does.

Since it’s unlikely I’ll be doing my daily sitting meditation, I’ve decided to replace it with a walking meditation and include wazifa practice. For years, I attended Sufi zikr, a heart-opening ritual, at my friend Yaqin Lance Sandleben’s home. Wazifas are the 99 Beautiful Names of God and invoked as a chanting practice. It was so powerful for me that I used them in my daily meditations for a long time. The practice is a way to internalize a specific quality like compassion, tranquility, humility—any of the Beautiful Names—and, for me, opened energy channels I didn’t know I had. With any luck, my feet will be light on the path as a result…

Singing Bowls
My Singing Bowls Altar

Last year I was asked by my friend Hilary Bee to be a singing bowl carrier. I received this request as an extraordinary honor. Hilary, who is a spiritual teacher from the UK, traveled to Scotland to make my bowl over a week-long process. Since that time, I’ve carried the bowl from the highlands to lowlands of Peru, Bolivia, Southern Mexico and Hopi. It’s been sounded during ceremonies and released prayers into the ether of all the spiritual leaders and travelers with whom I engage. I also sound the bowl during my own private meditations. I was in a terrible quandary. Of course, I had to take the bowl on the Camino. But the weight was a real consideration. Hilary and I were able to have some time together when she came to the US in February. I told her about my internal conflict. She did a beautiful thing. She entrusted me with a tiny singing bowl that had been made for her. It hangs on a cord and expresses such a sweet sound, amazingly strong and long for its size. It weighs just a few ounces. I’ve been sounding both in preparation for the Camino, attuning their vibrations to each other. I’m quite sure I will know exactly where to sound “the little one” along the way. At the end, I’ll send it back to Hilary where I hope the vibrations gathered along the way infuse her home.

Cross of Caravaca
Cross of Caravaca

Finally, I will wear my cross of Caravaca. During my Maya spiritual travel program I always take the group to see Doña Panchita, a traditional healer who serves the residents in Palenque. In private sessions, she performs a limpia, or clearing, and sometimes prescribes herbs, personal rituals and the like, for whatever the presenting matter is. One year I consulted her on interference I was experiencing. Aside from limpia, she told me I must immediately purchase and wear a cruz de Caravaca because those in my line of work need such protection. Doña Panchita’s work brings results. Her limpia that year was especially powerful. I bought and wore the cross. When I returned home the interference had cleared. I’m taking the cross…just in case…

If you’ve made it to the end of this particularly long post, I thank you for reading my words and witnessing my process. Writing helps me ground. Telling my story makes it real.

We’re all breathing the same elements of creation. What’s in me is in you as well. We are connected through vibrations reaching around the world …backwards and forwards… in time and space. I will feel you alongside me on the journey.

One last thing…

In one of her emails to me, Barbara signed off, Buen Camino Peregrinita. No, she wasn’t referring to a female bird of prey but a female wayfarer on a pilgrimage.

I’m called Carlita by friends in Peru and those at home who know of this term of affection.

So I’m signing off until I pick up again somewhere on the Camino…

Carlita La Peregrinita…

Had to do it. I told Oscar these words strung together sound like music… that I hold we’ll meet with every step on the Camino.

10 thoughts on “Momentum

  1. Well, what a beautiful way to share your journey! This morning I was sitting with “suffering” and the choices, the challenges, and the spiritual and emotional growth that the choice to embrace it allows and invites. During the past 2-3 years I’ve come to see suffering in a way that doesn’t cause me alarm or avoidance necessarily — I say that realizing that how we describe suffering can seem relative. Yet, I also know that a deliberate choice to face suffering, embrace the internal struggle, and accept that patience will see me through, has probably allowed for the greatest growth I’ve experienced especially since it was a chosen path and an observable or noticeable one. Anyway, all of this came back to me before I read your message and will your sharing will have me thinking off and on all day on my trip to Flag. Thanks, Carlita. Nance


  2. Exquisite writing Carlita LA Peregrenita!!!! Thank you for taking me/us on your journey. If you ever need a boost of energy or endurance need only close your eyes, take a deep breath and find me/ us in your heart. You walk for self and many more,seen and unseen. Much respect and greater love


  3. Dear Peregrinita,

    Last night I went to a local Buddhist meditation group and the speaker talked about generosity and renunciation. This morning when I read your latest post, it occurred to me that these two qualities are central to the experience of so many pilgrims and are already informing your Camino. I love how the Camino is singing to you, a song that I imagine will last the rest of your life.

    Thank you for the mention on your blog. I’m honored. My response here is so long, I was reluctant to overwhelm your comment section, which is why I’m doing an email.

    First, I’m relieved to hear that you’ll be carrying the Mini-Me song bowl. I’ve been worried about the weight of your regular song bowl since I first heard you intended to carry it.

    Second, I wanted to say, in case you don’t already know, that pilgrims often carry stones or important mementoes to leave at the Iron Cross, which comes a couple days after Astorga. The idea as I understand it is that your stone represents something you want to be free of, so leaving it on the great pile of stones at the Iron Cross after carrying it for weeks can mean a lot to some of us. Anyway, I wanted you to know in case you want to bring a stone or something else from home.

    Third thing. Along the Camino you will find opportunities to go to pilgrim mass in local churches. Maybe you already know about this, too. At the end of a pilgrim mass, the priest almost always calls up the pilgrims to the front and gives them a blessing and often it is a medieval blessing given to pilgrims for more than a thousand years. Many pilgrims don’t go because they think they would not be welcome because they are not Catholic or not Christian (or maybe they’re just too tired), but I found that all are welcome and that it is a moving experience both to sit through the mass and then to receive an ancient blessing. The heart of the blessing is this: “Be for them companion on the journey, signpost at the crossroads, encouragement in weariness, defense when dangers threaten, refuge on the way, shade in the heat, light in the darkness, comfort in discouragement, and firmness in their resolve…” It’s a covenant that moves me still.

    Almost done now. I am very happy that you are planning to share your experiences on the Camino in your blog. It’s great for those of us who want to follow along. But for me, it also enriched the experience of walking itself. When I was writing on the Camino, especially on nights when I was near exhaustion, I pulled strength from a quote by Anaïs Nin: “We write to taste life twice.” My hope is that you will grow addicted to sharing a running account of all your journeys.

    And finally, I wanted to give you my blessing for this journey of yours. It comes from the end of a stunning commencement address called “This Is Water” given by David Foster Wallace10 years ago, and it says simply: I wish you way more than luck.



    1. Barbara, I have to tell you my eyes are brimming with tears, not from sadness but from the beauty of your words and blessing. And I’m not overwhelmed but taking it in. Sending much love to you and so much more than luck as well.


    1. And you’re welcome to hitch a ride in spirit. If I feel a slight pressure on my shoulder anywhere along the path…I’ll know you’re there. Much appreciation to you for all that you hold for me and others, Janet.


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