A long walk to freedom…

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A long walk to freedom…

I haven’t written for a long time,
A bad case of psychic constipation,
unsure of how to express myself,
how to give the Camino its due.

Something had to change, I was in a bad place before I left.

I hastily tended…and then fled my responsibilities at home.

I arrived on the Camino broken…exhausted, burnt out and heartbroken by my numerous bloody skirmishes with the world.
My nerves were jagged,
my body and mind bloated,
a cataract had formed over my soul.

On the first day, I stumbled over the Pyrenees, ill prepared, ankle deep in snow, sweating, my body protested every inch of the first 27km stretch over slick, often treacherous terrain. The icy rain and snow made my 10kg backpack feel a lot heavier.
I fell spectacularly twice, cursing, scrambling. I thought “bugger this!”,
“I’m off to Ibiza!”

I muttered interminably for hours, stopping intermittently to stare open mouthed at the incredible vistas that would open unexpectedly before me. Eventually, 11 hours later, I arrived at the first stop, freezing, filthy, shattered and exhilarated.
That night, I fell into the deepest, most nourishing sleep I have had in years.

People do the Camino for a variety of reasons, religious, spiritual, psychological (stage of life, often mid-late life), and physical. They come in fragmented droves from around the world, often spiritually anaemic, broken, disillusioned, confused. some seek insight or a challenge, others a lover, a friend or a break.

Among the seekers, I met witches and shamans, historians and plumbers, psychopaths and mavericks, each one had unique, often fascinating stories to tell.

For me, the journey was less about what was happening externally or relationally and more of what was going on deep inside of me as I walked hour after hour, day after day for four weeks covering a distance of approximately 800 kilometers.

I chose to walk alone for a couple of reasons, I was there to do my ‘work’, to heal. I found that I was unable to concentrate on my process and walk and talk with others at the same time. I wanted to encounter myself on a fundamental level with little or no distraction. When my head got too busy, I turned to my playlists compiled by dear friends, the music went a long way to keeping me sane and served to amplify peak experiences (I have a fantastic Camino playlist if anyone is keen).

I wanted to avoid ’empty talk’, the cocktail party chit chat I struggle with at the best of times. I wanted to be alone, with myself, with nowhere to run, my only responsibility…to ‘sort my shit out’.

The first weeks were punctuated by the physical challenges, aches, blisters, exhaustion. The body needs at least a week to acclimatize to the stress it is put under day after day. While I am incredibly attuned to what is happening in others, I have a blind spot when it comes to my own physicality. I had to learn to nourish myself on multiple levels in order to have the energy I needed to keep going. If I ignored the signals my body sent me, I would suffer.
I learnt to make love to my feet every evening.

As my body hardened and my stamina increased, I became aware of the incessant chatter of my mind. Living in a city, I had become less aware of my internal monologue, but out there, with the path stretching to the horizon, I was forced to listen to and observe endless reruns of past relational enactments. I watched as my ego raged and wailed against all it felt had wronged it. I conjured countless conversations that will never take place. The Observer was often embarrassed at just how petty my ego could be, I would internally quietly shake my head wondering whether I had learnt anything at all through my various attempts to understand myself. Slowly, gently, probably out of sheer exhaustion, I began to counsel and nurse the injured child.
And slowly the healing began.

Once the volume of my ego had softened, something shifted deep within. I began to wake up at 5:00 am and set off in the dark with my head torch, I’d walk and weep, my tears were filled with relief, with grief, with freedom, with the knowledge that I was fundamentally where I needed to be, doing what had to be done in order for me to evolve.

I would salute the Sun each morning, listening to the multitude of birds, my body felt strong, my mind clear, my heart open.
I would often laugh with such delight as a flash of creativity, or perspective, or joy ran through me.

My tears dried up on the 24th day. I was then able to connect with other seekers on the path and discovered that other people are a fundamental raw material of the Camino.

I returned home physically run down but psychospiritually more energized than I have been since I can remember. It is not a magical, mystical transformation. For me, walking brought me towards myself, it burnt away the psychic dross that had accumulated as a result of the most difficult year I had ever encountered.

I’ve never been a religious man, but I’ve always had a strong spiritual connection.
On the Camino I felt that connection deepen. I miss it, I’m struggling with the readjustment, the avalanche of roles and responsibilities have found me again.
Something must change, something essential…at least now, I have its scent.

About the author

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Jamie Elkon http://shrinkrap.co.za/

The author can be found rummaging through life looking for nourishment in the early hours of the morning. He is slowly going sane by using his actual life and relationships to wake up.He lives in Cape Town with his teenaged daughter, two bassett hounds named Thelma and Louise and Digit... the cat. He hugs trees, has experienced numerous dark nights of the soul, collects incorrect Chinese packaging and tracks curious things to their lair.