Last year at this time I was on pilgrimage walking part of the Camino de Santiago for the second time. My friend, Tammy, and I had walked a 180 mile portion of the ancient route in 2012 and we were back for more.
Some would call us crazy, submitting to the rigors and hardships of walking mile after mile in all kinds of weather, through various terrain, lugging everything you needed on your back. But there is something that drew us both back to the Camino again three years after our first trek.
One of the things I most appreciate about the Camino is the simplified and repetitive routine: Wake up. Morning ablutions. Pack up. Head out to walk. Find food along the way. Eat. Walk some more. Stop to find lodging at the end of the day. Shower. Wash clothes. Journal. Eat. Sleep. Begin again.
This same, widely unvarying routine — clear of appointments, crises, phone calls, busyness — frees one up to do more inner work and reflection. There is a peaceful rhythm each day and much time to reflect and process life. Thoughts and ideas and dreams that have been put on hold can be dusted off and looked at. Submerged emotions that need to be addressed slowly bubble up to the surface. This is one of the great gifts of pilgrimage.
Time to reflect
But how can I bring that gift back home to normal life?
Life is often so fast-paced that we have neither sufficient time nor spare mental energy to apply to inner work. Meetings, the demands of family life, deadlines, responsibilities — life rushes by with dizzying speed at times, and we can go for weeks without thoughtful reflection and with only quickly murmured prayers while fighting distractions and weariness.
Yet stopping to reflect and take inventory of our lives is so important.
Regular tune ups required
Think about the car you drive. If you just fill it up with gas and hope for the best, ignoring those annoying little lights that pop up on the panel as you drive and drive and drive, at some point you’re going to get into serious trouble.
Cars need regular maintenance: oil changed, tires rotated, the transmission flushed, engine lights attended to. If you do the maintenance regularly, major problems can be avoided or lessened. If you neglect the little indicators that something is amiss, you might be headed for an expensive repair.
The same is true of us. We need inner maintenance to keep our lives on track and running smoothly.
Spiritual tune ups
We have two great tools to help us get into the habit of doing spiritual tune ups on a regular basis.
- daily examination of conscience
- making an annual retreat
To take time each day to do a quick inventory of how we are living our lives, the choices we are making, the effect of our words and actions — this is a great habit to cultivate.
Mary Ann Halloran gave us a good way to do this with young children, but it’s also a great way for any of us to start incorporating this beneficial habit into our evening routines.
And if you can take a few days each year, depending on your season in life, to make a retreat, that is the best way to do a fuller inventory of where you are at, where you are going and what changes you need to make in your life.
The great pilgrimage of life
We are all on pilgrimage. Life on this planet is not our final destination. So let’s live more thoughtfully and intentionally, taking time for needed reflection, as we journey together to our eternal home.