A few weeks ago I watched an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Shirley MacLaine on Super Soul Sunday. Speaking about her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, MacLaine said something to the effect that, “The pilgrimage doesn’t truly begin until you’ve come home.”
My pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela began in May, 2015. I left San Jean Pied-de-Port, France on May 26 and arrived in Santiago June 28. During those 34 days of walking I meditated, wrote poems, met friends, cried, laughed, sang, ate good food, hobbled with shin splints, slept amid snoring pilgrims, and threw away the remaining antidepressants I carried across Spain.
Eight months have passed since I came home to Georgia, and I have been off antidepressants this entire time. It has been hard.
Since November, I wake in the morning with the fiery pain of nerves in my solar plexus. It takes an hour of mindful breathing to slowly make my way out of bed at 8:00 am. Once I’m up, the rhythms of the day take over. The sun warms my muscles, the others in my family wake up, and the pain under my sternum dissipates.
Buddhist teachers would tell me that my suffering comes from expecting only good feelings. The trick is to watch the feelings come and go without identifying with them. But the pain! It’s sometimes impossible not to lose myself in the misery.
Some might wonder why I don’t go back to my psychopharmacologist for a new prescription. If I were suicidal, I would seek treatment, but I am not. I go to a counselor who helps me with moving the energy in my body. She also gives me suggestions for healing old wounds. I know that everyone is different, and I don’t recommend that anyone ditch their meds because of my experiences. I took antidepressants for twenty years.
I live with the hope that by entering the suffering I will eventually pass through it. I also practice what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “watering the seeds of joy.”
One to two hours of vigorous exercise works to exorcise my inner demons. I take long walks. I swim one to two miles at a stretch. I practice yoga. I’m grateful for the circumstances in my life that allow me the time I need to take care of myself.
Now that spring is around the corner here in Georgia, my thoughts are on the Camino again. I long for six hours of walking a day, no cell phones, computers, chores, or familial drama. It’s the kind of retreat I crave.
7 thoughts on “Camino On My Mind”
Christine, I am so proud of you and so awed by your strength. Thank you for sharing your journey.
Thanks, Lynne! It has been tough lately, but I AM getting stronger. I appreciate your support, friend.
I appreciated reading about your brave journey beyond the Camino! Thank you!
Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Jen. I still remember fondly the poetry class I took with you. Good times!
This is a beautiful piece…really honest and moving! I started meditating because of anxiety…it wasn’t constant but as soon as something even slightly stressful reared its head (an inconsequential deadline or some such) I’d feel waves of searing stress (like you in my solar plexus)…..just around the time I began meditating, I visited a cranial osteopath (about an ear issue) and she worked on my solar plexus and I experienced a rush of air moving up and out of me there….I believe she was shifting trapped emotions…meditation has totally changed me…in so many ways….but for me it’s the shift from reactive, over-sensitive person to calm, centred person, that has been one of the best side effects….I feel like it has saved my life in so many ways….l was so blown away when you walked the Camino…I hope there’s another trip on your near-future!!!
I am a little behind on reading your posts, Christine, and I just got a chance to read this one this morning. You don’t know this, but I draw a lot of strength from your posts; I so admire you and how real you are in what you write. I’m sorry that it has been so hard for you since you got back. If it matters, I send a prayer your way every day.
Thanks for the prayers, JC! It has been rough, but I know others go through the same. We have to have courage in this life. Menopause is part of my saga, and I’m hoping once it’s a done deal that I’ll even out. Thanks for reading, JC!