Sitting with the Blank Page

The Blank Page

I have started a new visual journal.

I use visual journals to sort things out and find my way. The combo of words and visual images allows me to tap into my inner guidance more easily, to bypass my thinking, figuring-it-out mind and get to a deeper truth within me.

However, I have been uncomfortable with blank pages, so the first thing I do in a new visual journal is to paint the pages. Then I have a base to work on in each page. I’m not starting with a blank page.

This is a perfect metaphor for my life. I’m uncomfortable Not Knowing. And, I’m even more uncomfortable hanging out for any period of time in Not Knowing Land.

Clearly, one of my growing edges is to get comfortable with Not Knowing. It’s a vital part of the creative process. It’s also essential for me to clear space to hear my Inner Wayfinder, the presence of Spirit within me.

New ideas can’t get in if I’ve filled the space with prior assumptions, perspectives, and expectations.

Today, I noticed a shift within me. I am craving blank pages. They feel good. Sitting with them feels good. This is good.

The Gifts of the Trail

red tailed hawk feather

Today I was found a Red-Tailed Hawk feather.

I know this is a gift of the trail for me. I’ve had a lifelong connection with Red-Tailed Hawks.

Red-Tailed Hawks speak to me in various forms, usually when I need to pay more attention, or to walk lightheartedly and with a joyful spirit, or to take a long view.

I’ve made a promise to myself that when gifts like this appear, I will stop to savor and appreciate them. They are miracles that greatly enrich my life, and they deserve my acknowledgement.

It is in these moments that I truly feel supported by the same energy that makes songbirds sing and hawks fly.

Embracing the Unpredictable

monastery irache

“We know all too well that few journeys are linear and predictable. Instead, they swerve and turn, twist and double back, until we don’t know if we’re coming or going. The image of the labyrinth is an ancient  symbol for the meandering path of the soul that goes from light into darkness and emerges back into light.” The Art of Pilgrimage, page 128

When I read this quote, the aspect of not knowing whether we are coming or going really resonated for me. Especially in my work, and my website, as it evolves and changes, I frequently feel like I don’t know whether I am coming or going.

It’s not uncommon to lose our way on the Camino, in spite of waymarks on the trail, and we find ourselves not knowing, again, whether we are coming or going.

I am trying to remember that just as the Camino is not linear, predictable, or always well-marked, so is my life. And it doesn’t mean necessarily that there is anything wrong, or anything to fix.

Just as in the labyrinth, or on a pilgrimage, my journey is one of light into darkness and then the emergence back into the light. What if I embraced this truth? What freedom awaits me there?

Readiness

Sunrise Blue

 

“Being ready mentally, spiritually, and physically makes us lighter on our feet, more adroit at making decisions, and perhaps can even help keep chaos at bay. One of the soulful questions to ask ourselves is: What can I do to lighten my burden on this journey?” The Art of Pilgrimage, page 77

Pilgrims on the Camino very consciously practice readiness. They each have their own rituals of getting ready for the day, getting ready to walk and in staying ready for whatever comes. And they are continuously asking themselves how they can lighten their load.

A pilgrimage can teach us valuable lessons about Readiness, on all levels.

It has taught me to get conscious about the “getting ready” rituals in my life, to Wake Up to the details of my life. I am finding, more and more, that the richness and gratitude and sheer vitality of my life all live in  those details, and that there is far more engagement and aliveness to be mined from the routine of my day.

And, I am continually amazed at how much more I can do to lighten my load on this journey that is my life. In particular, what are the beliefs that, when released, will make room for a crystal clarity that I couldn’t see before? What stuff can I re-home, in order to clear space for the dance that is my life?

What can you do to be ready? What will help you feel lighter on your feet? These are the gifts of the pilgrimage.

What’s Leading Us?

Roman Roadway

 

“As we find our meaning and purpose we also realize that some form of invisible guidance has been leading us.” The Art of Pilgrimage, page 150

Pilgrims tend to have a purpose, even when they think they don’t.

Many Camino pilgrims embark on the pilgrimage as a long walk, to get in shape, to see the culture and the landscape, or to sort out their lives. These pilgrims don’t necessarily begin their pilgrimage with an explicit spiritual purpose, meaning, or intention.

And it seems that somewhere along the trail, they find that some form of invisible guidance has been leading them. Or, informing them. Or, companioning them.

I am asking that What If question again. What if that is also true in our lives? What if some form of invisible guidance is leading us, and we need only to tune into it?

It Is Solved

Roman Bridge

 

“Solviture ambulando” (It is solved by walking.) St. Augustine, 354 – 430

You learn the most amazing and surprising things on a pilgrimage.

Or, in my case, you relearn them.

Years ago, when I made my living as a contractor developing and writing training materials, I learned that whenever I got stuck in my writing, for more than a few minutes, the absolute hands-down best strategy for breaking the logjam was to step away from the computer and take a walk. Especially if I could walk in nature.

This never failed to get me out of Stuck.

The hitch was that I almost never did it. It always felt foolhardy and unproductive and a bit irresponsible to stop work, just because I got stuck. So I usually just tried to muscle and plow my way forward anyway, hoping that my sheer determination would get me through and back out the other side, to that blissful state of flow that we all yearn for.

My pilgrimage is showing me again the wisdom of St. Augustine, “Solviture ambulando,” or “It is solved by walking.”

If you get stuck today, in any way, I invite you to get up and walk. I’ll be doing the same.

Rejuvenate

Cirauqui

 

“And you, fair traveler, how will you rejuvenate yourself each day?” The Art of Pilgrimage, page 104

This is a particularly important ever-present question for Camino pilgrims.

The first level of rejuvenation is restoration, to restore the physical body and the spirit back to a level where the pilgrim can set off and walk again the next day. Most albergues, or pilgrim hostels, will only allow one night’s stay, except in cases of extreme physical hardship, so pilgrims must get up and move on.

It would be a supportive, loving, and respectful practice for ourselves, at the end of each day, to take stock and see what needs restoring to get to the essential baseline of vitality and well-being to “walk the day” tomorrow. I don’t know about you, but there are some days when I begin with a deficit, carried over from the day before.

There have even been times when that deficit accumulates until my body says “no” and stops me with some clever and effective physical malady.

Being on the Camino pilgrimage teaches us the necessity of daily-stock taking, restoration and (italics) rejuvenation. This practice isn’t optional it’s essential. If we don’t tend to it, at some point, (and it doesn’t take very long) we can no longer get up and walk.

So, tonight, I’m asking myself, What Needs Restoring? And, What Will Rejuvenate Me?

I’m curious about the impact of this practice on my day-to-day life.

I invite you to love and respect yourself in the same way tonight.

Support of Purpose

Puente Pamplona

 

“Before setting out, remind yourself of the purpose of your journey. From now on, there is no such thing as a neutral act, an empty thought, an aimless day. Travels become sacred by the depths of their contemplations.” The Art of Pilgrimage, page 69

Upon seeing this quote, I asked myself the What If question: What if the purpose of my pilgrimage is to Walk LIghtheartedly and with a Joyful Spirit? And, what if I remind myself of this purpose “before setting out” each day?

I am discovering that this can be quite powerful, and quite a gift. As I bring to mind my purpose, it sets the tone for my day. It establishes a sort-of home base, to which I can return whenever I stray, depending upon how much I get drawn into the circumstances of my day.

To the extent that I can actually, and authentically, live into my purpose as I walk through my day, it can be a gift for others. It may brighten their day.

I can feel the support of my purpose as I walk.

How can your purpose support you today?

Choosing My Attitude

Obanos Church

 

“The question, as always, is what your attitude is towards these awkward moments, these radically disappointing moments in life.” The Art of Pilgrimage, page 142.

I’ve been called to Walk Lightheartedly and with a Joyful Spirit on my pilgrimage, and I’ve been committed to that practice for the last month, since that invitation was inspired through me.

Given that commitment, what is the invitation in those inevitable “radically disappointing moments of life”? Those human moments that we are all familiar with. Those ones like the ones I’ve had today.
My first life coach told me that “Disappointment takes adequate planning,” which I thought was ingenious. It’s a brain twister, but a truth as well.

However, I also feel that it is impossible to live without expectations, as much as we might try to release all of them. And so, ipso facto, some disappointment is inevitable too.

All of the Camino memoirs that I have read so far have spoken to expectations and disappointment in some form. But they have also offered a powerful antidote, and that is the one and only thing that any of us really have any meaningful control over: our response to our experiences and circumstances.

So, today, I am actively and consciously choosing my attitude towards whatever comes my way. It’s my pilgrimage quest for the day.  It takes some practice, and it demands my faithful commitment to my choice, so as not to slip down the slippery slope of the indulgence of feeling sorry for myself or the folly of having that conversation in my head about how unfair life can be, or how it should be different in some way.

And, so far, it is working. Attention, dear brain, please note the powerful freedom of choice. 🙂

My Pilgrimage Practice

Obanos Portal

 

“In each of us dwells a pilgrim that longs to have direct contact with the sacred. This is the way that is no way, but a practice.”  The Art of Pilgrimage, page 92

The practice, for me, is showing up, listening, paying attention. It’s really that simple.

But there are also practical commitments that help me be in the practice.

Every morning, after my breakfast, I imagine that I am getting ready to walk the pilgrimage trail for the day.

In preparation, I do a brief meditation and I sense any guidance or inspiration that is given to me to guide me in my day.

Then I check in, by asking some simple questions, along the lines of “What’s up with me today?” Where am I, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically, right now?

I make some brief notes in my journal.

Then, just before I set off for the day, I do some brief responsive writing in my journal. This only takes a few minutes, maybe ten. But it is essential and powerful for me because it sets my tone for the day.

I use the following prompts to do some automatic writing:
•    I love…
•    I appreciate…
•    I’m eager about….
These quick jottings ground me in the spirit of how I want to be.

And then, I begin my walk for the day. Virtually, of course.

In the evenings, I draw something from the Camino that has captured my attention and imagination.

And, finally, when I have time, i read personal memoirs from Camino pilgrims.

I close my day with a deep feeling of appreciation for my pilgrimage, and a powerful connection, in Spirit, to the Camino.

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