“We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” – Marianne Williamson
Recently I had the honour and privilege to have an audience with John Brierely, author of the most popular, and spiritual, guidebooks on the Camino. An obviously advanced soul, John’s message was not just inspiring, it was absolutely necessary. And dare I say, urgent. Following, in paraphrase, is what John had to convey.
The Camino de Santiago is not the biggest pilgrimage in the world. The Kumbh Mela in India dwarfs it. The Hajj Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca makes the Camino look like an intimate gathering. And the Lourdes pilgrimage for the Virgin Mary outstrips the Camino by some 12 pilgrims to 1.
What sets the Camino apart is its all-encompassing embrace. Every year at least 180 nationalities register for a Compostela at the pilgrims office in Santiago. There are just over 200 official countries in the world. There isn’t a race, creed, colour, religion, sexual orientation, mental state or political viewpoint that the Camino doesn’t welcome.
It’s this multicultural melting pot that lends itself to some of its biggest life lessons. On the Camino you quickly discover there is no place for intolerance, judgement or prejudice. But this is just the beginning of the education afforded to those fortunate enough to make this life-changing walk. Ask any returned pilgrim and they will wax lyrical about the lessons they learned on pilgrimage. In a previous blog, I wrote of the 10 things I learned on the Camino. I could have written about many more.
Surely as pilgrims then, is it not our responsibility, our duty, to spread that message, and quickly? If not now, then when? If not us, then whom? Who is more qualified to spread the message of hope and understanding than a returned pilgrim?
The biggest crisis facing humanity today is not world hunger or atomic war. It’s not global warming or economic meltdown. No, the biggest crisis facing humanity today is simply this. We have become separated from who we truly are – our divine essence. Everything else is merely a symptom. But unless we realise the crisis is internal and not external we’re headed for disaster.
We came to this earth with a soul contract to fulfil. If you feel the calling – and make no mistake, it is a calling – to walk the Camino, then consider it part of your soul’s calling. There is something for you to learn from your walk. And having learnt it, to pass it on. She doesn’t call everyone. In fact, comparatively speaking, she calls very few. If you feel the pull, consider yourself privileged. Ignore it at your own peril.
When we walk the Camino we walk a path. Not just the outer path that we physically tread. But also, and more importantly, you walk the inner path. This can be scary. Self-discovery is not easy. It’s threatening. All change is, to some extent. In essence, we are giving up who we are. Who we identified ourselves to be.
And as we begin to discover ourselves, we start to realise our power. The power of one. The power to make a difference. And this, too, can be a scary thing. Who am I to change the world? How can I possibly affect the world? Well, I am here to tell you, there is no one more qualified than you. Change occurs when one person has the courage to name the problem.
In a world filled with desperation and despair, it is up to us to rewrite our own scripts. As Lao Tzu so poignantly said when transcribing the Tao Te Ching 2500 years ago, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s up to us to take that first step. To be the change we want to see in the world. To inspire and to lead. To be a beacon for others to follow.
Your life is your Camino. You are never not on the Camino. Change your life, change your thoughts, change your world, and others will follow. It’s inevitable.
So when you lace up those walking boots and take those first steps on your Camino, stop for a moment and understand the magnitude of what you are undertaking. This isn’t just a long walk. This isn’t just a holiday. This is the Camino. This is your life. And this is your world. Be a true pilgrim and help make it a better one.
It’s not too late.