The Camino de Santiago is a journey I have been called to do for years now, prior to becoming a Buddhist and also since choosing Buddhism as my path. In fact, the calls have become more frequent over the last 20 years which proved to me that it is a journey open to all irrelevant of all those labels we or others like to bestow on us.
When I told others that I wanted to do the Camino and then later on that I had set the dates and was going to start my journey on April 3rd, many asked me why I was doing it if I was a Buddhist, how did it fit in with Buddhism and some even jokingly asked me if I was going to convert. Or at least I took it as a joke.
So here is why the journey fits in with Buddhism for me:
Impermanence: Every moment on the Camino reminds us that nothing is permanent whether that is the landscape you are walking through, the people you’re walking with during the day or yourself and your thoughts and feelings. Everything changes and there is great beauty in seeing that come through with every step. It is very true that the pilgrim who leaves the Camino is different to the one who started.
Mindfulness: As you walk without any distractions, you are aware of everything around you, how you are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally and you can also be mindful of those around you allowing you to open up to who they are and who you are in that moment. All that is important each day is to start walking and reach your destination for that day, nothing more needs to occupy your mind so you can allow yourself to open all your senses and be mindful.
Meditation: There are many opportunities along the Camino to meditate, whether that be through walking meditations or other forms. As we focus on mindfulness as mentioned above, that can be our form of meditation simply noticing more, however we can also meditate whilst walking along, focussing on our breath, noticing how every part of our body is feeling, where our mind is taking us and what words we are using when we talk to ourselves and others. Wherever you start your Camino, there are many places to sit in peace as you take a break if you refer to sit when you meditate. You can choose a word to focus on during your day and meditate on how you can bring that into your life now or in the future.
Compassion: As the Dalai Lama said ‘my religion is kindness’ and this also fits in well with every other religion and faith. Along the Camino you will offer, receive and witness many acts of kindness from the smallest to the largest and notice how for some what is a small gesture to others is a large one and vice versa. The act of being more aware along the journey allows you to become more compassionate towards yourself and others in thought and act.
Minimalism: You can’t complete the Camino carrying everything as that is physically impossible. This also covers your mental and emotional loads as well as a physical one. You learn along the way just how little you need physically and most pilgrims find themselves getting rid of extra stuff they no longer need. You also start letting go of unwanted thoughts and feelings, people who have occupied your mind who are no longer a valid part of your life and negative thoughts and people. At the Cruz Ferro you can do this in a physical way of letting go of the burden of your stone and worries which you have carried along with you. You don’t have to wait for the Cruz Ferro though as it is a process you find yourself doing each day after a couple of weeks of walking. If you no longer wish to walk with someone then you simply let go without obligation, you have no responsibility to other pilgrims as you are only responsible for yourself.
There are many more aspects I could have highlighted but these were the more fitting ones for me. You may walk the Camino and find many ways it matches your faith and please feel free to share that with us by getting in touch with us.