Word Count: 886  |  Time to Read: 4 minutes  |  OCTOBER 2014
The Journey of a Million Steps
1.1 Million...

That's how many steps I took walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain this past August/September.  At least that's what my pedometer recorded.  For more details on  this trek, read my August Blog.

Somehow saying "1.1 million steps" best captures both the scale and scope of the Camino as well as the deeply personal nature of this pilgrimage.
The 450 miles Janet (my wife) and I walked, from Pamplona to Santiago de Compestela, is something that would typically take a day or two by car, or a day's train ride, or a short hop by airplane.

But, 1.1 million steps is what it takes a human to walk it, at human speed, in human time;  1.1 million steps take time. 

Actually, thirty days at about 35,000 steps per day.  But that 30 days is paid back ten-fold because of the richness and depth that the speed of walking allows.  Walking one step at a time, for 30 days, is a gift. A gift of the Camino that will be with me, forever.

Janet and I walked the Camino with 15 others from Southern Utah.  By the end of the walk, we had formed friendships with each of the 15.  The lessons of the Camino were many, too many to address in great detail here. But, the Camino simplified our lives to the basic acts of walking, eating, and sleeping.  In the process, a bright light shone on all of our virtues and all of our warts. The Camino gave each of us the lessons we needed to learn - or at least confront.

I have spent my life focused on "destinations, " moving fast to get to the next goal, objective, or place.  In the process, I missed the richness of "the getting there," of the journey itself.  My intent was that my experience of walking the Camino would be different.  I decided to do the Camino as a journey, for the sake of the journey, and not as a means to a destination.  As I trained for the Camino, I trained my body for the physical challenge and I taught my mind how to focus on the walk itself, the day-to-day experience, and to let go of focusing on just getting somewhere.
I was more successful than I had hoped.  Of course, I wanted to get to Santiago and knew it was our endpoint.  But because of my training, I was able to put my attention on where I was, "here," rather than focusing only on where I was going. and when I would get there.  We did reach Santiago and were fortunate enough to be able to walk the whole way.  This was an accomplishment for both Janet and me.  But the real accomplishment for me, the personal one, was in being much more fully present across each day, throughout the entire journey.

Of the 1.1 million steps, probably a million wove through the beautiful wine, cattle, and farming country of Northern Spain.  The other 100,000 steps were taken on busy roads with big trucks, through dirty, noisy cities or both.  My first inclination was to try to act as if these genuinely unpleasant sections were not really part of the Camino.  But then our trip leader, Dave, reminded me with a wry and wise smile, "It's ALL part of the Camino, Art."   

I woke up on the Camino to the truth that every journey has its annoyances and real difficulties.  Its triumphs and its joys too.  To take ANY journey is a decision to take the whole journey, not just  the "nice" parts.  

Thankfully, this was a le
sson I encountered early in the walk.  

We never needed a map on the Camino.  The entire way was marked with clam-shell markers and ubiquitous yellow arrows painted on every conceivable surface. Getting lost on the Camino is really not a worry. Like many Pilgrims, Santiago is where we landed. However,the actual end of the Camino is about 50 miles west on a rocky bluff, overlooking the Atlantic, Finisterre - the end of the earth.

Here's where the yellow arrows and clam shells end and the path ahead is unmarked.  The vast expanse of the Atlantic beckons, a symbol of a life ahead with limitless possibilities and no obvious signs to guide the way.

When I first returned home, I was bewildered by moving so rapidly - from the simplicity of the Camino to the complexity of "normal" life.  How am I going to discern the path now before me?  I despaired seeing how the journey of the Camino might not continue within me, not taking me as I hoped for into new territory and in a new form.

Then, I realized, that the next part of my journey could proceed like any journey of a million steps:  one step at a time, always present to being "here," and accepting of every part of the journey, the pleasant and not-so pleasant.
Accepting all of it, as part of the journey. 
I know that when I am quiet, I can better "see" the next yellow arrow, marking the path of my life. 

And clearly seeing that next yellow arrow is all I ever need, to know the way and enjoy the walk.