For the last several years I have wanted to share my research about the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in the Internet Age but I’ve faced a conundrum – how to do it effectively in this new world we live in? One of the challenges of the Internet Age is that people absorb and consume information differently than they did when I published my book Pilgrim Stories. On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press) in 1998. Writing a book about my research in 2016 or 2017 felt less and less relevant. The challenge of information overload that I describe in my current research caused me to question how I could best share my research and deep reflections about this subject with the general public. I realized that perhaps the best way to reach my audience was to go to them via the internet where many of us now find ourselves spending many hours every day.
I decided to create a website to present and share my research in a format that will hopefully be easy to access and enjoy. I hope that my research and articles will stimulate your curiosity, cause you to reflect and encourage you to come back and hopefully connect as fully as possible with your on-the-ground, face-to-face reality. As Levi Felix, the late founder of the company Digital Detox, said, “I love that technology connects us…. but we have to learn how to use it, and not have it use us.”
This site is my way of sharing and giving thanks to all of those who’ve given so much to me all of these many years along the Camino. The Camino has been an incredibly powerful and impacting experience in my own life and I know how vastly different my first experience would have been if I’d done it in the Internet Age. I would like others to experience, if they choose, the profundity that I did. I know this depth of experience would have been impossible if I had been in constant connection with my home reality and distracted and comforted by the artificial support of my phone as people typically are now. Welcome to Walking to Presence!
Walking to Presence is a paradox. Being present is attainable now, right now, every moment of the day. It’s not something that needs to be walked to because it’s always here with you. All it takes is one breath, one moment of pause, one moment of inner connection and awareness to be present. Reality though is often different. It often feels like a constant journey to presence. One becomes present and then moves away from presence into non-productive thought dominated by past or future worries.
The website promotes strongly the idea that our relationships with new media technologies (social media, mobile phone addiction, constant connection and distraction) strongly impact our ability to be present and connect meaningfully with ourselves, nature, others and the world around us. Based on 25 years of experience walking, observing and researching the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage (both before the rise of the Internet and during the Internet Age) this site offers resources for pilgrims and potential pilgrims to Santiago to help deepen their pilgrimage experience along the Camino.
One access pathway to presence is walking especially when one makes the conscious effort to walk with focused awareness. On the Camino de Santiago path (or walk that you take) reducing the exterior noise and surrounding oneself with natural beauty typically help calm the inner noise as well. People describe this as being more present or being in the here and the now. Both walking and nature are soothing and calming to the mind. This website explores how walking, especially along the Camino de Santiago, can help you be more present and connect more deeply with the here and the now. Becoming present is a journey. For some it is a short one and for others it may be a daily, long journey as we slip in and out of our minds without even being aware of it.
The Camino is Life Affirming
The Camino is Life Affirming
Nancy L. Frey
25 October 2016
Life affirming. That was how one woman described what the Camino had meant to her. Looking at this photo of our hands held together upon arrival in the Plaza de Obradoiro, I feel that sense of affirmation strongly. Each person comes to the Camino at a different age, stage and place in his or her life and this is clearly shown through how different our hands are. Some are smooth and unblemished. Others appear wise with age and work. Some come adorned and others plain. A week ago most of those hands had little relation to one another. Now, though, by the end of the week those hands created, as one person put it, a quilt of experience together that will endure and give warmth for a long time to come. Many people claim that the Camino changes you. It can but I think that’s a very big expectation to have before starting. More often I see the Camino opening eyes and doors to possibilities. Challenging people in a good way physically, emotionally and psychologically. Creating opportunities to question attitudes, beliefs and actions. It can be a doorway to the self, others, nature, something higher and/or deeper. People feel good on the Camino. They also feel exhausted, worn-out, and sometimes struggle to get through each day. Sometimes it’s precisely that adversity paired with simplifying one’s life, as you do when on the Camino, that makes people feel vibrant and connected with something fundamental about the human experience. The Camino often gives the pilgrim the gift of clarity and insight into what is most important in life. Time and reflection, though, are necessary to bring those gifts home and into one’s heart and actions. Our hands together in common purpose are witness to the life affirming reality of the Camino and the continuing possibility of what is yet to come once we return home.
Keeping the Camino Flame Alive in your Heart
To those of you who are missing the Camino, here’s one way to keep the Camino fire burning in your heart in your daily life. Remember: the Camino is now within you. The Camino is a literal space you go to but once you are there, it starts to grow and imprint itself upon your inner being. It becomes a landscape within. On your inner Camino there’s a rich storehouse of memories, smells, sensations, hardships, triumphs, disappointments, joys, insights….You can return to this Camino anytime you like and draw on the power of those memories and experiences to give you strength in the here and now. No one can take that away from you.
How do you access your inner Camino in your daily life? Make time to take a walk, preferably in nature. Go with intention and keep yourself attuned to your surroundings (ie, take out the ear buds and disconnect your phone). Before you start, visualize a Camino memory or place that you particularly like and start walking, keeping that memory in mind. Give yourself at least 30 minutes. The Camino will come back to you. Let go and allow your mind to do what it does naturally: as you walk memory will flow and you will be on the Camino again. If your mind starts to wander off your inner Camino you can gently redirect it back to the initial memory/place. You may be surprised where your inner Camino will take you. Sometimes those inner miles that you walk will take you the furthest.