Over the week I spent on the Camino de Santiago, I had many experiences that have provided food for thought and helped shape me. The bedrock of that and the central reason for embarking on such a trip is that it provides a deliberate time to reflect.
There is, of course, hours of walking that needs to be done each day. However, walking provides plenty of scope for contemplation. Things come slowly into view and, if you spot something that catches your eye, you can stop and ponder. It allows a different pace of life from driving around in shiny metal boxes!
There are daily routines to attend to: ablutions, striking camp, breakfasting, lunching, setting up camp, cooking and eating. Individually, these are more arduous than performing the same actions in the civilised luxury of your home. However, they don’t take all day and they do provide opportunities to serve and be served and to grow as a team; community provides a healthy context for reflection.
There is much more time without anything in particular to fill it. For me, no Internet connection, so no hours of reading and writing online. Not too many things brought along to provide distractions because they all take weight and space. No long list of chores that need to be attended to sometime, beyond those small ones needed for daily living. Time waiting for things to happen, like the shared evening meal to start.
And, of course, for much of the route, glorious landscapes; the ever-changing creativity of the divine canvas:
God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren’t heard,
Their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
Unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
(Psalm 19:1-4, The Message)
Time to reflect is invaluable. I can’t go on a seven-day pilgrimage every time I need it and, for some people, that would be an impossibility to consider at all. However, it is certain that you will rarely have the time to reflect if you don’t choose to take it. Walking the Camino does take preparation but it has been worth it. It is worth making time and taking time to reflect, sometimes short and sometimes long but never put off for too long.