A year-ago today it was St. James day in Spain; I took my final step of my Camino de Santiago. Little did I know what the next year would bring and where would I be without this experience? Is it true that when you take your final step, a new life-long journey begins with a different view about life?
I remember the day as I walked by myself to the end of my 56-day journey. My head and heart were filed with an emotion I never knew existed. My heavy backpack felt like feathers. I carried my pack every inch of the way from France through 164 villages to Santiago, Spain; it was over 500 miles. I walked with no money for food, which taught me the true meaning of humility!
As I stood in front of this historic cathedral, I looked at its beauty and just stood there, I did not want to talk. I asked myself, how I accomplished this. It started with a dream, the day I saw the movie “The Way,” The dream showed me taking my last step at the cathedral, but nothing else? For my one year of training and every morning as I started my walk, I had the vision of me standing in front of St. James Cathedral.
AFTER TWO YEARS, MY VISION CAME TRUE!
I took my backpack off and sat on the cobblestone entrance. I felt strong and yet exhausted. I laid my head on the backpack and looked at the Cathedrals majestic site thinking how many pilgrims attempted this journey in search of something that could make his or her life better. I tried not to think and only listen; a young man came to me looking down at my obviously worn-out body and said, “How was your journey?”
He introduced himself as a volunteer with the Jesuits, and they come to Santiago during the St James celebration to help the pilgrims with their needs. He was very soft-spoken and hoped my journey was enlightening. He also invited me to one of the chapels where they were having a prayer service for pilgrims. He offered to take me into the busy cathedral to the correct room. After a short rest, I found him, and he took this photo of me.
We made our way through the crowd to this little sanctuary where one of the volunteers was playing a guitar and singing. There were several other pilgrims all sitting a distance from one another, no one was talking. It seemed like everyone was avoiding eye contact as if to give everyone equal respect. We were in our own world with a connection that I never felt before.
Tears of joy fell from my eyes; I could hear other people weeping. No one turned their head, a wink or a hug was not necessary; something happened. As we sat by ourselves, we were not alone. The lessons I learned were making sense. Some of the answers I received, were to questions I had not even thought about.
As I reflected on my journey and the many experiences of myself and others that had the life lessons connected. One that quickly came to me was back on an early part of my pilgrimage; it was in Pamplona at an albergue/ hostel. After a long exhausting walk carrying too much weight, I meet a retired Padre that was walking the Camino; he was 87 and had many words of wisdom. I told him my backpack weighed so much, and it was very painful I don’t know how much farther I can carry it! He responded, “Son, the weight of the burdens you have been carrying your whole life far exceeds the weight of the backpack; they will get lighter, in time this will make sense to you.”
While sitting in this small chapel inside this massive Cathedral, the pieces of the puzzle started to fit together, and I understood what the Padre meant. I had many miracles happen on my journey, and it was not over; more un-explainable things happened.
St James Day is Spain’s largest celebration; however, that night as we were waiting at the huge fireworks show at the Cathedral when in Spanish, an announcement came, you could hear a pin drop. There was a horrible train crash, and 80 people lost their lives. All activities were canceled, a very somber ending to the most enlightened moments of my life!
Today even being faced with some physical challenges, I asked how I could handle all this without all my family and friends plus the lessons I received from the Camino. Now I know, there is nothing I can’t do!
Walking the Camino starts as a physical challenge and quickly turns into a mental test. I am not a superman; anyone can do this. I saw blind people others in wheelchairs even a group of mentally challenged adults. You cannot do this wrong! Some do it over several year’s others can’t make it to the end. Many choose to take shorter routes or do part of it. Even the ones who have to quit, that’s OK every step has its lesson. One thing I know everyone has a different experience and are never the same after their journey.
Parts of this story is from my book, “Sticks and Stones.” ….Coming soon.
Love this life, Jim….. Please leave comment below.
This video was made by my friend Susan R Mann, globalpilgrims, as I was on my journey.
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I am always asked…“How do you stay positive all the time?” Well, I don’t! However, what I do first is recognize my thinking does not make me feel good! So, I only visit that “No fun Place,” my next step….find something to be grateful for. That’s not so easy to do when you are lying in bed thinking about not walking for the past eight weeks and having a problem with my vision and balance, my solution…
This week was…. “GO ON AN EASTER EGG HUNT!
I am getting my physical therapy at this nursing home, and I think; I am the youngest person here. So I remembered one of my lessons from my 500-mile Camino de Santiago walk…. Join in with the crowd and love the one you’re with, even if they are old and can’t move at all and some unable to speak. These advanced in years people, have a sense of beauty that most people never see. They also have, like all of us, the desire to be loved; sometimes just a touch is all they need.
For this party, the nursing home added about 20 children, and that brightened the day which no doubt, brought back memories from their past. This moment filled me with being totally grateful for what I have, plus what they have. I decided to try an experiment and look at just the eyes of everyone attending this Easter egg hunt.
I looked into their eyes only, not the body or age of the person, and guess what, all I could see and feel was the joy in everyone, including the kids, nurses, volunteers and parents. This is what makes me happy, so I will pass this “Happy,” on and wish you all a joyful Easter.
If you see an older person, throw them a smile or even a hug, it will cause a change in their and your life.
This video, I made of the Easter Egg Hunt will bring a smile to your face and heart. So pass, that smile on and remember to love the one you’re with, including your dog, cat and even a tree. This weekend is all about re-birth so let’s all start a new outlook on life, even if we are down, for just a moment, search for that one thing that can make you grateful, it’s all about living in the moment where the past and future are not allowed! Lov… Jim
Welcome to all the newbies that have just joined this adventure. You can read some of the past post to see how I got to where I am today. Yep, I walked the 500 mile Camino de Santiago and today I cannot walk five feet. Then again….just wait till tomorrow!
• To walk only with a cane by the end of the month!
• To make my stroke…. Un-permanent and show the Doctors, they were incorrect…. Because they did not know what this Polish boy can do!
• To make my vision, re-adjust, so I will not see double, (except when getting donations for our new orphanage,) Oh yes, I am still having fun with this life thing!
Can I be in pain and peace at the same time?….YES!
This really has not been easy; however, I still strive for new life lessons that can benefit me and others. Being in bed for the past six weeks has not been fun, but I still look for something that can make a difference in a life!
My 500-mile walk was filled with lessons about life and death!
As I am typing this, my roommate took his final breath, it’s 6:21 p.m. on Saturday, April 5th and yes there is a Camino lesson here! The room is filled with family and friends, and a cloth curtain separates me from the very somber moment. It was interesting to hear and not see the final words from all his loved ones.
I am in a rest home where I do my physical therapy; I think I am the youngest one here. My room has two beds; he came in the room three days ago. The hospice nurse asked me if I wanted to move to a different room, I said no, thinking I may be able to assist him or his family. After saying that I was OK staying in the room, I started questioning myself, why put myself through this additional challenge when I could hardly handle all my own problems? That is when my Camino experience clicked in.
The most important lesson I learned on my 500-mile journey was the answer to the question “Why are we here?” My discovery…. Face your fears and help another who still suffers by sharing your life experience! And…so I did, and the rewards of life came in the form of total peace!
For me even with my (temporary) challenges, the circle of life revolves around enjoying the moment and makes the past and the future only places we visit!
By the way, my next challenge is our new orphanage for children and adults with a natural healing health center. Check it out here… “OUR HOME THAILAND,”
Farah, who I met several years ago in Thailand when we were both volunteering at the same orphanage, she went on to start an orphanage in Kenya, I call her, the Mother Teresa of the 21st century; she is now in Thailand helping to get things together for our new project, more on that coming soon.
We are raising money to pay for the property, if we are not successful, I will try one more challenge in my life to raise money for the orphanage and walk across Death Valley…. No one has ever done it before! Hey, it’s only 164 miles and 130 degrees. OK, first things first….Get me walking and my brain rewired so my sight is working again; I know, one step at a time…..lov Jim.
Yes, it’s ironic that I just walked every inch of over 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago from France to Spain and for the past five weeks, I have been in the hospital looking at ceilings still not able to walk on my own! To add to my back problem, I had a stroke last week in the hospital.
As the doctor sat on the side of my bed, he said, “Your life will never be the same…you just had a life-changing event with the stroke you had!” The blood clot landed on the left side of my brain, which caused my vision problem and might be the reason for my dizzy spells. He said this is permanent damage and will never get better!
I thought this was all good news….life changing and never be the same. I do love change and the challenge of overcoming fear. However, this is one test I did not expect.
Walking the Camino was the greatest experience in my life with so many lessons learned. So which lesson can I use to get
through this “Not being able to walk challenge?” Is it, accepting this.… or is it, proving the Doctors wrong? There were days during my 56-day journey when I just could not walk anymore and had to give up. However, that was for the day; not for making it to the end. I always had the vision of taking my final step. My Camino lesson for this challenge is having a mental picture of the way I want things to be, not the way they are!
Today, as I lay on my back in a nursing home that has physical therapy, I have a vision of me, taking my first step without any assistance or medication. I know this will come true ,because of you all, I have gotten over a thousand messages with prayers and healing thoughts from around the world. I am truly grateful for all your support.
Getting here (Peoria Illinois) was not worry-free; I had a lot of help from my friends in Thailand and America. The flight was not an easy one from Thailand; it was about 28 hours with a four-hour layover. I only had to vomit two times and had to wear a diaper and did not have to use it. I made it all the way to the Peru hospital. That is 32 hours without having to pee; I think I should get an award for that? lol
I am truly thankful for all that pitched in on my medical expenses and my brother Bob, who paid for my flight back to the US. Plus a huge hug to the people at Lanna Care, Nancy, Ann and Francis, who walked me through every step that I had to take to make everything come together, I could have never done this without them. LOVE YOU ALL….Jim
Twas a few nights before Christmas and yet…another Camino miracle appeared! It began at “The Little Fox House,” before dinner, when we shared our “What made You Smile Today,” comments around the table. I said that I was filled with gratitude from my little stroll I took along the river and it gave me hope for a life long dream to come true. My dream….to meet and talk to my son, who I have never knew because of some wrong choices I had made in my past.
All of a sudden a little angel appeared, we will call her Tracy, she said stop! Let us all send out some healing energy out to solve this challenge. We did and continued with our ‘What made You Smile Today, statements around the table.
Two hours later as I lay in bed reading some emails, I get a message from my son, (who I have never talked to in my life,) saying…We need to talk, the past is gone, I want to be your friend!
In the morning I shared the news with my Pilgrim angles, there were hugs and tears of joy!
Tonight, December, 13th , I meet my son and his wife with two beautiful grand children! Another, Camino miracle! He hugged me, kissed me, and called me dad! He is 38 years old.
Please excuse all the typo’s, my brain still isn’t still at 100%, of course most of my friends say, “It never was!” lol