I’m back from my two-week travels to Geneva and Paris. Invited to teach two sessions at the Inspired Writing Retreat, my heart is welling with deep gratitude for the gifts of this experience.
To open the retreat, we did a 60-minute Silent Walk along The Way of St. James, a path the Camino de Santiago pilgrims take. Before we set off, our leader had us set an intention for our walk.
Her instructions were clear. “The mind will chatter and wander as it does. When you notice, simply come back to the present moment. Take in all the gifts that Mother Nature has to offer you on this walk. Pay attention.”
My intention was to be open and receive wisdom from the experience.
Some carried their cell phones to click pictures along the way. The snow-peaked Alps towering majestically in the distance was hard to resist. But I made a decision to commit to this quiet time without any distractions. I left my cell phone behind.
The path was spectacular. Spring flowers waking up to usher in a season of new beginnings. Vineyards and orchards coming to life. The blue-and-white mountains, silent, tall, and sturdy. And the path curving ahead of us.
Together we walked in silent communion, each one of us absorbing the experience differently.
When we returned from our walk, our leader had us all share what had come to us during this experience.
This is what I shared. “As I placed one foot in front of the other, I had to pay attention because the path was uneven. It forced me to be present. But as I watched my step, I also looked up at the horizon and saw the big picture. Look down, watch my step, look up, look at the horizon. This became my mantra.”
It occurs to me that this is how we’re meant to live all life experiences. We can’t be focussed on the future all the time and ignore what’s in front of us. We can’t live in the next moment only and ignore the future.
When we’re grieving, we need to focus on what needs to be done in this moment. Then the next. And the next. Even as we’re aware of what needs to be done in one week, one month, and six months.
- Take a shower.
- Brush my hair
- Let the tears fall.
- Swallow one bite of oatmeal.
Even as we keep an eye on the horizon and take care of the larger details of life: pay the bills, decide what to do with our loved one’s clothes and shoes, make copies of the death certificate, figure out how to fix the broken lightbulb…
A quote by Susan McHenry illustrates this idea so eloquently.
“Work when there is work to do. Rest when you are tired. One thing done in peace will most likely be better than ten things done in panic…I am not a hero if I deny rest; I am only tired.”
As you go through life, I invite you to try this practice.
- Notice what you need right now, even as you learn to keep your eye on the big picture.
- Give yourself what you need right now.
- Be okay with where you are right now.
This is how pilgrims walk the Camino. This is how we walk through life after loss. There really is no difference.