We struggled to get up in the morning. There were no cafés open in the place that we stayed (Pension Jumboli), so we had no breakfast and no coffee. Spain is one hour later than Portugal and when we began hiking at 7:30 AM, it was very dark. I could see the lights of the city on my right.
The Camino climbed a hill and went into a forest. We used a flashlight to walk. I wanted to teach Karen how to walk in the dark but she was afraid. It is not that hard to walk in the dark. It is a spiritual exercise.
It began to rain again; sometimes hard. We finally reached a busy highway.
It was dangerous walking in the darkness and rain.
“Tell me why people do this,” Karen asked.
“People go on this pilgrimage to see the body of St. James, son of Zebede,” I told her. “St. James, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus, is known in Spanish as Santiago. He traveled to this area to teach the Gospel. Later he returned to Jerusalem where he was martyred by Herod Agrippa. His disciples, guided by an angel, brought his body back in a stone boat to what is now Spain. There are various versions of this story. The stone boat requires a miracle. The disciples buried St. James and requested to be buried by him when they died. Their graves became overgrown and the location lost because of the Roman occupation. Then, in the early 9th century, a hermit, Pelagius, had a vision that allowed discovery of the three graves in a shrine. People all over Europe started coming to the graves which became the location of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Hundreds of thousands came, particularly between 1000 and 1200 until political turmoil make travel difficult. These days there has been a kind of revival — over 200,000 people walked to Santiago last year.”
“I doubt that his body is in that cathedral,” Karen said. “Stone boats can’t float. Religion is so full of B.S. Why do people believe these things?”
“Walking is a spiritual exercise. Walking meditation is a method of following the Inner Way,” I told her. I could see that the rain bothered her. She is typically skeptical but also tolerant and curious.
We came to the stone bridge over the Rio Verduga at Arcade. It was built in 1789 and was the place were local troops defeated Napoleon’s army during Spain’s War of Independence.
Bridges are metaphors. They span the river and water is a metaphor for religion. The water takes the shape of the land through which it flows. The bridge connects the seen and unseen worlds. I walk over the bridge and accept the world as it is. I would prefer that it would stop raining, of course.
“Why are we doing this?” Karen asked again. “Why do people believe such absurd things?”
I did not bother to answer. The rain affects people’s attitude. It let up later in the morning.
We came to a water pool and I saw the sky reflected in the water. I have had the chance to interview spiritual healers all over the world. They describe spontaneous experiences — apparitions, extrasensory perceptions, paranormal dreams, out-of-body and near-death experiences. These things supprt belief in spirits, souls, life after death, and magical abilities. Stories of these things are not grounds for your belief. Only your own experiences are grounds for your belief. If you want to believe – if you want to understand Lao tsu (who was not concerned about belief) — walk the Inner Way.
The sky was reflected in the water but then it began raining and the sky joined the water.
Here is what I say: don’t worry about belief. Don’t talk so much about belief. If you have belief, you can use it to help others. Follow the Inner Way. Walk on.
It rained much of the afternoon and I was thinking about how the pool of water looked as the rain drops began to fall. Perhaps I should have tried to capture that with my iPad. This is an example of the wanting mind. Always wanting more.
We began seeing more and more pilgrims on the Camino. Many began in Spain. Some were Portuguese but most were Spanish.
They passed us. We are slower than almost everyone.
Lao tsu wrote (chapter 28):
“Know the male
yet keep to the female;
receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world,
the Tao will never leave you
and you will be like a little child.
Know the white
yet keep to the black;
be a pattern in the world,
If you are a pattern in the world,
the Tao will be strong inside of you
and there will be nothing you can’t do.
Know the personal
yet keep to the impersonal.
Accept the world as it is.
If you accept the world,
the Tao will be luminous inside you
and you will return to your primal self.
The world was formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the block.
Thus she can use all things.”
Okay, get back to the fundamentals, he says.
We were really tired when we got to Pontevedra. It’s a large city…75,000 people. We went into the pilgrim chapel, Santuario du Peregrina, and meditated there. Karen took photographs but it was not as elaborate as other places so I just sat there, meditating. Up, down. Male, female. In, out. Hot, cold. It’s best to keep your mouth shut and stay still.