Walking to Almendralejo – Chapter 37

We are taking a short day today by walking to Almendralejo — only ten miles. Almendralejo is not on the Camino — we must walk about two miles off the Via de la Plata to get a hotel room.

We leave Villafranca de los Barros, passing by the church where I prayed yesterday. It is raining.

I read Chapter 37 of the Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done.”

We walk past the grape plants.

“If powerful men and women
could enter themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.”

It rains harder. Lao tsu, the founder of Taoism, lived in an environment with much less technology than ours. He had a position which involved advising rulers. He conceived of a better world where people did not desire material things — but he advocates not trying to change the world. He suggests merely letting the world attain its “natural” state.

“People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.”

Lao tsu suggests a kind of anarchy that does not seem to apply to our modern political situation, but I think he was not really talking about politics. He was talking about the Inner Way — something that you might discover for yourself.

“When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.”

We have left the Via de la Plata and cross the highway on our way to Almendralejo. I ponder Lao tsu’s words which seem to me to have a Buddhist quality — the idea that desire is at the root of our human dilemma. Buddhists suggest meditation — letting go of thoughts, some of which are desires.

We see the edge of the town of Almendralejo, a place not known for its tourist attractions but a place that people might stay on their way to somewhere else.

I’m not trying to change the world but I note that telling a story has a kind of power. This story is a metaphor for the inner journey. Our minds are continually going off from the direct path — the meditator tries to focus on the breath but the mind brings up a desire, thought, sensation, memory.

Where might you go if you took a journey inside yourself?

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