Category Archives: Spain

Santiago Cathedral – Chapter 14

The image above shows the Santiago Cathedral before it was covered with scaffolding. During each of my three visits (2011, 2014, and now  2017), the cathedral has been “under repair” and this time, the main masterpiece, the Pórtico de la Gloria, is covered over — not available to tourists. It, and the main towers, are being restored.

 

Most pilgrims arrive from the north, taking what is known as the French Camino. They pass through the Praza da Immaculada.  The  cathedral has the form of a cross and this is the top, northern part. Above the double doors is a statue of  the Pilgrim Santiago with Kings Alfonso II of Asturias and Ordoño II of León, praying to him.

I read Chapter 14 of Lao tsu’s Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“Look, and it can’t be seen.
Listen, and it can’t be heard.
Reach, and it can’t be grasped.”

[Lao tsu portrays the Tao as beyond imagination; Christianity includes many, many images — which can be seen, heard, grasped.]

Below Santiago are four figures and a blindfolded statue representing faith.

“Above, it isn’t bright.
Below, it isn’t dark.”

[There are elements within faith that are parallel to the Tao — faith has a hidden quality.]

Our experience during this visit was characterized by construction and repair work. These doors were open for the French pilgrims but there is major construction work going on.

“Seamless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.”

[Christainity is filled with symbols — many names, ideas, images.]

Walking to the east, clockwise, we come to the Holy Door. Typically, it is closed. Above the door is a statue of St. James and his two disciples (Teodoro and Atanasio). To the left and right of the door are 24 carved figures of saints, apostles, and important religious figures (some of whom appear Asian). The Holy Door is open only on years when St. James’ Day, July 25th falls on Sunday. The exact identity of many of the images is unclear — specific objects have become connected to certain apostles and saints. St. James, for example, is often shown holding a pilgrim’s staff — reflecting his journey to Spain  (not historically documented but accepted by believers). St. James stands above the door and is not among the 24 figures.

On each side of the Holy Door are carvings by Maestro Mateo of saints, apostles, prophets, and Asian guys.

 

Walking to the south, we come to the Plaza das Praterias (Praterias are silversmiths, who used to have their shops here). This is the entrance for pilgrims, like us, who come from the south. There were also shops selling provisions for pilgrims.

“Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.”

[Lao tsu portrays the Tao as something that cannot be seen, heard, grasped, named — beyond conception. The cathedral functions as a kind of teaching tool — bringing the Christian stories into your awareness — but some elements have become obscure for modern listeners]

This plaza is often crowded — there are many tour groups visiting the cathedral.

“See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.”

The cathedral doors in this plaza are surrounded by intricate artwork. On the left, are carvings showing the temptation of Jesus in the desert (note the monsters), on the rights is the “passion of Christ” (but I have not completely figured the exact meaning of many of these images)

 

“Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.”

 

 

Obscure images

 

 

We walk to the west and view the Praza do Obradoiro — the famous image on the 1, 2, and 5 cent Spanish coins — but, much is covered by scaffolding. I play with the sun.

 

 

We visited many times — sometimes walking from the north. We pass a beggar and listen to bagpipes.

 

When we visited the Museum, we looked down on the Plaza from a balcony passage.

 

The camera concludes by looking toward the Plaza de Praterias.

 

During the many times we walked through this Plaza, we saw many pilgrims arriving. Over 200,000 pilgrims walk the French Camino each year.

 

 

We leave the Plaza do Obradoiro,  walking south toward the Plaza das Praterias.

We enter — it is time for the Pilgrim’s Mass. You must come early if you want a seat.

Lestedo -Chapter 12

 

We are walking to Lestedo — where we will be 12 kilometers from Santiago. We leave early in the morning, hoping to avoid the intense heat of the day.

 

I read Chapter 12 from the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell.

“Colors blind the eye.
Sounds deafen the ear.”

 

 

“Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.”

 

 

“Desires wither the heart.”

 

 

We see see a shrine, established by previous pilgrims.

 

 

The shrine is set within a living tree. People have left images and messages.

 

“The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.”

 

I look at a fountain, the view, and an airplane.

 

“He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.”

 

 

We are close to the Casa de Casal, where we will spend our last night as hikers — it is extremely hot.

 

Lao tsu expresses the motivation that stimulates the Inner Journey — the idea that something is wrong with normal reality.

 

We are close to completing our physical pilgrimage and I have the hope that my blog encourages you to follow a spiritual path. Some people will turn away from the physical realm while others will use it as a guide.

Physical shrines — special places for meditation — can be useful.

Here is something to ponder: Be cautious regarding your inner visions. Let go of all visions and encounter emptiness.

Santiago de Compostela – Chapter 13

We begin walking the final 8 miles to Santiago. We look towards the north, but the city is not in view (we had been told we might see it but the haze was too thick).

 

I read Chapter 13 of the Tao te Ching:

“Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.”

“What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
you position is shaky.”

 

“When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.”

 

We continue walking toward the city — ahead are scattered houses, not the actual city.

 

We climb a hill, look back at some other pilgrims who are climbing, and look at a construction site.

“What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.”

 

We walk on, entering the urban area.

“When we don’t see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?”

 

The marker shows that we have 2.26 kilometers to go before we reach the cathedral.

“See the world as your self.”

 

 

“Have faith in the way things are.”

 

“Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.”

 

 

We cross a bridge.

“Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.”

We reach the Cathedral of Santiago — the door associated with those coming from Portugal and Southern Spain.

 

 

We go to the Pilgrims office and stand in line. We will show the official our pilgrim credential with stamps that we received during our 1000 kilometer walk on the Via de la Plata.

 

 

I show my credentials with stamps for each location I have visited on this pilgrimage — beginning at Sevilla and now ending at Santiago.  Our hike was so long that we filled every space in the standard pilgrimage document so we used a blank page to display all later stamps.

 

I receive my Pilgrimage certificate  — I have walked 1007 kilometers. Next, we will go to the Pilgrim’s Mass at the cathedral.

We return to the cathedral.

 

The main altar — Santiago (St. James)

There is mystery involved in completing this pilgrimage and there is much to see regarding this cathedral. I will show many photographs and videos of these marvelous things and you will take another step toward your karmic destiny as a result of hearing about these things.

“Have faith in the way things are,” Lao tsu says. “Love the world as your self.”

 

 

Bandeira – Chapter 11

 

 

We walk to Bandeira, starting early in the morning, hoping to avoid the intense heat of the afternoon.


Quiet

 

I read Chapter 11 of the Tao te Ching, written by Lao tsu, translated by Steven Mitchell:

“We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.”

 

 

“We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.”

 

 

Sunrise

 

 

“We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.”

 

 

We walk walk under a bridge.

 

 

“We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.”

 

 

water under the bridge

 

 

church

 

 

An old man and woman walk with their dog beside the church.

 

Walking

 

We drink coffee. Karen greets a passing pilgrim, saying, “Buen Camino.” [Good voyage.]

 

 

We walk on an overpass above the highway. The heat is intense.

 

 

Lao tsu’s poem draws attention to the use of emptiness. When you meditate, you will encounter moments when no thoughts come — when you encounter the inner emptiness.

 

the secret

A Laxe- Chapter 10

 

 

We walk from Castro Dozón to A Laxe.

We pass a house with sculptures — Santiago (St. James), a crucifix, gate ornaments.

I read Chapter 10 of the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell:

“Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?”

 

“Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?”

 

 

“Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?”

 

 

“Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?”

During recent weeks we have seen few fellow pilgrims but today we have encountered Spanish pilgrims who started off recently and are walking the final 100 kilometers to Santiago.

There are many bugs in this area.

“Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?”

 

We enter a deep hedgerow-road cut.

“Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?”

 

We see a mole, who seems anxious — he probably prefers to be underground.

“Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.”

 

We walk in the hot sun. It is unpleasant to walk in the heat.

Lao tsu asks if you can do things that are difficult to do — having no expectations — not trying to control — not imposing your will. I don’t think that many people can do these things.

Follow your own Inner Way. Practice without concern regarding how well you are doing. The Inner Way is not a contest. Realize that there is nowhere to go, nothing to do. Everything will fall into place.

 

 

Castro Dozón – Chapter 9

 

We leave Cea. We walk to the albergue at Castro Dozón.

I read Chapter 9 of the Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.”

“Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.”

“Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.”

“Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.”

“Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.”

We come to an overpass over a highway and see a place where pilgrims have constructed crosses in the fence.

Making these crosses is a way of focusing the mind.

 

Lao tsu advocates a way of being but is unclear about how to attain this state beyond “doing nothing.” The Lao tsu describes a  “Master” who has a highly focused mind but who “steps back” rather than being overly compulsive. The Master does not cling to a particular ideology, method, or doctrine.

 

“Doing nothing” is at the heart of meditation – but there is irony involved. The meditator must expend effort to continually focus his or her mind on a target, such as the breath.

I suggest trying different methods to see what works for you.

Some people find  that Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian mantras (repeating a phrase over and  over) are useful for focusing the mind. You can repeat a mantra while sitting, but a mantra  can be particularly useful while walking. Repeat the mantra again and again in time with your steps.

I used the mantra “Om mani padme hum” for many years.

We arrive at our destination. The albergue is full of bunk beds. We are in a noisy environment.

Mantras can be useful for helping you gain peace of mind when faced with compulsions, unwanted thoughts, desires, memories.

I struggled after I came back from the war in Vietnam and I found mantras to be very useful. You should plan to practice a mantra for a long time, perhaps for many lifetimes.

You can select your own mantra but you may wish to try different ones to see which one works best for you.

 

I have found that different mantas have different effects. After a few days of intense practice, the manta becomes part of your being. It changes things — and you can reach your self-less self.

Cea – Chapter 8

We are walking to Cea, about  80 km. from Santiago. The weather forecast warns of extreme heat. We  walk in fog.

 

We climb to a high elevation.

I read Chapter 8 of the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell.

“The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.”

The sun burns away the fog.

“It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.”

[I came to understand this verse when I was a social worker in a psychiatric hospital]

“In dwelling, live close to the ground.”

 

(The sign says, “Welcome to A Bouzas. Have a good Camino.”)

“In thinking, keep to the simple.”

 

“In conflict, be fair and generous.”

 

“In governing, don’t try to control.”

“In work, do what you enjoy.”

“In family life, be completely present.”

“When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.”

Want more advice?

Don’t sleep with someone who has more problems than you.

Be careful about using alcohol or drugs.

If you feel sad, depressed, or anxious much of the time, take up meditation.

It is difficult to figure out the patterns within that prevent happiness.

[The sign says, “Beware of the dog.”]

Lao tsu says “Be yourself,” but sometimes being yourself doesn’t feel good.

 

Practice daily meditation — focus on the breath, let go of the thoughts that arise, then refocus on the breath. You will eventually learn what is going on inside yourself. It may not feel good, at first. Eventually you will grow used to yourself and will see patterns within that prevent you from being happy.

 

A feeling, emotion, memory of trauma — it comes up and you let it go and return your awareness to your breath.

 

You don’t need to become a Master – Zen, Taoist, Buddhist, mystic — or anything like that. You need to cope with what is going on inside yourself. Talk with friends, relatives, therapists — but ultimately, you have to do the work yourself.

 

 

If you practice the Inner Way, you will come to see things as they are. Then you can figure out what to do about it.

 

 

Ourense – Chapter 6

I meditate on the morning star.

 

Practice this with me.

 

Clouds come.

 

 

We walk to the southern outskirts of Ourense — passing a church, then walking through country-side, villages, and then an industrial section before we reach our hotel.

 

I read Chapter 6 of the Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“The Tao is called the Great Mother:”

 

“Empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.”

 

I watch a bird with an injured wing.

 

We think that we see part of Ourense but are not sure.

“It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want.”

 

We are close to the outskirts of Ourense. A sign tells us that we are 115.5 kilometers from Santiago — the goal of our pilgrimage.

 

 

We enter the industrial part of Ourense.

 

 

We we are close to our hotel.

 

 

We walk past dozens of trucks, parked on the side of the street. Our hotel is next to a gas station.

 

 

Our hotel — the Hotel San Cibrao.

 

 

I meditate, looking out the window.

 

 

The Tao is the mother of all things. It is within you and you can use it however you want.

Xunqueira de Ambía – Chapter 5

 

We past a grain storage structure (horreos), while walking from Vila de Barrio to Xunqueira de Ambía. Horreos are typical in Galacia. Karen’s app tells her how many miles we have walked, time of walking, and time per mile.

 

We pass goats, goatherd, dog.

I read Chapter 5 of the Tao te Ching:

“The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.”

 

 

“The Master doesn’t take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.”

 

 

“The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.”

 

 

“The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.”

 

We walk past a horreos and a farmer’s carpentry work area. The farmer has many tools.

Lao tsu says, “Hold onto the center.”

Meditation can be a tool.

We reach the top after long climb.


 

We look around. How can the Tao be used? The situation might be similar to prayer in Christianity — the petitioner hopes to gain something through appealing to the Deity.

 

 

We see bee hives.

 

 

I look at a moth.

Lao tsu does not provide precise guidance but implies that “using” the Tao is possible.

 

 

The Taoist idea of “doing nothing” involves meditation. Meditation is useful — but focusing on this can be counterproductive since having a goal entails “doing something.” I think that meditation can be considered a form of self-therapy since intention is involved and it is possible to use special meditation methods to fit special needs.

Mantras are good for thwarting depression and negative thinking. Insight meditation (Vipassina) is good for identifying false ways if thinking (cognitive behavioral therapy).

The bees make honey — part of the natural order of things. The eating of the honey by humans is also part of the natural order.

When we follow a path, we end up where the path takes us. If you meditate regularly, you gain the capacity to focus your mind. This can result in benefits beyond your understanding.

 

A marker for the Camino — the yellow arrow.

My experience is that meditation can enhance creativity. You may come up with beneficial ideas — ways to change your life.  There is the possibility of affecting cosmic events but this is beyond words.

Vilar de Barrio – Chapter 4

We begin walking from Laza to Vilar de Barrio, where we will stay in an albergue.

 

 

I read Chapter 4 of the Tao te Ching by Lao Tsu.

“The Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.”

 

We run into a Spanish pilgrim who we had met a few days  before.

“It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.”

 

I take a  picture.

 

We walk up the mountain.

“It is hidden but always present.”

 

 

We climb.

 

Karen is on top of the mountain.

 

 

Lao tsu writes,

“I don’t know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.”

 

We have coffee at a bar where the owner has all pilgrims write their names and country on a shell which he puts on display. The walls  and ceilings of many rooms are covered with shells.

 

We pose for a photo.

 

 

I have a shot of local home-made liquor as recommended in our guidebook.

 

The  top of the world

 

 

 

We  descend toward Vilar de Barrio. Lao tsu implies that one can “use” the Tao — how is this done?

 

 

We eat a typical snack – bread, cheese, sausage,  chocolate.

 

 

 

We walk to town on the road. If you practice regularly, you will be changed but there are things beyond explanation — beyond understanding. This is something you can discover.