After having so many powerful experiences walking the Camino de Santiago, I wanted to set myself up for continued success now that I have returned.
One of the core lessons I FINALLY learned during this 800 km journey was HOW to stay present. This is a well known key concept to inner peace and we’ve all read it or heard it from a hundred different sources.
Despite my best attempts, I never really understood how it works, practically. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel at peace inside? Where do I sign up? Right?
So, how did I find it and how can you get some of that too? I’m glad you asked 😉
No. You don’t have to believe in God or be religious.
There are some things that at some point we all have to get real about if we hope to know inner peace.
I had to learn to have faith again. Without faith there is no peace. Ever. No shortcut.
Note that I don’t say “happiness”. Peace is different from happiness. Happiness is a fleeting emotion. Inner peace is everlasting.
So here’s the trick.
To stay in the present you have to let go of the past because it is a burden and there’s not a damn thing you can do to change how it impacts you except letting it go. Do what you’ve got to do, but DO THIS. I had to walk 350 miles and lay down a rock from my childhood home at the Cruz de Ferro to symbolize laying down my past and my burdens. That’s what it took for me. What will it take for you?
Secondly, come to terms with the fact that you have no control over the future. Worrying isn’t DOING something to affect the outcome. You are not helping anyone. Your worry keeps no one safe. In fact, it is probably affecting your health negatively. STOP IT!
Take all that energy you’re wasting on worry and do something useful right now. It is the ONLY place your efforts and energy can make an impact anyway.
Besides faith that the future will take care of itself if you stay present, the best way to keep yourself grounded in the now is GRATITUDE. Go ahead and start rolling out a list of things or people you are grateful for. Here’s how I know this works…
I remember when I was walking and I had more blisters than feet. The sun is baking down on me in the Meseta. I have severe heat rash on my legs and scratching only makes the itching worse. My knee is still not completely healed from injury in the Pyranees and feels like a rubber band snapping as I walk. All I can feel is pain. All I could focus on was pain. Finally, I fell to the ground and laid flat on my back and cried.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I screamed out loud- God help me, please! What do you want from me? I was not religious. I needed help and no one on earth was coming to my aid. I needed to find something inside to keep me going.
Other pilgrims passed by and commented that they didn’t think I was going to make it. It was one of my lowest hardest moments on my camino. I had to decide if I was going to press on or give up. One thing was for certain, I couldn’t stay there lying on the side of the road.
So, I decided to get up to see what felt right in my body so I could see what I could do to get myself to the next town. I thought to myself, well the right foot feels better than the left. I can lean more on that. I can take off a layer of socks on the swollen foot. My shoulders and back feel strong to carry the pack. It is not raining. And so on. You get the idea.
I just kept walking and reminding myself what I was grateful for. Not only did I arrive at the next town, but I kept this up everyday and finally walked 500-miles eventually pain free.
And that’s what triggered my true understanding of gratitude. Basically it is like saying, yeah I know there are things that suck really bad right now, but what does work? How can I make it suck less.
Thinking like that. Staying in the moment helped me walk across an entire country with everything I needed on my back in a 6 kg pack for 35 days.
Your attitude is a choice. Faith is a choice. Letting go is a choice. Taking one more step — all choices.
So I want to keep it going now that I’m back home. I saw this 30 day gratitude challenge and I thought, ok let’s do it. Starting tomorrow – Day 1.
Would you like to join me? I posted the “challenge calendar” in this post. I will write a post for each day’s gratitude topic and you can add yours to the comments if you’d like. The more the merrier.
I’ll start a little early with a warmup…I am grateful that you make the time to read my posts. Thank you.
Inner peace – a choice and not free of effort. You’re going to use your energy somewhere everyday. It makes sense to put it to good use.
With love from aneternaltraveler 😉