Inner Peace: A walking meditation in Spain

Trekkers on the Camino de Santiago. Wolfgang Schwenk photo via Pixabay
June 5, 2022

‘I persevered, day by day, poco a poco, paso a paso’

Years in the making

my path to Finisterre

unfolds step by step

By Lawrence Nagel

Unstructured spiritual paths, meandering as they tend to be, often prove most meaningful for many of us as we flee the strictures of doctrinaire religions in a spiritual quest for understanding, and perhaps a bit of wisdom. Just one week after returning from the Camino de Santiago, I found myself at Breitenbush Retreat Center in Oregon’s north Cascades, a place I’d visited only as a child decades before.

Lawrence Nagel

Wandering the trails, through lush forest and along the rushing river, I began to reflect on my recent countless steps — from the Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela, to Finisterre — as a peregrino seeking the patience and presence of inner peace through silent meditations and observing timeless landscapes trod by 12 centuries of pilgrims. Many walk seeking an epiphany at some point along the way. As my own steps carried me along the varying terrain, I began to contemplate each momentary place, each stone-strewn hill, herd of sheep, misty forest, fellow peregrino, or a shimmering village in a valley on the horizon and the hope of reaching it before fatigue prevailed.

Yet an enduring amazement sustained me. Looking for light from within also came around to looking outward and embracing a pastiche of images offered up by the places I passed along my way. I could not know what I might find — it would come in its own time. I would just walk, relax, and remain mindful and receptive. As John O’Donohue said in “Anam Cara,” “Your soul knows the geography of your destiny.” I thought about this often as I ambled along, contemplating how I had somehow known I would someday find my way to this path, and how my sense of being just where I was at any given moment was a gift of destiny.

Take this long journey

the one you began before

the one with no end

Arriving at the beginning, my feet had conversations with me. They needed encouragement, from heart and mind, about what would be asked of them. And an emergency appendectomy four days before my departure from home had left me wondering about this wayfaring journey I’d been planning for so long, and my doctor’s wariness of my determination to venture off so soon.

He had said, “You’re going to … what?!”

With those four days at home to ponder it all and another four in Basque country to acclimate, I followed my heart and my path. I was hopeful my stamina would stay with me, trusting that my training would carry me forward each day over the miles of terrain and hours of treading. They did and I persevered, day by day, poco a poco, paso a paso (little by little, step by step). The shared spirit of “Buen Camino!” amongst passing pilgrims was a cheerful encouragement throughout each day, providing moments of peaceful assurance that I would press on, on, and on again.

There is an indelible destination to this particular time-honored odyssey, yet Santiago de Compostela, and Finisterre (the “end of the earth”), gradually blended into the journey itself. It seemed as if meaningful, peaceful thoughts often came after walking these long miles, mindfully and quietly. I strive for spiritual renewal day by day in life, leaving the past in the past, using it to learn for today and plan for tomorrow.

Sometimes a realization would arrive upon waking the following morning after distilling overnight. Or, while walking, as a sudden “epiphanous” interruption of a present moment, like a sound one might notice the moment it stops. From time to time, I would pause and choose a small stone for my pocket to carry along, then home, bits of ancient earth as talismans of my journey, pebbles pummeled underfoot by a millennium of peregrinos. Gradually, my mind’s eye began to see what has passed, is now, and may well be. Like having been in a place you’ve not seen, or known, and then sensing your mind telling you that it surely saw, knew, all before. 

“Traveler, there is no path

The path is made by walking

By walking you make a path

And turning, you look back

At a way you will never tread again”

—Antonio Machado

Lawrence Nagel is a native Oregonian and 30-year resident of Ashland who enjoys quests around the Rogue Valley, the Pacific Northwest, and abroad, traveling by car, boat, rail, on two wheels, and air if necessary. He may be reached at nagel@mind.net. Send 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Richard Carey (rcarey009@gmail.com).

Share this article

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.
Sound and Fury

Latest posts

SOU awards its highest honor to former Guanajuato governor and his wife

Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey presented SOU’s highest honor on Monday in Guanajuato to two prominent supporters of the university exchange program between SOU and the University of Guanajuato. An SOU delegation and about 200 guests representing wide segments of the Guanajuato community looked on as the awards were presented to Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, holder of two master’s degrees earned at SOU before he embarked on a distinguished political career in Mexico, and his wife, Francis “Faffie” Romero Siekman, a prime mover behind a scholarship program supporting student exchanges.

Read More >

Ashland Fire & Rescue warns of intensified wildfire seasons

Ashland Fire & Rescue has warned of more intense fire seasons in years to come as local impacts of climate change become more apparent. Division Chief Chris Chambers told the City Council Tuesday, Aug. 2, that coming fire seasons could see an increase in acres burned of between 200 and 400 percent.

Read More >

Birds’-Eye View: An Ashland-based bird conservation organization

Birds’-Eye View: Ashland-based nonprofit Klamath Bird Observatory keeps on eye on bird life in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. Since birds are a key indicator species and migratory paths from much of the Western Hemisphere pass through this area, KBO data helps inform natural resource management on a broad scale.

Read More >

One Hiroshima survivor nurtures seedling sprouted from another survivor

The 77th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, was marked in Ashland for the 38th year on Saturday. A capacity crowd gathered at Thalden Pavilion, site of an eternal World Peace Flame, to hear remarks and celebrate the planting of a gingko tree sprouted from seeds from a tree that survived the Hiroshima inferno.

Read More >

Explore More...

SOU awards its highest honor to former Guanajuato governor and his wife

Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey presented SOU’s highest honor on Monday in Guanajuato to two prominent supporters of the university exchange program between SOU and the University of Guanajuato. An SOU delegation and about 200 guests representing wide segments of the Guanajuato community looked on as the awards were presented to Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, holder of two master’s degrees earned at SOU before he embarked on a distinguished political career in Mexico, and his wife, Francis “Faffie” Romero Siekman, a prime mover behind a scholarship program supporting student exchanges.

Read More>
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)