When the hearing turns into listening

Lessons from the Road: A Pilgrim´s Diary

Part V

We enter the region of Galicia.  The landscape is changing. We pass through a lush green valley which is abuzz with all kinds of birds chirping and the music from cowbells.         We surprise ourselves – we are walking about 30 kilometers in a day!

We are gradually growing into veteran pilgrims.  We can now guide and offer advice to other pilgrims joining us from other starting points on the trek subsequent to ours.  We can treat blisters like a trained nurse.  We meet great people all along.  Even the usual conversations are interesting.

Just like in our day-to-day life, here on Camino as well, each pilgrim seems to be passing through stages.  First, you are a skeptic then as you realize it’s okay to talk to total strangers sometimes, you gradually end up telling your story.

There are pilgrims who would not even mind interrupting their own journey so that they could walk along with you to share their stories and there are ones you would have to work on for a few miles until they start opening up and are ready to tell their story.

Why would one do that?    Well, that’s what you learn to do on the Camino.  It´s all about being a good storyteller one day and a good listener another.

You can easily tell when you meet someone who has a story to tell.  All they need is a little bit of confidence and faith in you that they would not be judged or misunderstood based on their stories.  They should have the confidence that you would understand that it is not always in our control the way things turn out.  That if they couldn’t keep up a promise, it was not their fault entirely.  That it is just that sometimes life takes a path on its own and all you could do is keep walking.  And it is easy to lose our way because no one bothered to put a yellow sign pointing us in right direction!

That night at the pilgrim´s refuge, I wrote in my diary:

“I feel I am becoming a better listener as I progress on the Camino.  After over 100 kms of walking so far, I realize I have stopped hearing and started listening.   Just as much as hearing has got to do with ears, listening has got to do with the heart.   I learnt to listen with my heart.”

“I learnt that if we listen with compassion, we can not only feel but also share the pain of the person telling the story.  It relieves them of their pain and the next day,  when they see you on Camino they greet you with a grateful smile.  You can just tell by seeing them, they are walking lighter and happier.”

“Apart from listening to other´s stories, on Camino, you also learn to listen to yourself as you get plenty of time to spend alone as well.  A constant soul-searching and an internal dialogue goes on intermittently.  You re-live your childhood, review your personal story so far and draw new conclusions.   As if it were the best time to rearrange some stuff , weed out the unnecessary and plant new seeds!”

Related Posts:
Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James)
Introduction to the Series – Lessons from the Road :A Pilgrim´s Diary
Part I: Starting off on the wrong foot
Part II: Lesson One: Right Here Right Now
Part III: What´s wrong with a pilgrimage close to home?
Part IV: How much you are carrying on your back?
You´ve been here before! Thank you for returning to the Tavern.
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How much are you carrying on your back?

Lessons from the Road: A Pilgrim´s Diary

Part IV

In real life though the theft is not always so obvious.  When we lose something or someone, we first complain and crib because we fail to see the logic of it.  It is easy to ask, “why me?”

Pilgrims on Camino often leave things at pilgrim´s shelter that they cannot carry any longer with them.   The person in-charge at this shelter where are resting for the night shows me the basket full of clothes, hats, medicines, etc. left by pilgrims perhaps for someone like me who had lost everything right at the start of the track.   Strangely though, I don’t find myself short of anything in particular.  I reluctantly pick a hat.

Next day, we walk a whole day and reach the pilgrim´s shelter at Vega de Valcarce, another beautiful hilly village in the region of Galicia.   I buy a poncho and a pilgrim’s staff but soon I find them also unnecessary.    I also buy some essential clothing also. We hit a stretch of steep downhill thereafter.  First blisters show up.

We walk about 20 kms to reach Cebrero.   Here in a souvenir shop, I buy a small backpack and finally, at almost one-third of the size of my original backpack, I am once again a regular pilgrim with all I need for my journey!

Who would believe that when I had left Madrid I was carrying such a heavy backpack with so many things which all seemed so essential to me.   I could not remove any of those things to reduce the weight until the thief robbed me of all my stuff!  All that weight now seems so futile.

Isn´t it true that away from this surreal journey, in “real” life too we end up gathering so much useless stuff along our journey?   Stuff that we don’t really need but all of which, of course, seems essential and indispensable to make our life happier and more comfortable.

Then there is this other kind of burden – the burden of emotional baggage – which is even more difficult to get off our backs and left behind.  Be it the weight of a regret from the past weighing on our conscience or that of a relationship whose expiry date passed long ago and all it does now is poison your present.

In real life though the theft is not always so obvious.  When we lose something or someone, we first complain and crib because we fail to see the logic of it.  It is easy to ask, “why me?” It takes a while though, and sometimes, a lifetime to realize that an apparent loss could eventually prove to be a blessing in disguise.   That perhaps we needed a new backpack and one with only essentials this time.  If we could do that each one of us could walk lighter and reach farther in our journeys.


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