When the hearing turns into listening

Lessons from the Road: A Pilgrim´s Diary

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 go 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!”

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