Thursday, 13 May 2021

Keep life simple to find what's special

FORTUNATELY, the covid-19 lockdown is gradually being eased allowing us to be reunited with family and friends, although for the most vulnerable shielding remains a necessity.

During lockdown, when we were allowed a period of exercise, my wife and I discovered unexplored footpaths between Henley and Sonning Common. As we walked through the beautiful countryside, we were reminded of an experience we had exactly one year ago.

Our son had given up his job in Sydney’s financial centre and was going to live and work for a year with a Christian community before training for the priesthood.

As a transition, he decided to walk 1,700km of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) from Le Puy in France to Santiago de Compostela. The Camino was the basis of the BBC series Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago, featuring Debbie McGee and the 2010 film The Way, starring Martin Sheen.

We joined our son on July 17 last year in Navia, on the north coast of Spain, allowing ourselves about 12 days to cover the 230km to Santiago.

Since we had to carry all our belongings, we travelled very light, about 10kg between us. No hairdryers, cosmetics, unnecessary clothes etc.

Perhaps our major concern was how we would cope sharing a dormitory and facilities with anything from half a dozen to 30 or more strangers. We were no longer used to roughing it!

The experience was liberating. Our only concern was to get to our next hostel without getting lost.

Fortunately, the route was well marked. While walking and enjoying the countryside and villages, there was time for reflection and prayer, and the opportunity to meet other pilgrims.

At the end of the day a hearty pilgrim’s meal could be enjoyed with people of all ages from around the world. Some with a religious faith, others with none, some alone, others in a group, a first timer or a seasoned pilgrim, each with their own reason to undertake the pilgrimage.

The simplicity of the pilgrimage helped us realise how complicated our lives can be and the pressures placed on us or we place on ourselves. We could understand why mental health and stress related issues were a major concern even before the current pandemic hit us.

The local walks during lockdown reminded us of the importance of trying to keep life simple and discover those things that are most important.

Our relationship with God and our loved ones? When we are secure in these, we can let go of things we thought were necessary but ultimately undermine our wellbeing and sometimes our relationship with those closest to us.

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