Home > Books, Personal, The Camino > Walk in a Relaxed Manner, by Joyce Rupp

Walk in a Relaxed Manner, by Joyce Rupp

This is one of the few books out there that has been written about walking on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. If you haven’t heard of this pilgrimage, then you need to know about it. I won’t go into the history of the pilgrimage here, but suffice to say that hundreds of thousands of people have found themselves on this path for one reason or another. I walked part of it with my mother a few years ago. It haunted me for several years before that and has recently begun to haunt me again. Perhaps it is because I recently discovered the facebook page for American Pilgrims on the Camino (APOC) and reading about people who are preparing for the walk or who are reminiscing about their walk has brought it all up again. In any event, my fiance and I are planning to walk it together next year and I am yearning for that experience.

Although this book, Walk in a Relaxed Manner, was published in 2005, it is still relevant. I’m not sure about the quality of the Refugios, in general, since my mom and I stayed mostly in pensions. The two refugios we stayed in were extremely different. The first, was small and privately run. The pilgrims were respectful and we were exhausted, it being our first night on the Camino. It was after that night that my mom insisted that we stay in pensions as she could not sleep with the snoring. The second refugio we stayed in was quite a bit further along and was an enormous publicly run establishment. It was broken down into bunk rooms of 4 beds, which mitigated the snore factor, but the bathrooms were fairly atrocious and I recall not wanting to put anything down anywhere. It was in that refugio, though, that we met one of the women we became long-term friends with, so I can’t dog it too much.

The wonderful thing about this book is that it brings back so many memories. The facts and circumstances are not exactly the same and I don’t remember where certain events took place in my walk (which towns or villages) specifically, but the experiences are similar.

One quote the author used in her 16th chapter, that touched me deeply, was this from Joan Halifax:

The secret of life, say the Utes, is in the shadows and not in the open sun; to see anything at all, you must look deeply into the shadow of a living thing.

In that same chapter, the author talked about her expectations and disappointment:

As I listened to Rachel speak of her dissatisfaction…my own Camino disappointments revealed themselves for what they were: mainly a result of my own ideas, values, and expectations. It became clear to me that no one set out to deliberately cause me undue discontent. I was the main cause of the frustrations I experienced…

I looked at the disappointments Tom and I had experienced, including the smaller ones, and how they were largely due to what we imagined or hoped would be.

The disappointments I experienced on the Camino led me to ask numerous questions: “Is it wrong to have ideals, goals, and hopes for what might be? Is it disastrous to have expectations and longings? Is it unreal to think that life’s situations might match my own values? Is it crazy to believe that things might turn out as one wishes?” My response to these: not at all. But when something does not match my desires, I have a choice. I can crab about the situation or see it in the light of unmet expectations. Attention to expectations can keep me from blaming and carrying anger around unnecessarily.

I’m not sure I need to say anything about this, except that for some time I have been contemplating expectations: mine and those of others. Sometimes, I can clearly see that expectations are nothing but a box and if I try to live to those expectations, I am placing myself in that box. If I can live with an openness to experiences, then I am free.

Coincidentally, there is a chapter dedicated to the idea of traveling lightly, this is meant literally and also figuratively. This idea resonates with something I have been trying to do in my life, lightening the physical load of “stuff” that I possess and lessening the emotional “stuff” that I carry around in my thoughts. Rupp quotes Carol Christ at the beginning of her chapter on this subject:

Every time each of us resists the urge to buy, we are taking one small step to change our world.

She goes on to say:

The day after I returned from walking the Camino I opened the door of my clothes closet and stood there stunned…for the first time in seven weeks I had to decide what I was going to wear….On the Camino…I had only one change of clothes….Seeing so much before me felt daunting. I had grown to love traveling lightly on the Camino. Now I found myself returning to a complex world, one fraught with consumerism, with the pressure to look good and live a certain way to be socially acceptable. I did not want to return to this way of life. I longed for the simplicity the Camino had taught me.

I remember this feeling too, when it came to making decisions. On the Camino, the decisions are fairly simple. When shopping for food, it comes down to how much you want to carry and how much space you have in your pack, so that one piece of fruit or a can of beans, can make an enormous difference.

Rupp goes on to say that:

Since [the Camino] I have observed how traveling lightly is not just about the amount of things we have, it is also how we allow those things to lead us away from what truly counts in daily life. These things tangle our attention and absorb our time, often creating more personal stress…This practice of having too much is often an unconscious way of distracting ourselves from what is happening at a deeper level of life. It deters us from entering into opportunities for greater meaning and fuller peace of mind and heart…Traveling lightly means divesting one’s self of inner stuff, as well. This, too, can bog us down and keep us from being focused on what really matters in life. Emphasizing or being overly concerned about reputation, status, looking good, knowing enough, having an admirable position can also deter us from walking on the road of life with a clear mind and a liberated heart.

I think I can say that this chapter was my favorite, because it resonates with what I am trying to do in my life. Trying to let go of the ego especially in regards to how it is massaged by attention related to material and financial wealth is very hard. I might hazard a guess that it is a daily effort and requires me to remind myself, that often, that I am not in need of whatever my ego thinks I need in order to feel ok.

Finally, I will end with a thought-provoking quote from C.G. Jung, that Rupp uses in one of her last chapters:

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

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Categories: Books, Personal, The Camino
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