By The Rev. David Olson
David recently walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain with a group of St. John’s pilgrims. He shares some thoughts from a day on the trail.
I take a step, then another one, then another. I’ve developed a rhythm to my walking that feels very familiar and comforting. The rhythm wasn’t always there. When I started this walking pilgrimage a few days ago, it wasn’t there. Starting out, I felt anxious. I was anxious to run, or hurry and push ahead as fast as I could. I was anxious because, though my body was in Spain, my head was still far away in Virginia with my work, my family, and my many obligations.
I’m so used to living my life at a fast pace to try and get everything done. Before this trip, I wondered how I would react to just walking slowly every day for days on end like I’m doing now with nothing to do but think. Part of me was looking forward this, and part of me was nervous. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend this much time in my own head. But now that my body and mind have finally accepted what I am doing and where I am, the rhythm has showed up.
I take a step, then another one, then another. I hear the words of my daily prayer come out of my mouth. “Be still and know that I am God.” A smile comes to my face. It’s ironic that these words from Psalm 46 are my prayer since I am walking miles upon miles every day now.
But it has been a long time since I have been this still; both physically and mentally. As each day passes, I find myself slowly relaxing. I can understand why God would want us to take the time to be still whenever we can. Something powerful happens when I slow myself down—I become more present in the moment I am in. I become more aware of what is happening around me and more in tune to the people around me. I hear things I wouldn’t normally hear. I see things I wouldn’t normally see. I feel things I wouldn’t normally feel
I can’t help but wonder how many moments in my life I have missed because I have hurried right by them in my urgency to get to the next thing—too many I’m sure. Slowing myself down is a discipline. It doesn’t come easy. It can be easy to feel like if I’m not accomplishing something or doing something productive it’s a waste of time. But if this is true, then I have been wasting time for days now and I certainly don’t feel like I have been wasting time. If anything, I feel like I am embracing time. When I’m not distracted by the busyness of my life, I am able to appreciate the moment I am in, whatever it is.
I take a step, then another one, then another. I’m not sure where I am or how much farther I have to walk today. Days ago, I kept track of my daily mileage so I knew how far I had come and how far I had to go. I tried to have at least an idea of where I was. But I’ve stopped keeping track, and stopped wondering about where I am. I will get to this day’s destination whenever I get there. All I have to do today is follow the yellow arrows that guide the pilgrims on the Camino.
I’m grateful for this time, and for this journey and for the pilgrims I am experiencing it with. When I go back to my normal life, will I make time and find ways to be still? It will be a challenge, but I certainly hope so. I know I don’t want to miss any more moments than I have to. I know that I want to be more present wherever I am. I know that I want to feel this same comforting rhythm that I am feeling now.
I take a step, then another one, then another. I smile again. It’s such a beautiful day.