Learning to Walk Intro

Camino Portugues

Learning to Walk

I’ve heard that I learned the mechanics of walking when I was 9 to 10 months old. It didn’t take long for me to master the movement and in natural order, I soon learned to run.

Early in my career, I learned to walk fast and with good posture. This is supposed to project the appearance of confidence and purpose.

In the early 2000’s, I re-learned to walk in the mountains and in nature. The gift of hiking!

In 2017, I learned to walk long distances day after day on the French Route of the Camino de Santiago. I also learned that chronic foot pain and Spain’s red wine have a magnetic pull. I walked the French Route again in September/October of 2022.

Then in November of 2022, I read a little book by Thich Nhat Hanh called “How to Walk”, and then “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau. These two little books taught me that I knew the mechanics of walking, but didn’t really know the art. This was probably a holdover from the walking lesson of my early career. I walked in conquest and speed and purpose, but not with grace.

“When we walk like we are rushing, we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on earth. Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

“The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours …but it is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Pilgrim Lessons to Learn

There is a wall hanging in the Museo das Peregrinacións e de Santiago (Museum of Pilgrimages) in Santiago de Compostela that claims, “the objective of pilgrimage is to reach the highest level of knowledge, spiritual renewal, glory, paradise or eternal salvation.” I like this thought but will condense it to the objective of pilgrimage is for the human to learn and grow.

For my next Camino pilgrimage, my plan was to learn to walk as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh and Henry David Thoreau.

My plan for learning to walk anew on future pilgrimages didn’t include Portugal…

Best Laid Plans

These future pilgrimage plans were to walk the Camino Primitivo, the Camino del Norte, the Camino Olvidado, the Camino Inglés, and maybe the Via de la Plata. My plans didn’t include the Camino Portugues, at least on the short list. Sure, maybe if I lived long enough AND had not bored of pilgrimage trekking, but the Short List, nope.

Then a friend invited me to walk the Camino Portugues with him. It was a compelling invitation, the stars aligned, and I changed my plans. This created another learning and growing opportunity for me – to not be so dogmatically attached to my plans, but to see the moment/opportunity and adapt as necessary. Plan, yes…but also to learn to recognize new possibilities and adapt.

The New Plan

  1. Walk from Lisbon, Estremadura, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain to Finisterre, Galicia, Spain.
  2. Learn to Walk as taught by Hanh and Thoreau – in peace, serenity, and adventure.
  3. Learn to Walk in each moment and situation.

Note about the Cover Photo: The cover photo is of a piece of art, a collection of walking sticks, in the Museum of Pilgrimages.

This wall hanging in the Museum of Pilgrimage in Santiago de Compostela contains text about "Pilgrimage as allegory."
Pilgrimage as Allegory, from the Museum of Pilgrimages in Santiago de Compostela.
These pieces of paper are stacked on vertical metal rods. Each paper has a prayer or desire of those that have visited the Museum of Pilgrimages. It is symbolic of the mound of rock at the Cruz de Ferro on the Camino Frances.
The “Paper Cruz de Ferro” in the Museum of Pilgrimages…the collected prayers and desires of the museum visitors.

Bonus Music – my theme song for the Camino Portugues!

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