My Camino Way Series #4
Credit: Paramahansa Yogananda; Public Domain, Wikipedia, 1946
In my last article, Embracing Your Inner Fire, I wrote about the importance of being open to adventure and how doing so helped me when I walked El Camino back in 2012 as part of my relationship sabbatical. Here, and in future articles, l'll be writing about some of the highlights of my meditation experiences on El Camino - and how meditation, like journaling, is another powerful tool in transforming thoughts and feelings that hold us back on our spiritual journey.
As the great spiritual teacher Paramahansa Yogananda said: “The soul loves meditation.”
Since our soul accompanies us everywhere we go, we’ll never run out of places to burn our dross (that is, shed our old skin or get rid of baggage that prevents us from ascending to our full spiritual height).
While walking El Camino de Santiago in France and Spain, I burned my dross in manys a place - from medieval churches to run-down drafty hostels, along wide open plains and on the tops of mountains. I have meditated in showers to soothe my sunburnt skin and while sitting down in the plaza square of countless small villages, sipping red wine. Sometimes it was the magic of the place that caused me to meditate - as with the Church of Santiago de Compostela at the end of my journey, which I will be writing about later in this series on meditations, or when I witnessed a White Rainbow with my Irish friend Tony Hackett.
Other times, however, the most mundane situations will present us with an opportunity to connect with our souls. Such was the case when a couple of itinerant mosquitoes visited me in a hostel in Spain....
Meditation On A Spanish Mosquito: How To Quell Fears and Calm A Busy Mind
The Hostel Pilpil was buzzing with twenty-something backpackers. I was in Bilbao, Spain, two days before the pilgrimage was to begin, tossing and turning in my bunkbed.
The guidebooks had warned us to be well rested, as the first day was apparently going to be the toughest of the entire pilgrimage. I was off to a splendid start.
While I was excited to begin my new adventure, my head was swirling with all sorts of worrisome thoughts: Would I have enough money to sustain me when I got back from my year-long sabbatical? Would my knees hold up for 500 miles? Would I lose my partner? And what if my alarm clock didn’t wake me up?
At one point during this busy inner monologue, I noticed a pair of Spanish mosquitoes buzzing about in my room (no doubt, looking for their backpacks before heading off with us on the Camino). Normally one might reach for the DEET, but I saw the mosquitoes as a great opportunity to turn torment into peace with a meditation.
The Spiritual Evolution Process
Part of the journey during my relationship sabbatical entailed taking stock of my feelings and becoming more aware of the divine “spirit” that is ever-present in life.
While the pesky mosquito isn't quite as mystical as the brilliant-colored dragonfly or the fair Monarch, it too has its place in the Grand Organizational Design.
I knew the two mosquitoes were visiting me for a reason, and it was as good an opportunity as any to meditate on my fears.
Connecting with Your Soul
We want to connect with our souls as deeply as possible when we meditate. One way into that still place at our center (especially if we're in a busy environment) is by envisioning the life around us as soul energy.
As I lay there, watching the mosquito duet flit about the room, I imagined these winged pilgrims not as blood-suckers but as souls on a journey toward the Universal Soul.
I close my eyes, envision the soul's light and think on my mantra.
I chant quietly, and voila! I am in a divine space.
The mosquitoes are gone, and so are my feelings of worry and fear.
The Art of Making Mantras: Pilgrim, Know Thyself
Usually I begin my meditations with a mantra in mind that supports my soul’s journey. Often it will address an emotion or thought that is nagging at me. On that "night of the mosquito visitation" the emotion that was nagging most loudly at me was fear - about what the future would (or would not) bring. This is a common fear for most people.
My mantra for fear is simple and speaks to both childhood and adult wounds of feeling unsupported and / or unloved:
I trust in the universe to support me and I love and support myself.
Sometimes it can be tricky, though, to pinpoint the emotion you’re wrestling with, especially if you're just getting to know your emotional self. For instance, you might be annoyed or angry at the buzzing mosquito keeping you awake, but in reality the mosquito is symptomatic of a deeper anger or fear that won't let you be - such as fear of someone who is draining you or unfairly taking away your energy. This is where journaling is indispensable.
As we record our experiences, we get in touch with our thoughts and feelings and can see more clearly what we need to work on. Out of this raw material comes a collection of mantras that will serve us daily.
Turning Fear into Love
As Louise Hay, another beloved teacher of mine, writes: “Fear is becoming rampant on the planet. We can see it every day in the news.” [www.louisehay.com].
Fear is perhaps the most primal of all instincts. It is at the heart of our very survival. Fear has played a huge role in shaping our destiny as a race. But as we grow more spiritual, why is it increasing in our society?
Most spiritual leaders agree that fear is symptomatic of a lack of trust in ourselves. It is also why many humans are unable to trust in the Universe. Part of the reason we feel this is because we're not connecting with our souls enough - or at all. The more we live in the material world, the more disconnected from our souls we become. We get entangled in the mundane process of needing to control our surroundings, others and our own emotions - none of which helps cultivate healthy relationships. Clearly, then, developing trust in ourselves and others is crucial, if our relationships are to evolve. And meditation is a wonderful tool to support this growth process.
At this stage of my life, I recognized that ‘trust’ was one of the big lessons I needed to learn. In fact, a major lesson too frequently taught (deliberately or not) by our parents and paternal society is to not trust life.
It takes time to undo these negative messages we receive, and to build trust in ourselves, in others and in life, and the process is different for everyone. But it has to begin with a commitment to change and to let go of our baggage. This is the way we heal old wounds. It doesn’t have to be a long and painful process but it will take as long as it takes. So we must be patient and loving with ourselves and others who are on the journey of self-healing.
Incorporating mantras into daily meditations is a great way to reinforce our foundation as we evolve into a higher consciousness. Mantras affirm our spiritual selves, helps break down the walls and release emotions that disrupt our inner peace. They also help us heal those old wounds by gradually replacing negative thought patterns with loving affirmations.
The more we meditate, the more we trust. And the more we trust in the invisible rather than the mundane world, the less we fear the unknown. The less we fear the unknown the more joy we feel and the more love we generate.
As weird as it may seem, the simple act of meditating on a mosquito (or anything that frustrates or drains us) is an act of self love, and self love is the path to higher love.
Indeed, in many Indigenous cultures, the mosquito is a unique part of the insect totem. Mosquito reminds us to protect ourselves from having our energy depleted by others.
By practising awareness of my surroundings, I was able to draw upon the spiritual energy of the insect world and transform its usual mundane meaning into a higher message, telling me to conserve my energy for the deep spiritual work I would be doing as I set off on my journey. In the process, I also transformed fear of loss and the unknown into trust in myself and the universe, which translates into higher love.
While I was walking El Camino, I began and ended each day with a meditation. But so many opportunities come along throughout the day as well that are ideal for meditating in the moment and transforming our pain. Whether that pain is a deep emotional wound, a nagging fear, or a physical pain, we have the power to rise above these states and evolve into joyful spiritual beings, one meditation at a time.
In the next article I will write about Meditating on Loneliness in a Chestnut Forest. So stay tuned. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me if you are considering El Camino as a relationship sabbatical or simply for your own spiritual growth. There’s plenty of information on El Camino and many ways to walk it. So, if anything has resonated with you while reading this, it may be a special sign, divinely arranged just for you.
Buen Camino, Pilgrim