Pilgrimage Paths: our Spirit Walk.
by Dr. Rivene and Jim Montrose, July 2023.
On May 23rd— three of us, Dr. Rivene, Jim and Elsie, started a pilgrimage from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Two Hundred Eighty kilometers along the costal route in upper Portugal and Spain to the great Cathedral and Pilgrim destination at Santiago de Compostela. We planned for 12 to 14 days to walk this distance, and this was our journey.
The Pilgrimage Starts
We met up in Porto, Portugal and prepared for our first day on the El Camino. The end point of our walk was the great Catholic Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. We had read about the route and the arrival to Santiago and the credentials we must collect, daily stamps on the route and two stamps per day for the last 100 kilometers, that would give us a certificate of completion at trip end. With our intention of reaching the basilica and obtaining our certification we set the walk to motion.
The Walk – a 14 day Pilgrimage
Day one was our longest day. In the route guide they suggested 34 km. We felt the grind and weight of our packs by the 24th kilometer and went to the nearest Pilgrim Albergue, basic hostel set up for anyone doing the walk with credentials.
The first day was a surprise for all of us I believe. It was longer and harder than expected. So as best we could we steeled ourselves for a minimum walk of 20 kilometers each day and through will power and desire woke each day to walk again.
After day 4, we settled into the routine and stopped wishing it was easier and got down to the work. It’s quite simple each day you put one foot in front of the other and walk 20 kilometers or more. Enjoy the scenes as much as possible, grab some food, and rest to prepare for the next day. The El Camino is done by consistent constant application of walking the required distance to the next Albergue. And once you get that and relax you notice the fanfare of wonderful pilgrims, scenery, little stops, characters, and restaurants. The rich exposure to the locals is extraordinary and we felt we really got to know the flavor of Portugal and Spain.
We broke the last segment into Santiago into two segments a longer close to 20 km day and a final day of 8km so we could enter the cathedral rested and early in the day.
We made it
After 14 days – We reached our Goal.
With relief and a sense of accomplishment we walk into Santiago de Compostela early morning on the 5th of June. That evening after attending Mass at the cathedral, experiencing their unique swinging incense display, and receiving our certificates we prepare for sleep in our Albergue, the Pilgrim hostel, as Dr. Rivene interviews us.
What was our purpose for our Pilgrimage?
Jim to Flow with the walk to experience and learn the inner lessons of Pilgrimage (whatever that may lead to). I had done Pilgrimages to Mt Kailash, Haifa and others but didn’t see this so much as a religious pilgrimage but as a connection to my inner sanctum. For me the inner sanctum is Nature (both inner and outer, the nature around and in me). It occurs to me this is leading to spiritual cleansing and purity as I declutter and purge to let my core shine out more and more in life experience.
Z- This is an experience [I want to have and have had a desire to do for a long time.]. Thinking academically about it, others have done it, but then so much realization have come up about my husband, Elsie and then my own – I realize I feel stronger for it. [Putting out the desire to do it and doing it changes us and all whom we meet on the path share it and help us see it.]
E – To be minimalistic, That I am cared for, to let go of need to do this with people. I realize my life, [I can] allow my body to be strong, persevering, overcoming weakness.
What defining moment did you experience?
Jim – I was almost blind for seven days of the trip. It started in my left eye. It wept all day long and left a crust in the morning. After two days my right eye joined in, and it was hard to see anything up close. It increased my introspection and led me to insights on streamlining my life to concentrate on the truly important aspects through massive purging that is on-going as I re-enter normal (material) life. Purge on spiritual and material levels all that no longer suits me. Live humble and with as little excess as possible.
Z- How I seem to stay in my physicality – the pain I experience is my hardship. It takes over from me, that I am ruled by this pain in my body. And that my external experience was lessened. I want to minimize the pain by eating something – comfort.
My defining moment was to break through this minimizing it and [my focus on it]. In doing an NET, I realized I had taken on my mother’s pain and seeing the world through a body of pain, instead of a body of pleasure.
E – To let go, let go of over thinking, walk, be there in moment, just to be and let go. – to re-evaluate situation, let go of thinking. I realized the El Camino quieted my mind. I take one step at a time; what life offers me in that moment.
What weaknesses came up during the walk?
Jim – mainly my eyes (giving rise to desire for increased clarity, strength of sight both inner and outer) and a slight blister on my heal early in trip that lasted 2-3 days and was over (reminder of my physicality to balance and take care of all – self-care for myself)
Z- My body weakness. My mind with negatives. Then my Spirit carried me forward on this plane.
E – Lower back, neck, shoulders and femur joints. Learn to improvise in making best of small spaces like the shower. Letting go of critic and need for “it could be better”. [Be present and making do]
What strengths came up during the walk?
Jim – quick healing of blister – my hiking feet got me through; strength to walk my pace and the joy of movement, fresh air, and exercise (so good to do all day). The wonderful comradery of my companions and others we met on the walk (all from different walks of life) but united in truth and especially in the Camino walk we do separately but together.
I felt I was being introduced to humility in a very visceral way. As we walk all as one, yet independently (even if we walked and talked with a person on the path). We were in the primary connection to our honest private thoughts with no place to hide or avoid our deep truths. I spent glorious time reacquainting myself in my inner being in this wonderful 14-day dialogue without the interruption of life’s normal interruptions. We all faced ourselves no matter our station and did not have much distraction or luxury to get in the way. I was humbly laid bare in front of my inner self and the fear of losing my sight. I appreciated the humbling experience that deeply connected me with all my fellow Pilgrims.
Z- In my faith. In my prayer that was my strength to carry on, on this plane in my existence.
E – My ability to walk that far. To be part of the community, social. I am always on my own. First day I noticed that strength and endurance I have to walk for this. I have great strength inside of me and the ability to walk this far and Spiritually remain calm, open, walking this way, I walk with love.
Would you encourage others to do a pilgrimage?
J – Yes, and while the walk is very physical, the really important aspect of a pilgrimage for me is the inner experience and the power to make it come true in my life. Being in a different environment, out of my daily routine, and interruptions creates a powerful opportunity to explore the inner experience of strength (fortitude), humility, walk by myself and my thoughts in inner contemplation, to converse and relate with my inner Self. It is like a 10 day active Vipassna meditation on the walk for 14 days!
Z—Yes, I will encourage (everyone) to be spontaneous, to watch (walk?) – be vigilant to your body/mind/spirit.
E – Yes to get to know Self, abilities, and let go of limitations. This is my own personal experience, and it was magic.
How will this translate back into your normal (material) life?
J- Purging! Not just physical but spiritually. Which means removing activities, people, possessions, responsibilities, memberships, contacts that no longer serve me in gaining a higher elevation of consciousness. Finish my book, devote serious time to it. Feng Shui says clear the clutter to have the focus to create and succeed. Remove all unnecessary from my life.
Z- My awareness of turning my pain body into a pleasure body is what I want to bring into my daily life. To exercise more, and to keep letting go of my body weight that insulates me from pain.
E- more self-respect, more endurance to maintain exercise so I stay strong in my physical body. And the thought/realization that “I did this.”
Would you do another pilgrimage?
J- Yes, but probably not another Porto to Santiago Compostela. We have done many pilgrimages including Mt. Kailash, Haifa, Edirne, etc. I would like to do a pilgrimage in South America maybe next.
Z – Not to Santiago. Whale walk, beach walk, otter trail, Tankwa trail, outiniqua maybe. [yet I want luxury no more Albergue’s]
E- For the future, now, after thought and realization back in familiar environment: Life is [hard] enough. To see [purposely look] for more hardship – I hesitate. A little later, this moment I have to say yes and would do it again.
So, consider your own Pilgrimage. Since a Pilgrimage even in a group is an inner experience, we could just travel to one of these great Pilgrimage centers in our mind or experience it in video or story on the internet and then visualize yourself there. Taking time away from normal routines is the great gift we give to ourselves in a Pilgrimage, but consider life itself is a Pilgrimage!
One of the great regrets in life for people on their deathbeds is they wish they had enjoyed life more as they lived it [that is to enjoy the Pilgrimage that is life while we are living it.] A few ideas be more soulful in your life, spread joy, and help others as they journey through tragedy and success. Above all enjoy!
Enjoy the Pilgrimage of Life with humility and elevation to greater love and joy,
Dr. Rivene and Jim Montrose
Red Roan Ranch, 083 290 1283
Copyright Dr. Rivene and Jim Montrose, July 2023