How do you prepare your mind and spirit?

Along with planning, physical preparation, and purchasing of the right gear, it is important to prepare your mind and spirit for the posture the Camino invites you to take. While you cannot completely recreate the experience of journey at home, you can be intentional about developing a willingness which will allow you to not only embrace the experience, but also enjoy the serendipity of the Camino. Here are some attitudes of the mind and spirit that you can begin practice even before you leave for your journey.

Practice Letting go of Your Expectations

Holding too tightly to expectations of how circumstances and relationships ought to be breeds disappointment, anger, resentment and bitterness. It also prevents us from seeing and embracing the gifts and graces that may be presented to us in unexpected ways. Be open to acknowledging, and letting go of your expectations, in order that you will be able to receive what is present. This posture will give birth to wonder, delight, joy and contentment. Look for invitations in the time leading up to your departure to practice letting go of your expectation and being open to the unexpected.

Embrace Silence and Solitude

Our everyday life is often filled with noise and it can be difficult to find the space to be alone. The Camino invites you to walk into periods of silence and solitude each day. This can be jarring to the soul, if you are not used to being in this kind of space. It can also be life giving, if you are open to what can be discovered in it. If you are not well versed in being present to your own heart in silence and solitude, you may want to begin to expose yourself to this kind of space before you leave. This can be as simple as turning the radio off when you drive, leaving the iPod at home when you walk, turning your cell phone off after 9 pm, or spending time in your home, when no one else is present, with the television and radio turned off. In these spaces, be deliberate about the things you desire to think about or wrestle with, but also be open to allowing the silence and solitude to bring to the surface things you may not notice in the noise of everyday life. When you notice these things, give yourself the room to ponder and explore them.

Walk in Humility

True humility is born out of the confidence of knowing who you really are. This gives you the freedom to let go of the need to find your significance or identity in how others respond to, treat or think about you. From this place of strength, you can offer to others the gift of being seen, heard, known, and loved. It can also empower you to meet their needs and demonstrate kindness and compassion. Humility, born out of strength of identity, also enables us to be open and honest with others about what we might need. This allows others to be present to us and meet our needs. Both sides of humility help to build the kind of community, and relationships, where the deepest desires we share as humans can be met. This is powerful. In the day and weeks leading up to the Camino, be open to recognizing and stepping into opportunities to demonstrate humility. Look for invitations to know and be known, to love and be loved, to serve and be served, to forgive and be forgiven.

Speak Words of Encouragement and Demonstrate Kindness

A well placed encouraging word or a well timed tangible expression of kindness is an art, which is more dependent on intention than talent. These actions can keep discouragement at bay, chase away loneliness and give birth to hope, for both the one who receives and the one who gives. Grow in your capacity to create this kind of art. You can do this with the people you know very well, or with complete strangers. Practice by looking for moments where you can speak and act in ways that encourage others and demonstrate kindness.

Create Space For Those Who Are Different From You

We can easily fall into patterns of relationship where we surround ourselves with people who mirror our preferences and opinions, even on the Camino. Make a practice of opening your relational circle to create space for those who are different from you. This allows your perspective to grow, as their presence invites you to see the world from a different point of view. They may not end up being your best friend, but they may cause you to see the world, others and yourself in new ways. This is a gift, which will be missed if you keep your circle closed. Prepare yourself to receive it by beginning to notice the people around you at work, Starbucks, or in your neighborhood with whom you might not normally connect. When you do, take a few moments to engage with them, being open to what you might learn or discover.

Eliminate Hurry

The Camino is not a race. There is no prize for being first, or rushing through the day. You want your heart’s posture to be such that you eliminate hurry and are able to be present to the places you find yourself and the people you are with. Learn to savor each place, moment, conversation or opportunity for solitude. You might prepare yourself at home by first noticing the speed at which you move through your everyday life. Ask yourself, how much does this allow me to see and take in? If you discover your natural pace is too quick, practice being more attentive to where you are and the conversation you engaged in. Notice the details. Find the beauty. Listen intently. Drink in the moment. Enjoy.

Listen to Your Body

Your body will tell you when you need to slow down, when it is okay to press on, when you need to rest, and when you need to refuel. Allow your body, and not the pace of others or your preferred schedule, to set the tempo of your Camino. Pushing your body too far, and too hard, will lead you to the place where it will break down and become prone to injury. While you are training, be attentive to what your body is speaking and learn how to respond to what it is telling you. By doing this, you will discover the zone in which your body will best be able to sustain the physical stamina necessary to complete the journey.

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