This essay is part of Mindstream’s Wellness Moonshot series, which support’s the Global Wellness Institute’s campaign for a world without preventable disease. This was written for October’s theme of MOVE WITH INTENTION.
By Amy Hernandez
I first heard of The Way of St. James (also known as El Camino de Santiago) more than 20 years ago in art history class, and thought, What a wonderful way to explore the Galician culture of Northern Spain while hiking! Fast-forward to October 2019 when my mother and I arrived at Sarria and walked for eight days to Santiago de Compostela. As an avid hiker, I definitely was in my element, enjoying the scenery, chatting with fellow pilgrims, and checking on my mother, who was fit but had never undertaken such an adventure.
People embark on the Walk for different reasons or with various intentions. Some hear about it and want to experience what it’s all about; others do it as a way to be introspective and gain clarity to situations that are troubling them at the moment; and others do it to heal from a loss. I guess I can say I did it for all of the above reasons, and happily I accomplished the Walk with my mother.
Our wonderful journey ended by earning our Certificates of Completion for walking a certain number of kilometers, and by attending a service at the Pilgrims Chapel in Santiago de Compostela. It was an instant community of hikers from all over the world. Before the service, participants introduced themselves and shared the reasons for their journeys. Each person had a different reason, but the end result was the same: They felt a sense of joy and fulfillment.
From a spiritual perspective, completing the Walk left me with a realization that we are all one. By that I mean we all have similar experiences in life: whether it is a loss of someone in our lives, illness, or embarking on a goal, we can all relate. I came to this realization during the service at the Pilgrim’s Chapel. There’s a great sense of peace and comfort knowing you are never alone, and we are all just one big community, really.
The Way gave me a great sense of peace. Walking for miles left me with plenty of time to reflect on my thoughts. Other times, I had experiences of just being completely in the moment, which led me to focus on absorbing the beauty and tranquility of the Galician countryside. For me, hiking is a form of meditation. It is a time for me to quiet my mind, while engaging in physical activity. Being in motion helps me to focus on my activity rather than to be stuck in thoughts.
If you ever thought about doing the walk to the Shrine of St. James (right), I say, “Do It!” Whether you are a beginner, or an avid hiker, there are many ways to arrive there. It is a great way to challenge yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You will have no regrets, and remember: It just takes one step at a time. Bueno Camino!