A pilgrimage is about more than walking. It is about self-discovery, reflection, communicating with a higher power (call it prayer if you will). As we know in the Master Key Experience, the Silence is where all this comes together!
I didn’t think about this a whole lot when I walked my first Camino in Spain almost three years ago. And I really didn’t contemplate purposefully. Were I walking the Camino today, I would do it differently. Yes, one thing I wanted was to escape the pressures and demands of everyday life, but it was more a ‘running away’ from that than a ‘running to’ any kind of enlightenment. Now, since being involved with the Master Key Experience for two and a half years, I understand myself and my relationship to Infinite Intelligence/Higher Power/God at least a bit more.
Now I would contemplate purposefully. And you can’t do that with your eyes and attention glued to a screen. I have been worse with that lately – between the iPhone, iPad, laptop computer, desktop computer, and TV – I spend too much time looking at screens. Often, more than one at a time!
Bradley Chermside of Pilgrim’s Podcast recommends leaving your phone at home, or at least turning it off while you walk the Camino. He calls it a ‘digital detox’, a kind of a re-boot for your soul. I didn’t use my phone for the most part, though it was a useful tool – for maps, information, communication, bookings. During our walking hours, my phone was mostly just a camera, and that was good. I really felt a sense of peace while walking, like I jumped off the world and let it spin for just over a month without me. And it was okay. There were no emergencies or problems that only I could solve. Turns out I am not indispensable after all.
This week, Mark asked us to do a Silent Retreat. This brought back a lot of feelings of the Camino, it is quite like a pilgrimage, except the silent part. In my first year of MKE, I did this for a morning. Even that was good. The next year I don’t remember even considering it. Then this year, I actually felt called to do it (kind of like the Camino called to me). And when I heard my friend, in her first year with MKE, commit to it during the last webinar, all my excuses were gone.
Maybe I still have an inflated sense of self-importance, but I still felt that I could only get away for about 24 hours. Mark suggested 3-5 days, but 24 hours was my sweet spot, this year at least. I did feel that I needed to get away – this wouldn’t work at home with all that distraction, work, technology (and a husband) vying for my attention.
So I booked a hotel room in my city, near a park where I like to walk. I left my iPad and laptop at home, turned off my phone and put it in my purse, turned off my watch alarms and put that beside my phone. I am never tempted to turn on hotel TVs, so that was fine.
The first thing I thought: “What am I going to do with myself for the next 24 hours?” And “How do I remain silent?” I did have to talk four times – to check in, check out, and order supper and breakfast. I even tried not to talk to myself, lol.
I went for a walk to start. Normally I would listen to a podcast on my phone, and say “Hi” to people I meet on the trail. Not this time. I listened to nature – birds, dogs, people, cars and airplanes too. I looked at nature – trees, blue sky, melting snow – it was a beautiful late winter day. And I counted my blessings, so many! When I met people, even if they said “Hi” or commented on the weather, I just responded with a smile (no mask on the trail), nod, or a wave. On pilgrimage, it would be a round of “Buen Camino’s” and maybe a conversation would start that would lead to a new friendship.
While walking the Camino, there is plenty of time every day for silent contemplation, but you generally take advantage of social interaction when you can. That’s okay. This time I only had 24 hours, I needed to compress my silence.
I tried to think of nothing at all, but that is very difficult. I thought of the Law of Relaxation:
Mental effort defeats itself. A relaxed, calm state of mind is the only doorway to progress mentally. Relaxation of thought is the only access to Infinite Intelligence. Master Key Experience notes
I thought about the Camino and how it is like a Silent Retreat, and how it is different. I guess that’s when I came up with this blog entry!
My Silent Retreat continued for the remaining 24 hours. I found the whole experience calming, and feel more grounded now. No huge revelations, but I feel like I am open to receive those when they come. If YOU haven’t done a Silent Retreat, or a Silent Pilgrimage, I challenge you to try it!