The Camino de Santiago is a special journey that means something different to everyone. Some people go for the adventure and exercise. Some people do it to disconnect from things that don’t serve them and reconnect with what’s important. Others go with an open heart, hoping to find something new – whether that’s in the form of new friends, new love, new habits, a new perspective or purpose.
There are innumerable reasons that spark people to do this pilgrimage, rather than spending their vacations lounging on a white sand beach. And there are moments along the Way when you will tap into those motivations to remind yourself why you’ve taken on this challenge. Here are four mindful practices that will help you prepare for your journey on the Camino de Santiago:
1. Set a purpose
Really think about why you’re doing the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Meditate on it. Pray about it. Write it down. Contemplate it as you train.
When you know why you’re on this journey and can tap into that senses of purpose, it will be easier to continue even when you’re tired. At some point during your journey, you might question why you’ve chosen to spend your vacation time this way. You’ll have to overcome the tiny voices in your head that tell you that you’ve already gone far enough.
Yes, you’re going to be on vacation. You’re going to be trying new food. You’re going to be staying in beautiful settings. You’re going to be seeing another country up close and personal. But that isn’t what’s going to get you to Santiago. Your purpose is.
2. Practice meditation or prayer
Get into the practice of meditation or praying before you’re on the Camino de Santiago if you’re hoping to become more mindful, reconnect with yourself, or get in touch with your spirituality.
You may think there will be plenty of time to get into these practices when you’re on the Way, and this is true to some degree. The rhythm of the Camino life is a great opportunity to check into things we overlook during our busy daily lives. However, you’d be surprised at how quickly your mornings and evenings pass when you’re surrounded with other friendly pilgrims, eating delicious food, and exploring amazing historical churches.
Check in with your meditation or prayer practice before you leave home. Make a habit of spending some time each day reflecting on your purpose and goals. This will help you maintain the practice even when there are lots of distractions. Finding inner peace when you’re at home will be key to maintaining your inner peace when you’re on the Camino.
3. Let judgments go
As you’re preparing for your adventure, be deliberate about letting judgments go. In our daily lives, it’s easy to criticize ourselves and other people. We think about how much more money our friends and family make. We get upset when a colleague can get more done in a day than we can. We get down on ourselves for not being healthy enough, or active enough, or prepared enough.
Be mindful not to bring those habits on the Way. They won’t help you reach your goal or achieve your purpose. They will only get in the way. Don’t criticize yourself for spending too much money, or not training enough, being under-prepared or over-prepared. Every pilgrim’s journey is different. Respect the journey you’re on – no matter what that looks like.
4. Check in with your body (and stretch!)
They say the key to a successful Camino is foot care. It’s true. These two appendages we take for granted most of the time are going to become your number one priority on the Camino de Santiago. When was the last time you checked in with your feet? When was the last time you closed your eyes and focused all of your energy on your feet?
Do this with your feet and the rest of your body. Spend time evaluating how you feel after a long day of walking. What hurts? What doesn’t hurt? What makes them feel better? Knowing your body and being able to observe how you’re feeling is a great skill that will serve you on the Camino, and continue to help you long after you’re done.
Stretching and doing yoga are excellent ways to be mindful, keep your body healthy, and avoid injury. Practice these while you’re preparing for the Camino so it’s easy to maintain the habit on the road.
5. Learn some of the Camino’s history
If you’re planning to walk the Camino de Santiago, you are probably aware of the Way’s broad history. But there are lots of lesser-known stories that are worth reflecting on.
For example, the cathedral in Santo Domingo de la Calzada houses a hen-coop with live birds to this day to honor a miracle that saved an innocent boy’s life in the 14th century. Or the Fuente Reniega outside of Pamplona, where a thirsty pilgrim resisted the devil’s temptations of water, and was rewarded for his faith.
The Camino is full of legends and miraculous stories. Learning about these before you start walking will help you appreciate the trials and tribulations pilgrims have gone through for thousands of years, and help you connect with the landscape and its energy.
Are you ready to start your Camino de Santiago adventure and find your purpose? Whether you want to do the trip solo or go with a group of like-minded peregrinos, let us help. We’ll handle the details about where to stay and how to get there, so you don’t have to worry about the logistics. Instead, you can focus completely on being in the moment and devote yourself to your journey. Contact Adventure Camino if you’re interested in learning more.