Dartington, England – Schumacher College
Heart Lessons from the Camino de Santiago: Nature's Practice of Emergence
“We walk through the motions of life, living and simply existing on Mother Earth. Like machines, we've created a deeper earth that expands beyond the bandwidth of our hearts - it reaches into our neurons and fires mechanisms so foreign and inconceivable to our forefathers. It reaches past a heart that gently tugs towards love and warmth. A heart and soul weaved together in an eternal bond with the universe- with the stars and the moon. A heart that recognizes the space between the stars and the silence between the notes.
As I look up at the smiling moon and into the darkness of the night, I feel my eyes closing to feel the silence ringing in my ears. To feel the cool air against my feet and fingertips. I remember my day as my feet crunched against the gravel and kissed the earth with every step. As the trees sway in the night and wish me a good night, I thank them for their cool shade against the heat of the sun. I thank the earth for holding me with my pain and pleasure.
I bow down and feel, as slowly, we transcend into one” – October 8, Day 25
I am looking out into the front law of Schumacher College to a beautiful, majestic looking tree. I was told that the tree was so large, it had to be cut so it wouldn’t fall over the building. Despite the fact that they cut large parts of the tree, the overarching branches still look like arms of a gigantic creature. As the birds fly past and the clouds move left, it is clear that its trunk is large enough for five people to wrap around it.
This tree reminds me of the trees in Galicia. I’ve never walked through a forest that feels so mystical. Maybe the bond with Galicia grew deeper because I had been walking with the rays of the sun and open forests for 500 kilometers prior. Regardless of the reason, the trees held a special presence, one which I had never felt in my life. Although connected with rivers and forests for most of my life, the depth of the interconnectedness I started feeling with all other parts of the ecosystem has shifted. Those moments held me in my practice of being present and have helped me bring that to the days after emerging from the Camino de Santiago.
Although the Camino de Santiago has physically finished, I still feel it has continued. As a wise friend once said, it is not the destination, but the journey or the process that is important. As a society, we’ve closed ourselves to being okay with emergence, a theme that continuously seems to be challenging me after the Camino de Santiago. What would our education systems look like if we simply supported, but watched a child grow and learn at their own pace? As nature does, what if we stepped back and allowed ourselves to flourish without resistance and fear?
I’ve realized nature will always be my teacher and is the sole teacher to humanity as well. As we evolve as a species and watch ourselves breaking the earth with modified and “smarter” techniques, we will continuously come back to the root of ourselves and our ecosystem. We will return to learning and healing from nature just as our ancestors and indigenous cultures have been doing for centuries. The nature that we will learn from, we will realize is within us as well.
There are moments, when we listen carefully and silently, that we hear our voice of truth or inner wisdom speaking to us. I believe this is our nature, the same nature we see as the trees, the birds flying in the sky, or clouds moving in the wind. It is the same nature we see at night as we look into the universe and see the moon and the stars.
Nature has further taught me the importance of emergence and to trust. I think it’s a practice to accept that life isn’t linear, although we like to believe it is. Since I was young, I liked to have a plan. For as long as I can remember, there was always a wanting to have a linear journey. Driven out of fear or doubt, it was professional, personal, or both. Timelines, I realized, don’t always work for life.
There is something about walking for so many days around an ecosystem of species that blossomed so organically, just as we did as mankind. Just as it is supposed to, nature takes its course, with no rush or fear in the process. Simply and silently ‘being’, it takes its course despite all the complex processes taking place simultaneously.
In life, we often face difficult phases. We forget to listen to ourselves or are stuck between matters of the mind and heart. In the moment, it’s hard to make sense of our intuition, of our soul’s calling. It might not make sense to you or the rest of our world, but there might be a wisdom within it, beyond what we can comprehend with our human minds.
There have been many moments where I have felt this calling, but felt a force just as powerful pulling me in another direction. Just as nature does, we are capable of hearing that wisdom through the silence we hold within. Sometimes it doesn’t have to make complete sense.
As my dear friend Judy puts it “Feeling something may be the proof of its existence, don’t try to understand it now”.
In balance with my intellect, I’ve started to challenge myself to think with my heart. Through this process, I’ve felt resistance, but have also found new doors opening. Sometimes they lead me towards discomfort and confusion, but sometimes towards a deeper clarity. Through it all, there will always be greater forces at play. We can know that uncertainty will loom in the horizon. However, as nature is patient, so are we. I'm on a journey of letting my inner wisdom guide me. Through it, I've watched myself struggle and fall, but have also fallen into harmony with life. When we understand that all things pass, we learn to let go, go with the flow, and watch as new doors open.