Finding Community Among Tribes of Pilgrims

Note: This is the full version of the article published in the September 2018 newsletter for American Pilgrims on the Camino (See page 14: La Concha).

I was a little nervous when I attended my first Camino chapter event in the spring of 2015. That was when the idea of walking the Camino was daunting, yet surprisingly appealing. Out of my comfort zone, I drove through a tunnel and suburbs to get to a church where the Northern California chapter’s annual shell blessing ceremony was to place.  I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I would be the only newbie, and the activities would be overtly religious. To my surprise, there were a few of us Camino “virgins” there, and nobody preached! But just in case it were to start feeling like a cult, I picked a table by the door.

After lunch, there were presentations and Q & A's about the Camino

My first Camino event on March 28, 2015

The food spread in the potluck brunch was outstanding. Wine, of course, helped break the ice, and there was plenty of it. I learned quickly that pilgrims like to party! After the potluck came the shell blessing and the sharing of stories. These stories were inspiring to me. That was my initiation into the NorCal tribe of pilgrims, and I was hooked.

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What it means to be a UC Berkeley Wellness Ambassador

One of my intentions for 2017 is to serve as a wellness ambassador to help to create a culture of health within the workplace by promoting staff participation in UC Berkeley wellness programs, services, and events.  My colleague Veronica and I were recently featured on UC Berkeley’s Be Well at Work Newsletter and you can read our interview below. Yes, the Camino does come up in one of my responses. It seems that lately more things are a ripple effect of the Camino!

Be Well at Berkeley – March 2017

Veronica and I posting flyers in English and Spanish

Posting flyers in English and Spanish

Laurie and Veronica have always been advocates for fitness both at home and in the workplace, so it was no surprise when they decided to become Wellness Ambassadors for International House. Ever since Laurie started at I-House in 2005, she rallied co-workers to join lunchtime hikes on trails around campus. The camaraderie within this informal hiking club formed many friendships over the years. Last October, Laurie started teaching yoga to staff at lunchtime on Mondays. Veronica joined I-House in 2015 as a Human Resources Assistant. She is often the first person a new employee will encounter, and she makes everyone feel welcome with her positive attitude.

We recently chatted with them to learn how their advocacy for health and wellness have inspired and made a real difference in the lives of others within their department.

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Intentions for 2017

I might be a little delayed in this post as the talk of new year’s resolutions has mostly faded away by now. I do have a good reason: on January 5, I had a minor surgery which forced me to slow down and heal. All is well, and I have recovered rather quickly. However, I believe that it is never too late to set intentions. Each new year gives us the opportunity to set our intentions and reflect on the previous year. My intentions for 2016 included two of my passions: yoga and the Camino, both of which were transformative in different ways. Last year also threw some challenges and surprises my way: the unexpected illness; a change in travel plans; the presidential election results; a rekindling of my faith; and a renewed connection with a family member. I believe it is good to be flexible and not too attached to a particular goal because something better might come along! You can’t go wrong if you follow your heart and listen to your intuition. At the end of this post, I share a few tools that you might find helpful: a five-minute meditation; an article on setting intentions; a spiritual reading; and an intention template that you can download and customize.

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Coming out of the Camino Closet

The Camino has provided in more ways than I could ever imagine, and it keeps providing in the months after my return home. The executive director at my workplace was curious about my Camino as he and his wife have some friends who recently walked the Portuguese coastal route. They also lived in Greece and Germany so were somewhat familiar with the Camino. He surprised me by asking me to give a presentation about my Camino at an all-staff meeting. I was unsure at first because this was a personal journey and I have tried to keep my private life and work separate.

Arrival to work on day 1

Walking to work was great training!

My closest colleagues were familiar with the Camino from hearing me talk about it and seeing me train during lunchtime hikes. I was spotted with all my Camino gear when I walked to work three days in a row. But I was not sure if I could explain the Camino to people who have never heard of it, let alone share my personal experiences in front of a room full of people, many of whom I did not know. Was I ready to come out of the Camino closet?

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Immersing Myself in Yoga

Some of you may know that one of my intentions for 2016 was to start yoga teacher training. I had been meaning to take my yoga practice to the next level for a while, and I believe that teaching yoga could be good for when I’m a hospitalera (volunteer) on the Camino.image

Sometime last year, I watched the YOGAWOMAN documentary and was totally inspired. I was in awe of the women featured in the film who made a difference in communities all around the world. I was particularly impressed by a group that went to Kenya to teach young women how to teach yoga.

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The Here and Now, by James Portelli

Following on “Life Is a Journey,” “Love Your Neighbor,” and “Loving Myself,” this last piece will revolve around my third resolution, that is, “The Here and Now.”

It is often said that if you want to make the Almighty laugh, you should share with him your plans.

Topoftheworld       VoidofDeath

Monuments in the Dom Platzl [Cathedral Square] in Salzburg pictured from left: top of the world and the void of death

There are many sayings, clichés, and words of wisdom about leaving the past behind, not dwelling too much on the future, and concentrating on the present. If that’s the right approach, the words attributed to Marcus Aurelius (120–180 A.D.), “Do every act of your life as if it were your last” (The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations, [New York: Scribner, 2002]), make a lot of sense. We don’t always see it, but it does hit home when, for example, our friends cross off items on their bucket list as they brace themselves for the great beyond.

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My Rekindled Faith

When my mom and I were on our tour in Fátima, Portugal, I had to ask her about something that had bothered me since childhood. When she and my father got a divorce, our neighborhood church turned her away. I couldn’t understand this because my Mormon friends down the street had the support of the entire local Mormon congregation when their parents got a divorce. They brought over casseroles, babysat, and donated clothes and school supplies. By contrast, my mom, who had attended Catholic school and went to church every day, had nobody to help her. That’s the reason why I had resented the Catholic Church for most of my life. Continue reading

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of HappinessToday in the United States, it’s Independence Day, a.k.a. the 4th of July. On this national holiday, we celebrate “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This well-known phrase comes from the United States Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776. We all have different ways of celebrating this day; many gather together with their families, have picnics, and watch fireworks. It’s summertime fun American style.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about independent traveling, specifically about walking Camino de Santiago alone as a female. When my family first heard about my wanting to walk the Camino on my own, they thought I was nuts; my mom in particular was afraid for my safety.

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Mindful Pride in SF

Over the weekend, San Francisco hosted its annual Pride Celebration and Parade. Below you will find some highlights of how SF celebrates Pride and a video about one man’s journey from addiction to mindful meditation. But before you delve into those, here’s a time-lapse video of the Civic Center illuminated with rainbow lights.

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Self-Observation Poem and Camel Pose

Self-Observation Without Judgment

Release the harsh and pointed inner voice.

It’s just a throwback to the past,
and holds no truth about this moment.

Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up
for each imagined inadequacy.

Allow the dialogue within the mind
to grow friendlier, and quiet.

Shift out of inner criticism and life
suddenly looks very different.

I can say this only because I make
the choice a hundred times a day to release the voice that refuses to
acknowledge the real me.

What’s needed here isn’t more prodding toward perfection, but
intimacy – seeing clearly, and embracing what I see.

Love, not judgment, sows the
seeds of tranquility and change.

Danna Faulds, One Soul: More Poems from the Heart of Yoga

Do you have a favorite poem to share for Mindful Monday? Email me or share it in the comments below.

Yoga Pose of the Week

Camel Pose | Ustrasana
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