Agés to Santo Domingo de Silos
What happens when we are wrongfully accused? This I leave to the reader to resolve – – maybe we should be respectful and sympathetic to the other’s feelings, maybe offer a sincere and heartfelt explanation of the facts as we see them, or plainly listen with sympathy to the other persons views – lending an ear.
Life revolves around apology, forgiveness, gratitude, honesty, respect, tolerance, compassion and love. Are these the major tools to keep relationships on track? I maintain they are the foundation, ingredients and lubricants of a loving relationship and a harmonious life together. These powerful contributors are also what make up integrity; integrity leads to our being grounded, and to confidence – and having confidence leads to relaxation and greater freedom from tension.
Clearly the subject of apology is multifaceted and I am not convinced that our schools could teach it effectively. We probably would need advanced lessons in life as well as a level of maturity to fully comprehend this important topic.
I find the many experiences and incidences on the Camino most fascinating. Both inspire us and hopefully will influence us for long, maybe for eternity. Being stimulated during the Camino walk and, in my case, writing a journal, makes this pilgrimage unforgettable and significant, even without having had a compelling reason to embark on the adventure in the first place.
My encounters of the chanting monks in the monastery in Santo Domingo de Silos were profound, and observing the open and radiant faces of the friars with their friendly demeanour made me realize how peaceful a life of integrity and benevolence can be. It was as if the monks’ inner relaxation was displayed in their expressions, demonstrating that integrity and peace are related and that one cannot be truly relaxed without being centred, having confidence and being ethical.
Dishonesty will always create tension. In this state we search for defensive excuses, hide reality, pursue questionable goals and probably act in a way bullies do. Having a high level of integrity automatically precludes dishonesty and once this level of truth and awareness is achieved, it is ingrained and cannot be dismissed without the feeling that one has violated both oneself and society.
I previously mentioned the extraordinary benefits we enjoy when we first fall in love. Is there a difference between all-embracing human awareness and ‘awareness’ between loving couples? Awareness as experienced between loving couples is purely the flow of attention between two people. This phase, in a healthy relationship, is dominated by enormous goodwill and tolerance and we embrace similarities as well as differences. In fact, differences attract us and are fascinating. The saying ‘love is blind’ applies and if we fail in one way or the other, we are easily forgiven.
This form of awareness on the surface might appear to be just as real as the greater and all-embracing awareness I have been talking about in this book, although it is assigned to the bonding stage of pairing and lacks the all-inclusiveness necessary to bind humanity.
At times my mind sees pictures like the one that follows: the reader might know the plant named ponytail. It has a bulb-shaped base, not dissimilar to a huge onion growing above the soil. Out of the bulb rises a slender stem, about forty centimetre high, and this stem splits into many thin strands that gracefully arch around the bulb – somewhat similar to a ponytail. To me this plant looks harmonious and graceful and I visualise two side by side, representing a loving couple. The tragedy is that parasites or worms sometimes enter a bulb. The rot sets in, spreads, and strands kink. Translated to a human couple, any positive measure of awareness experienced with all its attributes diminishes. The couple grows rigid and grace towards one another, which was previously so rewarding to observe, is lost. The ponytail plant will be rooted out but humans, providing love is still present, can rebuild mindfulness, elevate the benefits of its magic and all that goes with it. The strands will once more arch gracefully.
Through change and with awareness we will understand that it is within us not to be hurt when others trample on us. We will also find that our metamorphosis inevitably relaxes those around us. We will promote tolerance and understanding, not hinder it by taking offence. Having the need to protect ourselves when attacked, even when we ourselves are in the wrong, diminishes. We will recognize the bigger picture and the truth it conveys.
Describing bonding awareness between new couples, and portraying a rather gloomy picture of marriage and partnership is not what lovers want to hear. Nevertheless, relationship change over time is normal and, as previously explained, can be healthy and stimulating. To complete my picture; in a good marriage the bonding phase is followed by the commitment stage with the presence of deep-rooted and mature love. It is on this solid foundation that we master confusion and conflict.
Assuming that most of us have experienced love between sexes, we may conclude that we know what awareness in relation to one another is all about. When we now talk about love that embraces humanity – goodwill to one’s neighbour and respect for oneself – we can connect to past experiences. Remembering those early days might make us search for a similar state of contentment in general life. If we succeed, this all-embracing happiness will be far more enduring than romantic happiness is for most.
My reflective writings have concentrated predominantly on problematic or negative emotions, and this might give the impression that there is no good around and that life is just a slog. The reason for my concentration on negative subjects is quite simple; the good is good and does not need further attention, other than plenty of gratitude. What is good does not create any anxieties and consequently does not disturb us. I confirm wholeheartedly that there is a wealth of good around and I am very thankful for this. Without it, the world would be in a devastatingly tragic state.
Yesterday evening the bus to Santo Domingo del Silos was nearly devoid of passengers: one woman and I were the only commuters from Burgos, another person joined us later. The driver took the direct route along the highway and bypassed most villages. The whole journey took less than one hour. In comparison, the same bus returning to Burgos the next morning was quite full, and we stopped at every settlement on the way. This made the journey far longer.
As the doors opened for me to board the bus, a wall of words gushed out and a male passenger sitting behind the driver jumped up from his seat. I thought he was disembarking but he was just emphasizing a point to his passenger audience. This was repeated many times during the journey until he finally left us in another small and interesting village.
Spain is full of old rural communities and the local folk in these northern regions seem to be ideally suited inhabitants. Almost everyone appears to be short and lean in statue, often with weathered faces and podgy hands and men are perhaps a little stockier than the women. Being close to the Basque region, they probably descended from Basques centuries ago, although nowadays this part of Spain does no longer belong to the Basque province. Nevertheless, they have the fire that characterises the Basques and have no inhibitions expressing themselves. The folk around here are bold, fearless and full of character.