Puente la Reina, Los Arcos, La Rioja

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Puente la Reina:

Keynote: Clarity
Lightening your energetic load and being clear about whom you travel forward with. Learning discernment about who sees your worth and can actually support your growth.

Puente la Reina is the city where I spent my third night on the trail. Previously I had walked with a man from Denmark who had been part of the original group that I started with on the first day. During this day of walking, I walked ahead when he needed to slow down due to his knees. This departure happened on the outskirts of Pamplona, a city famous for the running of the bulls. This moment of moving ahead was one of clarity. It was a moment when I knew that I needed to keep moving forward and that there were other souls further ahead who could better support me in my journey. Because this man reminded me of a person with whom I hade recently parted, this felt like a big moment for me.

That night in the albergue I met a charming German boy with whom I had much in common. Like myself, he had been a teacher. Like myself he was trying to figure out his life. I was encouraged by my first taste of being with young people. Before this moment, the trail had felt full of older people either on their own or in couples. That evening, before everyone disappeared off to bed, I asked the young man if he would like to walk with me the next day. He told me that would be ok if we woke up around the same time, our pace was the same, and it just happened. “Yea sure, whatever.” he said. This was not the enthusiastic response I was hoping for. If he did not want to make the effort in the smallest way, then I needed to go on and seek people who would. The trail was teaching me discernment about my choices of traveling companions and my worthiness to travel with kindred spirits.

In Puente la Reina, I also lightened my pack by leaving behind my heavy, but brand new sleeping mat. I left it with a gulp in the albergue, but did not miss its weight and bulk on my back for one minute. On the trail everything in one’s pack must be essential. Flushing out all the things that were not needed was a favorite pastime. I found the practice could be almost completely translated to the all the things we carry internally as well. Hence I set off before sunrise in the company of two Italians who spoke not a lick of English, in an effort to lighten all types of loads.

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Los Arcos:

Keynote: Release
Finding the bravery to move ahead on your own and at the same time being open to support from unusual places and activities.

This was a particularly tough stretch of the trail for me. I was traveling with two souls that were very kind but spoke no English. This night we slept in a small town at the base of a beautiful mountain with ruins of a castle on top. The village was nearly deserted. The only life seemed to be the ice cream truck that rolled through town in the afternoon. The castle could be seen from miles off and when it came into view I had one of those experiences of recognition that is core deep, but often completely mysterious. The next morning brought me to another internal crossroads. One of the Italians had left before dawn and the other was having severe problems with his achilles tendon and the dreaded tendonitis, something I also was starting to feel. On the flat and empty plains, covered in nothing but grain as far as the eye could see, I set off walking totally on my own. I was solo for the first time on the trip. When I lost sight of my Italian friend behind me, I knew I was truly in the universe’s hands. What that morning brought was the narrow and winding streets of Los Arcos, the most delicious cookies I have ever eaten in my life, as well as the company of an older German man who wanted to practice his English with me. He shared with me that his mother was named Elizabeth, just like me. These gifts though small, helped me to feel taken care of. I walked on with the growing awareness that the trail would support me along its length.

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La Rioja:

Keynote: Creativity
Discovering your unique autonomy, cultivating your deep creative strengths, and then turning them into assets in obtaining the life you desire.

This essence came from a beautiful and very proud region of La Rioja. This small, but autonomous region is known around the world for its wines. Many hours were spent walking in rust red soil next to the fields where the grapes grew. This summer happened to be one of the rainiest in Spanish history and the trail beside the vineyards was both breathtaking and crazy making, because the mud was thick, wet, and deep. It would cling to the soles of your shoes, and could topple your wobbly balance at any moment. I must admit I took a few not so graceful falls, but I blame it all on my pack. As I encountered clusters of people out in the fields and the occasional lone farmer, it became clear that the grapes were a source of life both economically and spiritually for the people of this region and for that reason the land vibrated with the energy of respect and gratitude.

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