Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Contrary Way - Day 9 A hug from a stranger.

The Contrary Way
An Inspirational Guide to the journey back to yourself.

Day 9 - A hug from a stranger.

Leaving Cebreiro, my favourite place in the whole world, I felt a tiny shift in my perspective. This Camino journey was something I always wanted to do for myself. My interest was always to retrace my steps to return to the place I started. Like the pilgrims of old did. I focused on my journey, my lessons, my experiences and my needs. Today was different. I was intrigued by the pilgrims walking toward me. Looking into their eyes, their faces, their bodies, I saw myself. It was like looking into a mirror. Every emotion I had ever experienced was put in front of me through their presence. To each pilgrim I passed I called out, "Bon Camino."

A man walked toward me with his head down. He had trekking poles and was leaning on them heavily. His knees were stiff and didn't even bend when he walked. He was struggling, trying so hard to put one foot in front of the other. The pain on his face made me want to cry. "Bon Camino," I said. He didn't even raise his head up from looking at the ground and mumbled to me as he passed refusing to make eye contact. I wished I could hug him.

After walking a few more minutes, I paused, facing the east and did a smudge with the sacred Buffalo Sage my friend Sherry gave me before I left. A Korean man stopped and asked what I was going. He had never heard of this ceremony and wanted to partake in it. I explained it to him, smudged around his body and under his feet. He bowed to me in gratitude and then hugged me.

I was at a fork in the road and lost, unsure of which way to go. I sat down in the forest and waited for someone to walk toward me. A Brazilian woman (living in Canada) appeared from the opposite direction and offered her help. I explained that I was walking the return way and until now, I was lost. Because I could see the direction she came from, I would continue on that fork in the road. She nodded and told me about her idea to have a T-shirt made when she gets home that says, "Better to be lost on the Camino than lost in your mind." We both laugh. She hugs me and we part.

The pilgrims are climbing up the steep mountain range as I climb down. They are breathing heavy and I'm not. I feel their struggle and stop to pick up a stone. I put their sorrow into it even though I don't know what their sorrow is. Then I walk for a while and set it down on the path, leaving the sorrow there. I learned this ritual on my first Camino and continue to do it all the time in my life back home. It gives me a place to put my sorrow and the sorrow of others. I start walking again.

A young woman approached me. "What's wrong?" she asks. I explain, once again, that I'm walking the reverse way. She looks directly into my eyes with a clear understanding of what I'm doing and immediately offers to give the 'Apostle a Hug' for me. This is an ancient custom where pilgrims give thanks to all the people on their Camino by offering a hug to the statue of St. James in the Cathedral in Santiago. I thank her. Before she leaves she imparts some words of wisdom. "The most important thing is to be in the present moment." I agree with her wholeheartedly. We hug.

I'm amazed at how easy it is to hug a stranger. At home when I set up a table at the Farmer's Markets in Ontario, I give away stones for free. My intention is to listen to stories and tell stories. Selling books and DVD's is just a bonus. Often strangers will hug me. Sometimes I ask if I can hug them. It feels so good.

What's in a hug? Have you ever hugged a stranger? Would you ever hug a stranger?
Go out and hug someone you don't know. Hug someone you know too.

Tomorrow is about keeping a promise.

Hugs to you.
Love and light,


Author of Canadian best-selling book My Camino presently in development as a feature film.www.suekenney.caFacebook My Camino/SuseyaTwitter CaminoPeregrina

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