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  • Writer's pictureDiem Burden

Lightening your load on the Camino de Santiago

At the end of that first day, when you stagger into your first stop, after that long and difficlut, walk over the Pyrennes, hungry, hurting and relieved, you feel every burden on your back and shoulders, relentlessly cutting into you, holding you down, pressing you into the earth. Surely you're not going to make it...?

Then, miracoulsly, as the days pass by, your load gets lighter. The weight holding you down is slowly cast aside with each step, with each smile, with each hug, with each adult stranger who opens their heart to you, with that skipping baby cow in the field, with the beauty of that landscape, with that food, that little church, with those pilgrims in the bar last night, with that local person who gave me a bed when there were no beds available, with that person who prayed over me, with that passing local who gave me a bottle of water for free in the midday heat, that free footbath, with that trestle table full of free food and drink, left there by an old man simply because he can, by that guitarist sitting under that tree, that bible verse etched into a rock with the words you needed to hear at that time, that stranger helping you put your backpack on, that person who hugged you when you cried, that stranger who gave you those words of encouragement just when you were ready to quit, those children playing in that plaza last night without a care in the world, still undamaged by life, that kitten, that sense of God on the camino, that memorial to that fallen pilgrim, that nun with that wicked sense of humour, that silence, that laughter, that love, that camino ...

A hug on the Camino de Santiago
A hug on the Camino de Santiago

When you arrive at your final destination, most of the guilt your have been carrying along the camino, that shame, that pain, that heartache, that trauma, that unforgiveness, those fears, that loneliness, those crisises, that loss, that grief, that anger, those frustrations, all of those scars of a life lived, all of those wounds, all having been opened to the fresh air of the camino, have healed, and have been left behind on the camino, and you are so so much lighter now.

You have survived...

But maybe you still carry something, something so deep and persistent that you were unable to leave it behind on your pilgrimage? Yet you know now that you are so much stronger than you were at the beginning, you are so different now. You know now that you can carry that burden, you are strong enough to face it down now. In fact, it is what made you who you are today. It is what brought you to the camino in the first place, and it is an integral part of who you are.

You are a survivor...

Bible verse on a stone, "By His wounds you have been healed."

Far from letting this thing continue to define and confine you, you are now ready to face it, to deal with it. You are ready to wear it like a badge of honour, a medal of strength and courage, that thing so deep and dark and traumatic. You now have the strength to walk with your head held high once again.

You are a survivor. You are a pilgrim.

You have the strength to take it back home with you, because you are different now. You are ready to use that scar to help others overcome and survive their scars, just as you have survived, against the all the odds.

You are so much stonger than you know.

You are loved.

You are that survivor.

Your true camino has only just begun.

Buen camino, pilgrim.

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