Finding Love on the Camino

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My favorite Camino buddy. He gave me kisses when I was having a particularly rotten morning.

Today, a work colleague asked me if I could boil down what I’d learned on the Camino into a simple statement or two. Of course I couldn’t, because I just got back, and I’m still absorbing all of the lessons that fell in my lap while I was walking 500 miles through Spain. However, I took a few minutes to tell her what I was thinking about today, and it was a good thought, so I figured I’d share it here with you, too. Here’s what I wrote:

“In regards to boiling down lessons learned on the Camino, I heard this amazing quote near the end of the trip that really resonated with me: ‘Every encounter is an encounter with yourself.’ I met so many interesting people from all over the world, some of whom I’m sure will be lifelong friends. You can get surprisingly close in a very short amount of time when your only duties are to walk, eat, and sleep.

I was reading The Dalai Lama’s Cat a little at a time, and happened upon the concepts that we’re all made of love, and that true happiness comes from being good to others. [I already knew that I liked to be nice to other people, and that serving others made me feel good.] But what I hadn’t realized before I left is how little I showed love and compassion to myself on a regular basis.”

One of the behaviors I started to realize in myself while walking is my great love of animals, and a need to seek them out on the Camino. I had some really intense interactions with all kinds of pets and livestock on The Way, and it became apparent to me that for me, having a good day was dependent on having these conversations with horses, feeding starving dogs, and giving belly rubs to barn cats. Eventually it started to dawn on me that this love I felt the need to shower on my animal friends was something that I desperately needed to be able to show myself, and that in these encounters I was giving back to me in the only way my subconscious knew how. Once that dawned on me, I started trying to apply that same rule to my human companions (sans belly rubs), and ended up getting the first hints of a message that I’m only now starting to really soak in and figure out.

In short, I learned that I am both capable of giving, and worthy of receiving, boundless love and kindness. Silly me, not looking more deeply into the words of St. Francis – “Grant that I may not so much seek to be loved as to love” – in the first place. Now it’s time to start gluing my thoughts together and making a better, stronger life out of what I’ve learned.

Photography Friday! Week 4 – Iron Man, Star Trek & A Sand Mandala

Home on Friday night, fighting off a horrible hacking cough and nursing a migraine while my friends are out at a pub crawl/going away party. I won’t bother to pretend that I was looking forward to bouncing from bar to bar tonight, but I was psyched for a chance to go to the only male strip club in town, just for shits and giggles. I’m 99% sure I would have been grossed out (after all, what’s attractive about guys in man panties?) but still. Anyway, I’m going to keep this short, since the bright white light of the WordPress backend is making my face want to split in two right now.

Saturday, May 11th was a very busy day. I went running, got a great massage that has kept my back pain at bay for almost a week now (!!!), ate a great sushi lunch, then met up with my coworkers for an event called the Champagne Stroll on Magazine Street. Afterwards, we all went bar hopping, and then my friend Gary and I went to see The Essentials play at this club called The Maison.

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Sunday, May 12th was low key. I woke up to a lovely bath from Murph (really a reminder that his food bowl was almost empty – he only “loves” me when he needs something), then later walked through the CBD to the movie theater to see Iron Man 3. I’m one of the minority who happen to not hate Gwyneth Paltrow, so for me, Pepper Pots is one of the best things about the Iron Man series. There was one particular scene in this last installment that made me cry for happiness. I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it, but it’s a small part of a pivotal action scene, where you see that even though Tony has been consumed by his work as of late, he didn’t neglect to take every precaution to make sure his most precious asset, Pepper, would be safe. Yes, I’m a total sap. Sue me.

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The remainder of an old building facade in the CBD.

Monday, May 13th I watched workmen putting some of the finishing touches on the building that houses Peche, the new Donald Link restaurant at the corner of Magazine & Julia Streets. I also discovered that you can revive wilted asparagus by snipping off the ends and putting the stalks in water overnight! It’s a miracle! I was also in a short video about the nature of sanity.

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Watch "You Are Insane" here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-Y-fADJJm0

Watch You Are Insane. It’s weird, and smart. 

On Tuesday, May 14th I was in a bad mood most of the day. I was in a bad mood most of the week, but I was also very tired, which later I found out was because I was getting sick. Sick sucks. Anyway, I walked around in the CBD in search of the elusive UPS Store (which I guess is hidden inside the Roosevelt Hotel, but I never found it). On my journey, I found this lovely sign that reminded me to chill the eff out.

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Wednesday, May 15th was all about going to see Star Trek Into Darkness – whoot! I went with Gary and Nathan from work, plus six or seven of Nathan’s friends from Mississippi. We saw it at the IMAX in 3D, and even got a free commemorative poster that glows in the dark. So cool. True to form, I forgot to take photos at the event, but I did take some cute snapshots of Nathan’s two dogs, Otis and Nola, beforehand.

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Sweet and ever-happy Nola.

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Otis is honestly one of the cutest dogs I’ve ever met. He’s such an optimist – he thinks that everyone has ham for him. Maybe because most people do 🙂

Last night, (Thursday, May 16th) my friend Caroline and I went to watch the Tibetan Buddhist monks construct a portion of the sand mandala. It was gorgeous, and my photos do it no justice. I’ll have to write more about it in another post, because the coughing is back and I kind of want to wrap this up.

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The sands & tools used by the monks.

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They worked in silence, with such confidence.

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The item in the monk’s left hand is a long funnel-like tool, full of colored sand. It has ridges along the top, and the monk is holding a wand-like tool in his right hand that he rubs over the ridges. The vibrations make the sand flow out of the end of the funnel almost like water. It’s a very precise, calculated set of movements, but the monks are so skilled that they make it seem easy.

I spent most of last night awake, coughing up a lung (or so it seemed). Today I made some changes on my blog – sorry to keep messing about with the template, but the old one was malfunctioning – then Gary and I went down to the convention center to meet up with Caroline and watch the monks destroy the mandala. Unfortunately, the crowd was so thick that I couldn’t really see much, but I did get to hear them chanting and playing instruments. They sound like giant bullfrogs when they chant, and the instruments sounded like 2nd grade music appreciation, but I know that’s just my Western ear. I loved it! Afterward, I bought an altar cloth and a book of the Dalai Lama’s sayings. Tomorrow morning I’ll get to hear him speak in person!

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