STORIES IN THIS ISSUE:
- STORIES: WHAT PEREGRINOS DO AFTER A PILGRIMAGE
- ESSAY: PADAKUN’S NEXT STEPS
- THEORY: TOWARDS A THEORY OF THE SPACE OF CONTEMPLATIVE WALKING
- FORMS: PILGRIMAGE THERAPY
INTRO ESSAY: NEW TRAILS
The first snowfall covers multi-coloured leaves on every path, the sun is lower in the sky and the whole landscape is now more mono-chrome. Many of us name Fall as our favourite season – partly for these (now past) magical colours, partly because it is a relief from the heat and humidity and perhaps because it is when we cling to the final delights before winter closes in. Its the end of something before we settle in and wait for the new birth of the next Spring.
For us at Padakun this is also a time of ending, change and preparation for the new. We began this project, a unique exploration of walking and contemplation nearly ten years ago. A few years ago we proposed the Five Paths of our inquiry – personal stories, forms, context, theory and action. We rejected the idea that walking was just an incidental variation in the many forms of contemplation, like sitting and chanting. We believed then, as we do today, that contemplation while walking is related to contemplation while sitting, but that the act of walking changes how we engage in contemplation, especially how it confronts us with our bodily experience and our engagement with the environment of the walk in ways that are lost in sitting practice.
In the Spring of this year, while researching the many excellent and provocative writings of the movement known as “psycho-geography”, we came to some further refinements in how we see our endeavour and the requisite methodologies. In this issues’ Essay we present our latest reflections on this relationship. Finally, our study of the past year has taught us about the value of shifting our focus. As we find on the trail, there are trail intersections that recommend we change direction in search of different adventures than we originally sought out. In our feature article, Towards a theory of the space of walking contemplation, we present some new theoretical considerations on walking and contemplation and methodologies which will become our future trails.
One other reading this issue is What Peregrinos Do After A Pilgrimage, the follow-up reflections of our four pilgrims who completed the Camino Portuguese in the Spring. This writing became voice-recorded and incorporated into our multi-media piece, The Pilgrim Show. This 45-minute blend of images, voice and music tries to go beyond the usual format of a travelogue about the Camino and transform it into an extended reflection on what the experience meant for the four of us. By the way, we’ve been showing this show around the Valley and are available to present it elsewhere. Contact Ray if you are interested.
People often cite pilgrimage as having some healing quality. In our piece, Pilgrimage Therapy, we introduce a few recent books which help you understand what can be gained through an extended walk.
1. STORIES: WHAT PEREGRINOS DO AFTER A PILGRIMAGE
It is often written that what occurs following a pilgrimage is as potent as the pilgrimage itself. The walk may be complete but the inner journey continues as we process all the joy and despair we may experience over an extended and demanding walk. The momentum of nearly a million steps imprints the journey on the heart and soul, and calls us to look for the next adventure. In the previous issue we posted four commentaries from our quatro peregrinos, we four friends who each walked our own variation of the Camino da Costa. We each made our way home to Canada and, to no one’s surprise, we each unfolded our Camino experience in a different way. Here are some notes of each of us.
Dunja K: Back on the Path
A veteran pilgrim, Dunja returned home expecting to be consumed with home renovations and re-building her family home in Toronto’s East end. Her post-Camino time was taken up with being a Toronto tour guide to some older relatives and preparations for the disruptions that come with a complete reconstruction of her family home.
Within a few weeks it became clear that the family’s plan for house chaos was not going to happen. Ever resilient and ever the pilgrim, Dunja announced she would lace up again and do her third walk of the Camino Frances.
After returning home in early June, in early August she wrote:
…I bit the bullet and am going to do the Frances for the 3rd and final time as a solo traveller. I leave Aug 25 for Paris and will be home Oct 4 in time for a wedding and Thanksgiving. ..This is all about timing. I never had a plan to do this and especially so soon. I was expecting to be busy in September and as the house project isn’t happening, I have the time. If I don’t do it now it will be years (and) I’ve also always wanted to do all seasons. The first Camino was in the fall, the second spring and now late summer. This decision was the hardest one ever around a Camino. I literally jumped in the first time – when I knew nothing. Ignorance is bliss. I’ve been stewing about this for days. I thought I would feel better booking but still have anxiety.
We are pleased to report that Dunja’s decision was correct in so many ways. As she returned home again recently, she has been describing this as her “best Camino ever”.
Joanna Z: Endings and A New Journey
Our other veteran of both Caminos and the Iberian region was Johanna. As with Dunja, this was her first go at the Camino Portuguese. As she wrote in her previous piece, she struggled with the decision to do this Camino because she was aware that the brother she was supporting in his final months of cancer treatment might not live through the months she was away. As it turned out he did survive for another few months, dying in early October.
Johanna, like Dunja, often remarks on the call of the Camino and envisions her return. So potent is this vision that she has decided to promote a return to some portion of the Portuguese Camino in the Spring of 2019. She doesn’t see herself as a travel agent, but more like a Camino-coach – someone who can assist others both here in Renfrew and on the Camino path itself.
Johanna is an accomplished writer, with a novel, When The Light Enters, and a popular Valley column in the Eganville Leader to her credit. Not surprisingly, she found her Camino experience rich with material for a next novel. As she describes it, it will unfold the decision to do and the progress on the Camino by a Valley widow reviewing her own life situation. With her sharp eye for outer detail and inner questioning, this will be a wonderful novel for Camino afficianados.
Lara M: Power and Promise
Anyone who knows Lara knows she is a walker. A fitness instructor, poling trainer and advocate, she has hiked coast-to-coast in Canada. The Portuguese Camino marked both her first pilgrimage and her first exploration of Europe. For her, the Camino was a magical entree to the European landscape and cultures from all over the continent and the world. Like so many pilgrims, it seemed every time we crossed paths, she was in the company of someone from yet another background.
With her return home she carried stories and resources on a vast number of future possibilities for such a passionate walker. She seemed most animated by the prospect of some of the paths in Ireland, which boasts at least 12 well known pilgrimage routes. As with all of us, Lara was intrigued by stories from our Dutch pilgrim acquaintances. Holland and the Netherlands are possibly the most walker-friendly places in the world, with hundreds of routes and levels of accommodation.
Ray P: Healing and Rededication
Ray has walked all over Eastern North America and several places in Europe and Asia and this was his first Euorpean pilgrimage. A passionate fan of Portuguese culture -music, food, wine – this was his second trip there. He had persistent knee and ankle problems on this Camino and these limited his daily walks. Nevertheless,ever the determined walker, he added the Camino Finisterre to his path once the group arrived in Compostella.
On his return home he thought purchasing a new bicycle might be a good activity variation to give his legs some time to recover. Frustratingly, he experienced a fall on this new bike, breaking a rib and forcing him to actually slow down and recover properly.
Fully recovered now he is back on the local walking trails with his much loved dogs and is preparing to return to Portugal in early 2019 for an extended exploration, this time in the Lisbon and Coimbra areas, and a longer stay on the island of Madeira.
In collaboration with Johanna, he created The Pilgrim Show, a 45 minute multi-media show about the group’s Camino experience. This features over 400 photos, music, text messages and the voices of the group commenting on their experience. He is currently presenting this at local libraries and community venues. He is also joining Johanna in promoting the idea of a bringing together ex-pilgrims in the Renfrew County area to share their experience and assist newcomers learn more. One possibility they are exploring is establishing a Valley chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims.
2. ESSAY: PADAKUN’S NEXT STEPS
Regular Padakun readers know we embrace trail imagery to describe our own process. Now, nearly a decade later, with several important pilgrimage-like journeys under our belts, our first book and this PADometer magazine describing our ideas, we find ourselves some distance down that trail, in a clearing, as it were. Like an walker at a clearing or crossroad we’re wondering where our next steps need to go.
In 2018 we began to identify with a social science-type research centre model. We designated the Five Trails, which identified five possible explorations, namely:
- developing and presenting original theory about contemplative walking;
- sharing current and historical experiences of contemplative walkers;
- examining the “contextual dynamics” of contemplative walking;
- cultivating and training in the forms and practices of contemplative walking; and
- developing and promoting applications of walking for social action and change.
We have tried to visit all of these in our research and this magazine. Now tw0 factors have brought us to the clearing and the questions.
The first factor is the sheer volume of trying to track all five topics. Initially, we felt there was a limited source of material on walking. We have been reading broadly and are pleasantly surprised to conclude the volume of material is much greater than we first thought. This means, with our limited resources of time and energy, we need to shift from wide to deep in our research.
The second factor has been most disorienting. This mind-turning point came from the ideas presented in the book, Walkscapes: Walking As An Aesthetic Practice, by Italian architect and founder of the artistic and nomadic research group, Stalker, Francesco Careri. Careri describes how walking has been in the centre of the most provocative artistic movements of Europe and North America over the past 100 years. Starting with the Dada movement in France, into the Surrealists and Situationists, the Land Art movement in the USA, and much more, walking has shaped the aesthetic sensibilities of generations of artists.
Without trying to detail or explain what Careri does such an admirable job, his work, and that of the the English Psych-geography Movement (people like Will Self) demonstrated that the psychology of consciousness and general social science approach which had shaped Padakun from the outset was unnecessarily limiting. We had been working, as most of social science does, from assumptions that contemplation was a particular kind of mental and/or cognitive activity, that it took on a variety of forms, which include walking and has certain social implications and contexts. We now come to consider that walking and contemplation have an aesthetic or artistic dimension. We have come to consider that walking activity, when done purposeful and not distractedly, is a part of how humans assert meaning in and about their natural world. And most importantly, as we detail more in the other essay in this issue on our theoretical musings about walking and contemplation, walking is more than a form of contemplative activity, it generates contemplative activity and exposes the space in which contemplation takes place.
We have come to appreciate that the work of Padakun can be added to the agenda of social science, especially to the field of consciousness studies. However, if we follow Careri and others and our challenge as an aesthetic one, we are directed down a radically different trail.
Unlike a standard social science research initiative, where gathering data, proposing theory and the other of our previously articulated Five Trails, we are less preceded by other work. Our prior academic and scientific mentors follow predictable paths. It would be like hiking along the Camino where millions have preceded our steps and validated the way. If we are to take a more aesthetic and meaning-making trail, we have fewer predecessors. The trail we embark on becomes more like a roughed-out path, not yet mapped and not yet secure.
Consequently, we are refining our idea of the Padakun project. From here we will let go of the prospects of becoming a “research centre” for now. In its place we are now simply Padakun: Contemplation and Walking. Since we are guided by the concept of the space of contemplation, rather than the forms or experiences of walking, we turn to two disciplines which have engaged with physical space for our methods. This apparently odd pair of partners are actually somewhat connected ones – namely cartography and, more generally, visual arts.
We will turn to visual arts, such as sculpture, photography, video and painting because they have always been concerned with representing space, primarily physical spaces, such as landscapes. These disciplines have explored concrete dimensions of space, such as perspective and shape. They have also explored abstract dimensions such as movement, time and symbols. Visual arts have already explored non-physical space, such as the work of the Dadaists, Surrealists and others in exploring dream-states. Contemporary technologies, such as video, animation and virtual reality are pushing further into non-physical spaces and can offer us a great deal in understanding the non-physical space of contemplation.
While it may not seem at first an obvious choice, cartography does lend itself to our needs. Of course it grew from the early social needs to understand the planet, giving access and routes to new regions as they were discovered. However, at its core, cartography, that is the making of maps is the discipline for describing space. There is no reason why it cannot aid our inquiry into a space of reflection. In fact, we are discovering that we already have such maps as models. In particular we consider mandalas, pilgrimage and labyrinth, and “song lines” as examples of maps of the spaces of consciousness and contemplation. We note too, how these examples are intimately connected to walking.
We are not yet clear how this will evolve over coming months and years, except it will be less of the kind of social science investigation and reporting used to date. It is more likely to use visual media and explore the contemplative “ maps” mentioned above. The first change will be the conclusion of this PADometer magazine. In 2019 we will use our blog site (http://www.padakun.com/ ) somewhat differently, featuring some of the same reporting and commentary, but with more links to other projects which we or others have used to explore contemplative space.
Ray will be taking some time off for a couple of parallel creative projects.
The first is the final publication of A Path Through Red Maples: A Dharma Writer’s Life . This will be a collection of writing drawn from Ray’s nearly 50 years of writing about Buddhist teaching and will include talks, conference presentations and many of his Ask The Religion Experts columns.
The other is his first novel, On Entering and Leaving the Phantom City. This speculative fiction work will use the idea of a “phantom city” as described in the parable of the same name in the 7th chapter of the Buddhist work, The Lotus Sutra. The story follows the lives of a young paleo-geographer, her assistant, their professor and a mysterious guide who helps them in their search for a city which appears and disappears unpredictably in Sri Lanka.
This novel typifies the new direction for Padakun in that it concerns itself with maps, identity and the play of delusion/illusion. It moves across history and geography, exploring our search for what the Phantom City parable calls a space of rest and re-orientation to our spiritual aspiration.
Once these works are completed, hopefully by mid-year, Padakun will announce our next exploration of walking and contemplation.
Thanks for your support and interest so far. We’ll meet again soon on the trail. Walk On!
3. THEORY: TOWARDS A THEORY OF THE SPACE OF CONTEMPLATIVE WALKING
MapMyWalk (https://www.mapmywalk.com/) is just one of many apps walkers use to track where, how far or how fast they walk, as well as heart rate, number of steps and more. For another more specialised app, WalkMe ( http://walkmeguide.com/en/ ):
… aims to be a guide to all hikers in the Portuguese island of Madeira, providing more than 50 trails with updated information… the app you need to unleash your explorer’s spirit and come discover the natural wonders of Madeira Island!
These apps along devices like FitBit trackers (https://www.fitbit.com/en-ca/home ) which boasts it
…. motivates you to reach your health and fitness goals by tracking your activity, exercise, sleep, weight and more…. are some of the ways we use to cultivate motivation and success for our recreational walking. Their common starting point is that walking occurs in a measurable physical space, one which can be and has been substantially mapped and described for us.
At Padakun we recognize that contemplation will always have a physical setting and we continue to propose a non-physical walking space, that is, what we can call “contemplative space”. We assert that, as walkers walk the physical landscape, they generate for themselves a unique mental-spiritual mindscape wherein they also engage in their various contemplative activities.
Try this for your self. Begin walking and attend to what is around you, trees and sky, maybe sunlight, maybe snow, maybe water. As you walk the colours, sounds, smells and sights circle around you and you experience your own location in that landscape. Then, introduce a simple contemplative activity, say attending to breath or feeling the contact of feet during each step. Immediately, that physical awareness blinks into a different kind of space of awareness. You will remain aware of the sights and sounds, however, they withdraw into the background and you are enveloped by another kind of space, where breath awareness or step-awareness dominate. This points to contemplative space. As the contemplative activity deepens, this space becomes more evident and the physical less so.
As explained in this Issue’s Essay, we find the most compelling questions include:
what kind of contemplative experience or “space” do we enter when we walk ?;
how might we describe or map these spaces ?;
are there maps which different cultures have developed for contemplation and walking?;
if what we call landscape is a construct superimposed on physical or natural space, do we also construct contemplative landscapes?; and
what might be the relationship between the physical and the contemplative spaces or landscapes?
For the most part, the idea of a contemplative space is used by architects, planners and psychologists to refer to some physical site which supports human contemplative activity. Parts of churches, chapels and other institutional buildings, certain gardens or parks, such as the traditional Japanese tea house, all can be considered as appropriate settings. These disciplines imagine that contemplation is an interior activity that is in some way shaped by a physical form and located in a supportive physical space.
To repeat, Padakun proposes that when we walk, especially using a set of specific forms, like pilgrimage, Buddhist kinhin, or prayer-walks, that activity also generates and inhabits some contemplative space. We inhabit and cross it, in a way parallel to any physical space. The inner activity we call contemplation accesses and moves through this contemplative space.
As mentioned in the Introduction, we suggest that different religious traditions have created “maps” to guide the contemplative. The most visible example are the symbols used in Asia known as mandala (or mandara in Japanese). We usually think of these meaning-rich images as guides for ritual or meditative activity rather than maps. However, we can ask “what is a map?” A dictionary definition says:
A map is a diagram or collection of data showing the spatial arrangement or distribution of something over an area.
Many things are “mapped”, from electrons to genes to marketing territory. For contemplative space, we can understand mandalas as arrangements of phenomena within a non-physical space, an arrangement which guides our mental movement in a structured and purposeful way. A mandala is a map for a spiritual or contemplative journey, and as a guide to a journey is not that different from any map of any terrestrial region. It still describes the territory, implies routes and guides us to get from here to there.
Twentieth century semantics philosopher, Alfred Korzbyski , is quoted as saying “the map is not the territory” , that is, we use language to paint a picture of our world, but that image is not the world. The image is shaped and conditioned by how we see, what we value, and so on. For our purposes, we always bear in mind that there is a vast indescribable space, physical and contemplative, where we enter and experience our reflective and contemplative activities. How we experience it will always be filtered by our cognitive, physical and spiritual limits. Nonetheless, we can, have and will continue to generate “maps” of that territory because they assist us in our contemplative journey. It is these maps which we want to identify, describe and examine. They will suggest paths, routes and itineraries for our spiritual and contemplative activity.
4. FORMS: PILGRIMAGE THERAPY
Perhaps the most-often posed questions asked of pilgrims before, during and after their pilgrimage is some version of “why are you doing this?” Almost as often, the answer is some form of a claim to healing. As Camino legend, John Brierly, says:
Why am I doing this? …We both give and receive healing on the journey…
We already understand that healing and health are two sides of the coin, and health has dimensions of body, mind and spirit. Therapy in relation to health can be defined as …
a treatment of dysfunction or disorder, using some remedial, rehabilitating, or curative process. Therapy can also manifest a curative or healing power.
Physiotherapy is a very common example for physical conditions, while we use psychotherapy for conditions of mind and mood. Then, we can ask whether walking, and especially pilgrimage walking can have some therapeutic value.
Therapy is not a procedure or an intervention, but an on-going and purposeful process and the person undergoing therapy is not a passive target, but an active participant. We “have” surgery” or “radiation”, but we “do” therapy. If walking or pilgrimage has therapeutic value it occurs through our walking.
There are already well-researched physical health benefits from walking, as we documented in Walk Like A Mountain, and, as we also noted there, the exploration of the mental health benefits of walking are less studied or documented. It often gets rolled in with research into exercise in general. The body of research into pilgrimage walking as a therapy is even more recent, but growing.
Here we need to sidestep slightly to remind ourselves that pilgrimage is not only a walking practice. Pilgrims do certainly walk, however, pilgrimage is done walking, bike-riding, on horseback, on a motor-cycle, pushed in a wheel-chair and even in a baby-stroller. It can be facilitated by car, bus and, apparently in some cases on the Japanese Shikoku pilgrimage, by helicopter ! For our purposes,we will conflate walking and pilgrimage, and consider just that as a therapeutic activity.
Veteran Canadian Camino-walker, Diane Homan has pointed to therapy in a broad way in her 2017 book, Walk Your Own Camino: Themes and Variations along the Camino de Santiago. This easy-to-read and highly personalized book is sectioned off into 19 variations on the Camino. These include The Meditation Camino, The Health Care Camino, The Life and Death Camino and the Lay Down Your Burden Camino. Her format is to capture mini-vgnettes of pilgrim experiences she gleaned from her own on-the-path encounters.
If the well-worn saying “Do your own Camino” is true, that is amply represented by Homan’s pilgrims. Her pilgrims are walkers in the concluding stages of terminal illness, people burnt out by corporate lives and disappointing relationships and pilgrims discovering how they are distant from their own lives. What she captures is the many variations on what “your own Camino” can mean, and also what healing can be in different lives. Homan’s portraits are a great scan of the multiple ways we can understand the connection between pilgrimage and healing.
A second pair of deeply personal pieces are the two works of American retired speed-walker, Carolyn Kortge. Back in 1998 she produced The Spirited Walker: Fitness Walking For Clarity, Balance, and Spiritual Connection and then in 2010 it was Healing Walks for Hard Times: Quiet Your Mind, Strengthen Your Body, and Get Your Life Back. It is the second which interests most here. The difference is explained in two words: breast cancer. The Healing Walks title comes from Kortge’s own challenge in treatment for and rehabilitation following breast cancer. In Healing Walks, she presents a simple and multi-layered 8-week program to complete “walking therapy”. The program includes increasing distance and a variety of contemplative activities to perform while walking.
Another title is Walking Your Blues Away: How to Heal the Mind and Create Emotional Well-Being by Thom Hartmann, an award-winning author of numerous books on subjects as different as corporate America and ADHD. This book offers a new approach to using walking to heal emotional trauma and bring forth optimal mental functioning. It calls walking a “bilateral therapy” in that it allows people to heal emotionally as quickly as they do physically by engaging the two sides of the brain , to unlock natural states of optimal function and creativity. Hartmann examines how memory works and why emotional shock can resist normal healing. He found that the simple act of walking is effective in treating emotional disturbances ranging from temporary upsets and problems to chronic conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Like Kortge, Thom offers contemplative exercises to perform while walking.
If you want a more critical , less bright and cheery view of walking therapy for Camino walkers, a fascinating book of articles, The Many Voices of Pilgrimage and Reconciliation, edited by Ian S McIntosh, distinguishes between pilgrimages of old and the modern phenomenon of Camino walking. It describes the modern secular pilgrimage as “salutogenesis” (great new word!) , that is, it initiates healthful conditions. It outlines current research on the topic, with both supportive and negative opinions. Unfortunately this book, both in print and e-book formats, is horrendously expensive ($125.00), but excerpts can be seen online.