The Art of Being Alone with Oneself

I fear the art of being alone with oneself has been lost. Oh, I am no saint! In the evenings I catch up with family via FaceTime, news from the US, and my email, and upload images and blog stories. But during the day on the Camino de Santiago I am alone with me, myself, and I, and my electronic devices are switched off.

Sure, in theory, it would be nice to have an intelligent companion with whom I could exchange a few words now and then. When one of us wanted to dawdle to explore or photograph we could say “catch up at the next coffee spot” or “see you tonight at the Albergo”. But mostly I think a pilgrimage on the Camino should at least partially be a time for meditation and savoring one’s own company.

Bridge Fun © Harold Davis

Many of the walkers I see around me wear headsets or ear buds and are plugged into music and the world. Some speak loudly on the phone. This is of course their right, but they are losing the chance to immerse themselves in their surroundings, and to get to know themselves better. Far more irritating are the large groups, who are constantly chattering to each other and making distracting noises. This behavior seems to cut across genders and nationalities.

Some companies, or fellowships, walking together sing Camino songs. Without understanding the language of the songs—the Camino is a veritable Rosetta stone of languages—it’s hard to be sure, but these basically seem like drinking songs, with the word “Camino” thrown in from time to time.

Today I listened to a group of men with shaved heads walking along, singing Gregorian chants a cappella.

Another way to look at this is part of my meditative discipline of being alone is for me to work to ignore the chattering of crowds! After all, travelers from all parts of the known world have been making this trek for a millennium, generally with tolerance, grace, faith, and good will. This is not a bad model for humanity to follow more generally.

Square in Melide © Harold Davis

Notes: Today I walked from Melide to Arzua. Even after a nice, hot shower I find myself stiff and footsore. The day began with roiling clouds and a stiff breeze. I was pretty sure it would rain before I got here, but my luck held, and the walk—mostly through country lanes and forest paths—was pleasant and dry.

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