I don't believe I understood the initiatory journey that many consider the Camino de Santiago until I superimposed the Game of the Goose onto my own experience of walking the Camino Francés last fall.
The Camino Francés is one of the most popular routes of the Camino de Santiago, a network of pilgrimage paths leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. Stretching about 780 kilometers (485 miles) from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Santiago, the Camino Francés has been traveled by pilgrims for centuries. It's celebrated for its stunning landscapes, historical sites, and the sense of community among walkers.
The Game of the Goose, also called "El Juego de la Oca" in Spanish, is a traditional board game that originated in Europe. The game consists of a spiral track with 63 spaces, and players move their pieces based on dice rolls. Some spaces have specific rules, such as sending the player back or forward additional spaces. The game's journey, filled with chance and unpredictability, is often likened to life's journey or a spiritual pilgrimage.
I came away from the Camino with a certain earned wisdom. I did not find out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life on the Camino, but I did learn 'how' I wanted to live whatever I do choose to do.
The 'what' is what I have been calling, but never naming, 'My Next Santiago.'
The 'how' is with contemplative walking, meaningful conversation, and mindful creation, all bookmarked by my morning routine and a bedtime meditation. These practices, developed for and practiced on the Camino, support the hard-won personal philosophy I've developed, which I like to call a Modern Stoicism, informed by my Christian heritage.
Stoicism is an ancient Greek/Roman philosophy that emphasizes virtue, wisdom, and self-control. Some of its specific practices include:
Memento Mori: A practice of reflecting on mortality to focus on what truly matters in life.
Contemplation of the Sage: Imagining how a wise person would handle a situation, aiming to emulate that behavior.
View from Above: Visualizing one's life from a high, distant perspective to gain a broader understanding of one's place in the universe.
Premeditatio Malorum: The premeditation of evils or obstacles, to prepare oneself for possible challenges and maintain equanimity.
In support of my practice of mindful creation, I have been exploring writing, picking up the guitar again, and Urban Sketching.
I took a leap of faith to further my journey with Urban Sketching, signing up for the New Masters Academy.
Lo and behold, the first assignment was to write my personal artist's thesis. I approached it with gusto as if it were going to be a real thesis, for a grade, as I am accustomed to doing with most everything I care about. I wrote it and have been editing it for two weeks now.
After writing this piece, I will need to edit it again, before turning it in. I learned a few things about myself in the process. I ended up with the title, "My Next Santiago." That feels right. I hear the call. I heeded the call by signing up for the 4-Year Complete Art School Experience.
Art School is a long-term commitment that will require 10-20 hours a week of my time over the next 4-5 years.
I turn 60 this year. This very well may be my last significant transformational journey. It had better be good, right?
As I contemplate this endeavor, one of the projects I want to do is to illustrate my own version of the Game of the Goose, but with the Camino de Santiago as its theme.
All of the literature I read portrays the first 32 spaces on the game board as the journey to Santiago and the next 31 taking the players to the Grand Goose, or home again.
My epiphany came this morning in the predawn, liminal space I often walk between unconscious sleep and conscious wakefulness. Space 63, the Grand Goose, is home. The physical Santiago is not represented with a square where it really goes in the overall journey. It would be square 33. But no, you have to continue to space 63, which is symbolic of returning home, and that is where you find the illustration of Santiago.
My Next Santiago is walking home after having reached Santiago. That home is where I find my integrated being. My integrated being is who I want to be, being who I was meant to be.
I have had glimpses of that experience while sketching. To quote from a piece I wrote about it:
"I believe the Camino is a metaphor for life, and Sketching is a metaphoric practice for paying attention and experiencing the world around us and celebrating being alive. The Sketcher becomes part of what they are sketching. When the Sketcher is present in this way, in the here-and-now, they are united with time itself, no past, no future, only now. Time becomes what the sketcher is, not something they can manage or orchestrate, but can never find enough of. This approach to life and sketching is a reminder to slow down, pay attention, and appreciate the world around us."
It took completing a Stoic Fresh Eyes Project of learning to sketch to give me this understanding.
Others would call this experience flow. I call it integrity: When who I want to be aligns with who I was meant to be, and I be.
The great 'I Am' concept, if you will. Who are you? I am. What are you? I am. Where are you? I am. When are you? I am. How are you? I am. Why are you? I am.
This new way of being required some focused Stoic and Christian-informed acceptance.
I had a glimpse of this on the Camino and again on our walk to Finisterre. It took the unraveling of my life's illusions over the first third of the Camino, and when we began crossing the Meseta we got the news that my father had passed away.
My father's passing initiated the 2nd phase of my journey, which I celebrate by saying, "¡Viva la Meseta!" I say this in celebration because, over those days, I learned the meaning of the concept, 'everything changes and becomes otherwise.' And I was able to be with that idea. I learned the value of Memento Mori and Last Time Meditations.
We came to a point in the last third of our walk, in Galicia, where both Cristina and I noticed and said that we were now playing again, as if we were children. We were being who we truly are, together.
"Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
When we reached Santiago, Finisterre, and then Muxia, I realized that this part of my Camino journey was over. But as the veteran pilgrims like to say, now began my real Camino.
Ok, it's not about the destination. It's about the journey, right? But, what or where is my next Santiago?
Well, I have a glimpse of it, and it is wrapped up in the mindful creation practice I've developed, but I've never had the time to fully explore or do well.
As Steven Pressfield says... "The professional [artist] loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time. That’s what I mean when I say turning pro." (Steven Pressfield, The War of Art)
I'm turning pro.
Turning pro for me means to integrate who I want to be with who I am and who I was meant to be, which for me, I think involves the integrity of becoming an artist.
The second half of the Game of the Goose, that initiatory journey, is also turning out to be a physical, mental, and spiritual journey that I now comprehend after having walked the Camino Francés. I believe I can navigate this walk this new metaphorical path with a measure of wisdom gained from experience.
The difference now is that I have to make the walk in my mundane, ordinary, normal life, and somehow find my way to a place where I've integrated myself into My Next Santiago, which I think is the integrity of a being a artist.
Well, that's what I think. I reserve the right to change my mind given new information.
In the meantime, what do I do with my old self? I have a few years left until I am "supposed" to retire.
I can continue practicing real estate and I will make it financially to that goal of retiring. It just means spending some of the precious time I have left doing real estate.
In the meantime, how do I balance being that real estate agent and being an the artist I feel called to be at the same time?
To be, or not to be. That is the question.
Have you walked the Camino de Santiago?
What's your next Santiago?
How's it going for you?
¡Viva la Meseta!
Viva learning how to accept that all things change, and become otherwise.