Going with the flow
Following the pilgrimage of goldiknocks, I’m reliving my own pilgrimages from the distance of four and seven years, trying hard to put in writing what I have gathered on the way. It’s quite difficult, to be honest. Obviously, what I’m going to write now applies to me, so it may not work so well with others, and I also have to admit that this philosophy that I’m about to share had been in the works when I was walking. I had been living by this four years ago as well (and to a lesser extent, seven years ago too), but I have been following this path much more consciously since then.
The main motto for this philosophy (mantra, if you like) is this:
Go with the flow.
That’s the essence really, but I think it requires some guidance and explanation, now does it not?
Going with the flow to me means giving up. Giving up the burden of thinking too early, of making unnecessary decisions. I think, this is the essence of what the way taught me. I was so happy that I didn’t have to deal with complicated-looking issues of social relations (will my friends be hurt if I don’t drop them a line saying I’m fine? will x be angry with me if it turns out I invited y to a party but not x? well, fuck that.) I didn’t have to deal with what to eat. I ate what I had. If I didn’t have any food, I walked. Did I have other options? Thank God no.
Once you give up to live your life with you at the helm, life reveals its true face to you. Once you learn to ask questions when they are appropriate and not before; once you make decisions on the spot and stop contemplating over them ages before, you’ll realize that life gives you abundance and meaning that you would have skipped if you yourself were to navigate the way. It may turn out that you didn’t even have to think about making a certain decision, because the option to choose is not even provided to you. (I remember walking on the meseta seeing a village in the distance. I was thinking for at least 20 minutes trying to figure out if I needed to stop or not, then I realized the Camino just flew by the village I was thinking of stopping at. So I was deprived of being present on the way and I was deprived of enjoying the walk for 20 minutes. What a waste, what a waste.)
Going with the flow also means not to have expectations. By giving them up, you’ll be able to be happy and satisfied with what you’ve got, you’ll learn to appreciate whatever is given to you. (This is one of the golden rules I gave to goldiknocks: Accept whatever is given to you.) And yes, by giving up your expectations, you’ll be able to be joyful about those tiny gifts life’s giving you each day which you wouldn’t even have recognized, had you not gotten rid of your expectations. What do you deserve? You don’t deserve anything. You just get things which you have to use to the fullest possible extent. But by saying you deserve this, you imply that you have expectations, and if these are not met, then you are dissatisfied and unhappy. Now can you afford that? Can you afford not to be positive any minute of your life?
Going with the flow, as I mentioned, also means that you give up being in control, and hand over the steering wheels to… well, how do you call it. Some say God, others would say Superhuman or Supreme Being, still others would say Providence - the name you call it makes no difference. But to give up steering your life you need something. You need trust. You need to trust that whomever you give the wheels over to will know better where you are or should be heading. And yes, lack of trust is the reason why most people decide not to give up driving. Because “How would I be able to trust something I can’t even call a name, let alone see or meet?”
But you know, giving up control means turning on the auto-pilot. And the auto-pilot has some great ideas about where you should go. And it will surely bring good things, and it will give you challenges. One thing, however, it will not do: it won’t let you face shit you can’t handle. It will not give you the unbearable. And yes, unbearable is a direction that you, as the captain of your ship might navigate towards.
Going with the flow gives you a great realization. (This I actually figured out on the way.) The realization, that this stuff that I’m about to do has been done by so many others. Some better qualified than me. But, for God’s sake, there were, there must have been some (actually many) who were a lot less prepared to walk 20+ kilometers a day. And still, they did it. So who am I to say that I can’t do it.
On a personal note, we’re thinking about moving to an other country. We’re planning to wrap it all up here, and head elsewhere. Not because we’re unhappy here. It’s just that we want to test ourselves. And my wife shares her worries with me: “How are we going to manage with the kids all alone? Without the help of our parents? (They help us a lot indeed.) How will we cope with a different culture and language? How are the kids going to fit in?” And as the wise man I am (kidding), I’m always answering her: “Do you think we are the first to do it? Do you think that we are the first couple with kids to move to a foreign country? Haven’t many others faced the same challenge successfully? Yes, they have. We can’t see them, but we’re in their footsteps.” Countless, countless pilgrims have walked the way. Some are over seventy. And they can do it. So can you. Seemingly, many of us learned to drive - it seemed so impossible on your first lesson with the instructor sitting next to you, right?
So, to wrap it all up for now, I think this is it. Going with the flow means that you agree to give up your expectations for the sake of finding joy in whatever is given to you. It also means giving up control, so that life can take you wherever it pleases, but you must have trust that it will not fuck you up. Or at least not that badly. And going with the flow also means a realization that you are not alone. You follow the footsteps of others, and others are following you. And those who are forced in the same situation as you will be open to help you, because they have no reason not to do so, and you can rely on their insights.
I’m wondering why it works only on the Camino. I’m wondering why helping each other works there and not outside it. I’m wondering why you share your bread on the way with basically anyone who’s wearing a scallop shell, and why you’re not doing it to a beggar in the city.
I’m sorry, I was heading in a different direction in the end. These are just poetical questions you’re free to wonder while you’re going with the flow.