This summer I embarked on the Camino de Santiago (the Way of Saint James) – a thousand-year-old 800km pilgrimage which began in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France and ended in Compostella in Spain. It was gruelling but perfect. I learnt a lot about my body and how to gently control my walking and thoughts. I accidentally left one of my orthotics in Paris before I boarded a train to Bayonne and then continued on a bus to Saint Jean Pied de Port in near tears. The next day we hiked the Pyrannes and entered Spain. After a bout of heat exhaustion and painful ankels and knees, I realized how much of this trip needed to focus on my own control and understanding of my body as I completed the 800km hike without orthotics.
For our workshop, I organized a ‘baby camino,’ which began at my home downtown and concluded at my studio on campus. We ‘hiked’ the hill on Gordon street which was formally known as Dundas Hill. Camino means ‘way’ – so we walked the way of Dundas Hill.
We began with a small discussion of the history of pilgrimage, understanding that pilgrimage can be taken for secular and personal reasons as the Camino de Santiago is visited by thousands of people each year, only a handful of who are practising Catholics. Pilgrims were given small pilgrim’s passports which they were then asked to fill with their intentions for their walk.
Next everyone was asked to stand up. We noticed the ways our bodies stand naturally. Our natural imbalances. The ways our ankles curve in and our knees overextend. We acknowledged that some of these imbalances we cannot change however, we can gentle and consciously adjust the ways our knees overextend, to adjust our weight to our cores, to let the weight of our backpacks fall on our hips as opposed to our shoulders.
Thirdly we walked slowly, to follow our natural gaits. To pay attention to the way our body wants to move. Understanding that in one kilometre we cannot change everything about our gaits. Perhaps we can honour the way our body wants to move naturally.
Fourthly, we paid attention to our breath. Following the natural rhythms of our breaths in tune with our natural gait. We walked slowly to pay attention to our bodies. We would focus on these processes when we walked.
Before we began to walk we consciously focused our minds on the processes of our bodies. This is what we would focus on when walking. Other thoughts on midterm papers and art critiques would be gently pushed out of our minds when we walked. We weren’t going to talk. The way is personal for everyone. We were going to focus on ourselves.
We began walking in silence. Across Wellington Street, up Gordon.
We completed our walk at my studio with some coffee to break our silence. Pilgrims showed their passports and talked about their intentions for their pilgrimage. Did they find what they were looking for? Some said yes, others were unsure.
We discussed our findings and decided we had a Buen Camino.