It is Day 25 of El Camino.
What this means is we have been walking for 25 days.
We have been putting one foot in front of the other, up over the Pyrenees from St Jean Pied du Port, following little yellow arrows across Spain’s northern interior . . . for 25 days.
The novelty has worn off.
I can still picture the beautiful avenue of ancient trees that marked Day 25.
I can still hear this conversation, overheard when I paused beside two elderly women taking a breather in the shade, leaning up against their pilgrim staffs:
Said one: “The devil has the face of a taxi driver.”
Said the other: “And he pulls up slowly beside us, leans out his window and with a honeyed voice says” – she lowers her voice – “‘can I offer you a lift?'”
This is Day 25 Syndrome.
It symptoms are exhaustion, boredom, inertia, a terrible forboding endlessness, hopelessness, a compelling need to get away, debilitating torpor, a desperate longing for ‘anything but this, anywhere but here’, tears, agony and a bitter ravaged longing that tells us we are wasting our time.
Every project, every mission, every pursuit worthy of our time and energy has its Day 25.
The point beyond which – if we get through it – if we keep going – if we don’t toss up our hands and walk away – nothing is ever the same and everything is possible.
There are many Great Gifts of pilgrimage and this is primary among them.
Pilgrimage changes lives precisely because it teaches us to keep going.
It teaches us – as it did me on Day 25 – that my obligation is not my destination, nor my goal; my only commitment is to this particular moment – and only this particular moment.
Day 25 taught me that my responsibility is to the next step; my duty to the present moment; that all of my energy – body, heart, mind and soul – is required right here, right now, for this moment.
In this way, our destination, or goal, becomes a light on the horizon, our beacon guiding us home – but it is not the point.
Because it’s true what they say: It’s the journey that matters in the end.
What matters is that you take the next step.
What matters is that you give each moment everything you have to give it.
What matters is that you do not walk away.
There are two primary lessons of pilgrimage and both are encoded into the pilgrim’s being as s/he navigates Day 25.
1. Keep going
2. This too will pass.
Day 25 encodes into your very bones the ability to pick up one foot and take the next step – because that is all that is actually required from you in this moment.
Your only obligation is the next step.
And now there is a new moment. Pick up your foot and put it in front of the other.
And a new moment.
All your/my/our attention, given to the moment, bestowed upon the moment, blessed upon the moment.
Because the reality is:
a) there is no ‘there’ and, paradoxically,
b) you can only get ‘there’ from here.
This too will pass.