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Matters of the Spirit, The Camino de Santiago 2013

My Camino Chronicles: Those Bandit Thoughts

Quote-Byron-Katie

Our attachments to our thoughts cause suffering? I didn’t realize just how true this Byron Katie quote was for me until I walked the road to Santiago and was confronted with a whole bunch of negative thoughts that had been hiding like bandits in the caves and potholes of my mind.

IMG_00000149Rising at 5 am every morning, the first greetings were my habitual thoughts. This is horrible. I’m not a morning person. I can’t do this. This is unnatural to me. I really can’t cope with these early starts. These thoughts had arisen in conjunction with the morning sun every day of my life for as long as I could remember. I had believed in them so powerfully, I was convinced that I was born with a ‘morning affliction’, that morning people, afternoon people and ‘night-owls’ were distinctions defined by our DNA. Since my attention to these thoughts had a natural consequence, for example, I felt grumpy and cross, my head was heavy and my body moved in zombie-like fashion, it compounded my idea that it was my body that was to blame, not me.

IMG_00000306Once on the road for a few hours, having recovered from the 5 am morning assault, I’d approach asharp climb and look at it with disdain. Like cockroaches, the thoughts charged out of the nooks and crannies of my head space. I’m not athletic enough for this. I wasn’t born with high energy. I shouldn’t be doing this. I can’t climb this. It’s just getting too much. I’m not like the other walkers. They’re all fitter than me. I’m really too old for this lark. Harried by these ideas, I’d climb in a torrid mental climate of desperate suffering; self-pity overwhelming me, I would be beset with bouts of heavy sighing, I’d stop for dramatic gasps of air, and would shake my fists at the sky, cursing the universe at regular intervals for ever having given birth to me. By the time I’d reached the top, I’d be exhausted, more from my thinking and my emotional reactions, than from the climb itself.

Bedtime in the albergues provided wicked attacks on my delicate sensibilities. Men and womenIMG_00000240 shared the dormitories (it was only in one or two monasteries that the different genders had their own sleeping and bathroom quarters). Sharing amongst both genders was a truly gob-smacking experience. No holds barred, men charged about the place stripped to their undies, family jewels bulging from the elastics in what seemed to me to be a pornographic display of epic proportions. I didn’t know where to cast my modest eyes, though sometimes the incredible sights caused me to take furtive glances out of sheer incredulous curiosity! The women weren’t any more discreet. Ladies of every age and size paraded the premises in all manner of bras and panties, some women barely covering anything at all, rushing from the bathrooms with buttocks on display and boobs in full swing, left to right, right to left. I spent half my time in those accommodations trying not to look at people, but being nosy and judgmental, I was not able to help myself. The thoughts arose within me in like big black flies around cow dung. They should have more dignity. They should be more discreet. Certain bodies (especially the ones resembling mine) should be locked up behind bars. There are limits to what we should share. There should be a law protecting pilgrims from these abuses…. Men and women really shouldn’t share the same utilities. I won’t share what thoughts arose when one woman started up a conversation with me in the washrooms whilst busily scrubbing at her scary-looking private parts with a wash-cloth!

IMG_00000270Eating also had its testing moments. The pilgrim menus (they were far cheaper than the normal rates) at every stop were loaded with carbs, and manipulating a balanced meal which included fruit or veg was an absolute mission. I should be eating more balanced meals. This diet is damaging to my health. Camino food is unhealthy. These were just some of the thoughts that rose to grab my attention, arrest my imagination and create unnecessary misery along which was supposed to be a happy trek.

Luckily though, before embarking on this trip, I’d learned to question myself whenever I became aware that I was suffering. I remembered the rules of thumb; if I was suffering, it was because I was believing a thought. As Byron Katie says above, thoughts in themselves are harmless. It is our attachment to them that causes all the mayhem. We can’t stop thoughts arising (have you ever tried not thinking?), but we don’t have to give them any attention. We can watch them with amusement, but don’t actually have to act out of them. In all the situations that I found myself, I examined the rogue thoughts that were disturbing my inner peace and did a ‘Byron Katie’ workout on them. This is how my self-convo went:

 On MorningsIMG_00000700

Thoughts:  I’m not a morning person. I can’t do this. This is unnatural to me. I really can’t cope with these early starts.

Me: Hmmm. Funny that. I MUST absolutely be a morning person because I’m up every morning at 5 am and if it weren’t for you making me miserable, am always just fine. And I AM coping, otherwise I’d never wake up, and strangely, I never feel tired on the road.  I’m ALWAYS perky when I’m not imagining I’m not a morning person! I suppose that makes me very much a morning person, and you an imposter.

Thoughts: Busted. I’ll go elsewhere and get attention and drama from someone else. I’ll pop in every now again in case you change your mind.

On Mountain SlopesIMG_00000665

Thoughts: I’m not athletic enough for this. I wasn’t born with high energy. I shouldn’t be doing this. I can’t climb this. It’s just getting too much. I’m not like the other walkers. They’re all fitter than me. I’m really too old for this lark.

Me: Except in dire cases, everyone’s born with high energy; its thoughts like you that stop it flowing! I’ve got legs haven’t I? I just need to walk, I don’t need to be a world-class athlete! I always make it to the top, and it’s not a race; I’m allowed to walk slowly! I’m just as good as the other walkers, because they’re not much further ahead of me, and these days, I tend to get ahead of them! And the majority of camino walkers are in their sixties and seventies, so me in my early fifties is very young indeed!

Thought: Where do I go now? Tell you what, I’ll hang around in the background in case you want to feed me with your attention once more.

On Albergues at BedtimeIMG_00000177

Thoughts: They should have more dignity. They should be more discreet. Certain bodies (especially the ones resembling mine) should be locked up behind bars. There are limits to what we should share. There should be a law protecting pilgrims from these abuses…. Men and women really shouldn’t share the same utilities

Me: I’m the one who should have more dignity by respecting other people’s choices. I need to learn from them that my body is just fine the way it is in all its imperfections. If I had their levels of self-esteem, I would be naked too, not giving a fig about what other people think. Men and women SHOULD share facilities, since we’re all the same in the end.

Thought: I rely on your lack of self-worth to give me life. Oh well, there’s nothing here for me anymore. Goodbye. I’ll visit every now and again to see if you’ll change your mind and entertain me once again.

On the Pilgrim’s MenuIMG_00000241

Thoughts: I should be eating more balanced meals. This diet is damaging to my health. Camino food is unhealthy.

Me: I’m walking 20 – 25 km a day. I need carbs, and camino life is providing them! And I can buy fruit from the corner shop. And salads are available. I’ve learned that what the body needs, life provides, and I only notice that when I get my conditioned thoughts out of the way!

Thoughts: I’ll be back to haunt you. Just you wait and see.

Me: Give it your best shot!

                ”

Examining these thoughts changed the way I felt on my journey to Santiago. I woke up to face the day without my usual grumpiness. It excited me that I could see myself in a different light. I approached the mountain slopes as smug as a bug; I knew I’d be okay and what’s more, I enjoyed walking up them. I discovered this enjoyment when I removed the barrier of my dreaded thoughts. As for the people in the albergues, I looked to them as role-models of the person I am striving to be; open, free and without inhibition. No longer did I look in disgust at what I saw, but in absolute awe. And I ate whatever I wanted once I questioned my thoughts about the food. I didn’t stress about not getting the right vitamins, or whatever else I imagined was lacking. I felt a complete trust that what I ate any given night was indeed what I needed for my journey the following day. I never showed any sign of deficiency. I never felt weak, and was always full of energy.

As Byron Katie has noticed, a thought is harmless unless we believe it. Perhaps you might look to the thoughts behind your feelings of suffering, discontent. What thoughts are you attaching to? The peace that is felt when these thoughts are no longer entertained is worth the investigation. Thoughts will always be lurking, for we are just human and cannot be in a state of not thinking. But we have the power to watch them with interest and refuse to act on them. It’s a wonderful sensation to be free of harmful ideas. You ought to try it.

IMG_00000289

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About Yaz

Hi Everyone! Please check out my site. There you'll find a range of subjects on which I've expressed my world view. I always challenge myself and others to move out of their point of view and try seeing things from another perspective. Your point of view will always be there if you don't like mine! And I'd love to hear from you. Perhaps you'll shift something in me. This is the journey to the True Self and I love it. Lots of love to you all!

Discussion

29 thoughts on “My Camino Chronicles: Those Bandit Thoughts

  1. Welcome to middle class northern european pastimes! Masochistic walking and communal fart sessions! Character-building! I just would have loved to see your face when all those men were wandering about dingly dangly. Shocked and appalled anyone? xxx

    Posted by France Fradet | July 31, 2013, 9:55 pm
  2. I read your post while sipping coffee and was laughing out loud. The visuals you gave me were hilarious! I would be so uncomfortable in having to share a room and bathroom with strangers, especially if it’s co-ed. Had to stop between paragraphs while chuckling because I could so identify with your reactions. I consider myself a morning person, would huff and puff if I had to hike because I would be telling myself “I am a city girl, this is exhausting”, etc… However, I can see how freeing it is to lose attachment to thoughts and judgments that we identify with and which suppresses our enjoyment of life.

    I loved the way you did The Four Questions by Byron Katie… It gives me an example on how to work on mine.

    Your trip was well worth it!

    Posted by sufilight | August 1, 2013, 1:29 am
    • Hi Marie, yes those four questions really do it! We really don’t imagine how much happier we can be until we explore our unhappiness. You should apply them to your life as it really will make all the difference.

      Posted by Yaz | August 1, 2013, 8:37 am
  3. Wow! What a powerful realization Yaz! I applaud you for taking Katie’s lessons so to heart and putting them to practice where and when it really counted. I too love Katie and so enjoyed the insight in your blog about your “work”–I think she would agree with me. I too do my best to take responsibility for my thoughts and actions and most of all question any thought that is holding me back from living my dreams. ~Kathy

    Posted by Kathy Gottberg | August 1, 2013, 2:42 am
    • Hi Kathy! Katie’s questions haunt my dreams! I love them because it frees me to love people through acceptance, and accept the world the way it is. I’m human, and I forget, but the questions are always there like curtains that can be pulled open to reveal the truth about what we are experiencing.Thanks for reading!

      Posted by Yaz | August 1, 2013, 8:42 am
  4. Wow. Your journey did not occur with just your feet. For certain. I did chuckle at quite a few of your admissions. Related and chuckled.

    Posted by Chatter Master | August 1, 2013, 5:08 am
    • You should have been there, Colleen. I’d love to have read YOUR post following it!

      Posted by Yaz | August 1, 2013, 8:38 am
      • Oh my! That is a wonderful compliment. But I’m quite fascinated with your posts. If I am ever moved to take such a journey I will definitely share it with you. I have to say Yaz, your words are quite educational. Your thoughts made me chuckle because they seemed familiar to what I would have thought. And how you changed….would be what I would want. You are a wonderful teacher.

        Posted by Chatter Master | August 2, 2013, 4:17 am
  5. I loved reading the part about the inner dialog that you had with yourself, Yaz! Actually, I loved reading this whole thing, got a few chuckles too! (Thanks for that! :D) Reading your initial comments about the people in the albergues running around half naked reminded me of a post that I have in my drafts right now entitled “Life Is Better When You’re Naked,” that I’m too chicken to publish.
    But this wasn’t all just laughs for me though, I really got the message you shared here about bandit thoughts. Great post, great writing! I’m enjoying hearing about your journey so much, thanks for sharing it Yaz! ♥

    Posted by Jewels | August 2, 2013, 3:30 am
    • I’m intrigued by that hidden post of yours, Julie! Please, please post it! I want to delve deeper into who YOU are, and these kind of posts always reveal what’s important to us. Thanks for reading, and I’m so happy that my words mean something to you.

      Posted by Yaz | August 2, 2013, 12:56 pm
  6. I love your thought dialogue. Isn’t it funny how we can quickly point ourselves in a positive direction despite how noisy our noggins can be? I love the parallels of your physical, mental and spiritual paths in this post. Beautiful, funny and wonderful!

    Posted by momentumofjoy | August 2, 2013, 4:39 pm
  7. This is EXCELLENT, Yaz. LOVEd reading this – and you would know from one of my Thailand – http://wordsfallfrommyeyes.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/the-escape-part-vii-at-least-you-can-try/ – that Daniel was talking just exactly that same thing.

    I love how you put the thoughts out there, and counteracted. I’ve heard of ‘morning people’ and night owls. I’m always up about 6 am but Daniel rises so slowly, tired tired. I do believe that concept, but I don’t think it’s impenetrable. I can force myself to stay awake longer into the night… and Daniel can be forced to get up early for occasions like leaving for Thailand (5 am), but I do believe we have inclinations.

    Re the guys and girls in their undies & all – one inch of fat & I reckon I should hide behind bars too! Amazing how comfortable they were.

    So loved reading this, Yaz.

    Posted by WordsFallFromMyEyes | August 3, 2013, 1:09 am
    • Yes, I remember you writing about Daniel’s understanding. I’m glad you liked it Noeleen! I still can’t strip off with my lumps on bumps on display, but am working on it!

      Posted by Yaz | August 3, 2013, 11:14 am
  8. Yaz, I love hearing about your Camino experiences. This post gave me giggles and also made me realize that my ‘story’ on parts of my life are just stories. Now I need to confront that voice like you! Thanks.

    Posted by The Presents of Presence | August 6, 2013, 2:23 pm
  9. Yaz, I’m so glad that you had Byron Katie with you as you walked the Camino. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences with us and how such a journey can be done without suffering and pain. Beautiful! xo

    Posted by Suzanne McRae | August 11, 2013, 5:47 am
  10. You are such a sweetheart ♡Yaz…..I’ve missed visiting and reading your writings and was so glad of your visit to my page today which reminded me I missed you. Oh how I adore how you entertain and educate me at the same time. I was almost rolling around the floor laughing at the bodily descriptions…..and your dialogues with your bandit thoughts. W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L 😀 …..Much LOVE & admiration, Susie♡

    Posted by susiesheartpathblog | August 15, 2013, 7:10 pm
  11. I really really enjoyed reading this post, and honestly it’s quiet funny 🙂 Maybe you didn’t think it was funny at the time but I’m sure you can laugh about it all today. Hope you will write about your experiences some more! xox

    Posted by shamanictracker | September 15, 2013, 7:29 pm
  12. Hi Yaz, I linked to your post in my last post on Spiritual Practices, I Have Fun (http://shamanictracking.com/2013/10/31/how-do-i-practice-spirituality-5-i-have-fun/). I hope this is ok.
    I know that your experience was much much more profound than what I am talking about, but I found your (humorous) post about how letting go of attachment to your usual thoughts set you free and allowed you to enjoy everything more, so appropriate! And I also wish more people would read it 🙂 xox

    Posted by shamanictracker | November 1, 2013, 12:10 pm
  13. I loved this thank you for sharing! Had a great laugh and also such a good reminder that we are constantly in every moment given the opportunity for freedom by our own thoughts. It’s always amazing to see that the content and theme of our thoughts is very similar, as Byron Katie says there are no new thoughts. And her wonderful method of questioning the toughths that cause us suffering and prevent us from seeing through the eyes of love is such a simple way of retuning to Ourselves. This was a great reminder for me I woke up feeling pressured to live up to my commitment of going to the temple when all I wanted to do was sleep in, have a quiet morning, read and meditate by myself. My thoughts were saying “I should go to the temple to show commitment and discipline. Then when I went a little deaper and really looked honestly at it the thought it was what will they think of me if I don’t go, they won’t love me, they won’t accept me, I won’t be authentic, they will judge me. Are any of these thoughts true? Ofcourse not! Is it true that I need their love and acceptance and to be seen in a certain way to feel loved and accepted or good about myself! That’s rubbish and a very stressful way to see the world! How does it make me feel when I believe that thought: well stessed, like I have to keep up appearances, like me being loved and accepted is dependent on something external and can never really be achieved because it’s impossible for everyone to love and accept me. Who would I be without that thought: exactly who I am now except I’d be totally present enjoying my beautiful Sunday morning on the couch, fully immersed in this moment and fully in the awareness of love. What a gift that stressful thought was and your blog Yaz, a simple reminder that every stressful thought we have holds within it the gift of freedom and the return to love if we are willing to accept it and question our thoughts:-)

    Posted by James | January 12, 2014, 12:20 pm
    • Thanks for your comments, James, and I’m glad it struck a chord with you. There isn’t anything that happens that doesn’t happen for the reason of allowing us to see the drama in our lives. This is the journey we are on; one of seeing the mirror of ourselves in everything. Have a great day, James!

      Posted by Yaz | January 12, 2014, 4:16 pm

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  1. Pingback: How do I practice spirituality 5: I Have Fun | shamanictracking - November 1, 2013

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