While taking A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago, lessons were tucked into each corner and every day. One of my favorites was learning to accept things as they are instead of wasting time trying to control things that are not controllable. This happens to be most things.
The sleeping conditions were an exceptional place to learn acceptance. During the trip, Albergues are the residence of choice for a night’s rest. These inexpensive hostels have bunk densities ranging from 5 to 200 beds in a single room. The mattresses are thin, the structures sway with movement, and humans actually make unique noises while sleeping. Like most things on the Camino, this was outside of my comfort zone. This is where the dilemma was born. Would I roll around all night and “fight” the strange conditions or find the silver lining and gratitude in my bunk. I chose rest over insomnia.
On the tenth day, I found myself entering the mentally challenging portion of the walk known as “The Meseta.” Many Camino veterans had advised me that this would be the Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha, portion of the path where the mind becomes the most serious obstacle. Mountains rim these high plains of central Spain and occasionally edge into them. For those 200 kilometers, I walked on a flat surface. Endless crop fields of wheat, oats, and barley bordered my path. The golden glow of the fields etched my mind on this leg of the journey.
Gale force winds began with my first step on this 120-mile stretch and did not stop blowing until I reached the mountains of Galicia. For seven days, relentless gusts became my companion. I secured my hat with the chin strap and began to find the positive in the blustery weather conditions. The long stretch is known for heat but not a problem with a build in air conditioner. Clouds danced in fast forward mode across the sky providing a never ending natural movie. Vegetation swayed, tree limbs crackled, and leaves fluttered like sails. Instead of finding the beauty and hearing a symphony, it would have been easy to complain all day and miss the joy created by this inevitable weather condition.
Last Friday, I flew to Chicago to speak at the Body Mind Spirit Expo in Tinley Park. My publicist and I agreed that this would be a nice venue to present my story. This trip involved considerable financial risk as the show did not provide any compensation or reimbursement for travel. I shipped 60 books in advance and was hoping for a crowd of several hundred people. Selling the entire lot would generate about $1,000 in revenue and allow me to break-even for the three day trip. At 2:00 P.M. on Sunday, about 35 people showed up and to hear my lecture. Seven people bought books. My financial loss was considerable.
My emotional gain was tremendous. Prior to the trip, I contacted an old friend that lives in Chicago. I met him in 1996 during my previous life as a businessman. He is a precious friend that is rarely seen but always there. I have not shared a meal with my pal since his wedding in 2001. He showed up around 10:30 and we found ourselves with the church crowd dining at Eggheadz. The words flowed while sipping fresh squeezed orange juice and plowing through frittatas and pancakes. He attended my talk and we hugged it out around 5:00 when he departed for the North Shore to rejoin his family.
While wandering through the exhibit on Saturday, I crossed paths with Lisa. She was fond of my bald head an complimented my aura. The next day we bumped into each other and she gave me a precious gift of a dragonfly coin. The back was embossed with “Good luck and new birth are at hand.” Walter Perschke owns and publishes Conscious Community Magazine. He interview me a few months ago and happened to be presenting and exhibiting at the show. He spoke about dreams. I rarely remember mine. I employed a technique he recommended and immediately found them. How priceless is the gift of dreams? Dianne Bischcoff James is a fellow author that presented in the room before mine. Later that night we had a long conversation and will likely figure a way to help each other.
I could easily have covered myself in the tar for losing money, presenting to a small crowd, and searched for a straw man to blame. Instead, I am tying this blog post with a gigantic smile. I am not sure why I ended up in Chicago, but am willing to bet that the universe has a grand plan and some seeds were sown at Tinley Park.
Maybe the Windy City will deliver them to Oprah!