Tending the Soul: Living By Signs

Last fall I embarked on a week’s walk of the ancient Spanish Camino de Santiago with my husband and two other close friends. We arrived in Sarria, the start town of our 70-mile pilgrimage, excited and full of energy despite the many miles we knew were ahead of us. None of us had ever been to Spain, and only one of us knew some Spanish. Nevertheless, we trusted that we would find our way, have a great adventure, and learn about pilgrimage.

It truly was a simple way to do life. If we watched carefully for the Camino road signs, the concrete markers with the “shell” icon, or even the weather-beaten spray painted yellow arrows, we could be assured of the right path.

The Camino trail went through deep woods, fields of corn or sunflowers, and tiny medieval villages with cobbled streets. Many times I felt awestruck by the realization that I had no idea where I was, but was naively just following the centuries-old path. I’d realize, “I’m in the woods, somewhere in Spain without a map, no one to call, and am just trusting these signs to get to the town where I’m spending the night.” The only time we did get lost was when we assumed we knew the way, followed others, and didn’t watch carefully for the arrows or markers.

The Camino metaphor has profoundly stayed with me. This is the way I now want to live. I do believe it is The Way (the meaning of “camino”) to live our lives… paying attention to the signs, arrows and markers that WILL show up to guide us.

This is the way I now want to live. I do believe it is
The Way (the meaning of “camino”) to live our lives…
paying attention to the signs, arrows and markers
that WILL show up to guide us.

Such signs may show up as new information: books we stumble upon, articles or blogs we read. They may be feedback from the people around us, stories we just “happen” to hear at just the right time, quotes in our email inbox, and thoughts or feelings that just don’t go away. Sometimes they are a word or phrase that jumps from a scripture or poem, or the recognition of a habit or personality pattern that keeps recurring, or a dream that awakens us by its intensity of emotion.

Recently, I had a profound experience of being led in dealing with a challenging work situation. There were at least seven different signs and arrows that prompted me toward what “The Way” was.  I did choose to obey this guidance, yet kept wondering why this was what I was to do. A few weeks later in a work staff meeting – seemingly at random - the presenter shared an insight that was a lightning-bolt epiphany. I now could see clearly!

Walking the Camino, we often wondered why the path was going the way it went because it seemed so circuitous. Then we’d come to the top of a hill, and the vista would open. Now we saw why we came this way. This staff meeting was my vista. We don’t always get those wonderful epiphany vistas that explain our present journey, but if we are carefully watching, there may be more than we think.

I know I want to keep watching, listening, feeling, and paying attention to the NOW moments that are trying to show me my Way.  I think it may be dangerously unwise to ignore these signs, arrows and makers that are showing up to guide us.  It is a less stressful and more trusting way to live, especially when we can’t always know where we are, where life is taking us, and how things are going to turn out.

I’ll keep adventuring this way. I’m trying my best to invite others to experiment with this kind of watching, listening and paying attention.  


For Soul Tending

What signs are showing up along your way?

Nancy Black, co-founder of Centering Way, is a spiritual director and psychotherapist.