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Vulnerable My journey to Oneness on the Camino de Santiago SARABRAJ - TJAŠI ARTNIK KNIBBE

Translated into English by Dora Debeljak

Sarabraj – Tjaši Artnik Knibbe


Translation from Slovene: Dora Debeljak Proofreading: Paul Steed Editing: Andrew Anzur Clement, PhD Final proofs: Barbara Lipovšek Book design: Žiga Valetič Book cover and brand design: Nika Bradač Cover Photo: Polona Krevatin Publishing: Tjaši Artnik Knibbe Printed by: Cicero, Begunje Print run: 1000 Copyright © 2020 by Tjaši Artnik Knibbe • FB: Sarabraj All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or the media. Printed in Slovenia, Cicero First Printing, 2020 CIP - Kataložni zapis o publikaciji Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica, Ljubljana 821.163.6-94 27-57(460Santiago de Compostela)(092) ARTNIK Knibbe, Tjaši Vulnerable: My journey to Oneness on the Camino de Santiago / Sarabraj - Tjaši Artnik Knibbe ; translated into English by Dora Debeljak; [photography Polona Krevatin]. 1st printing. - Gračišče: [author] T. Artnik Knibbe, 2020 ISBN 978-961-290-773-0 COBISS.SI-ID 303781376

D e d i c at i on

I dedicate this book to you, Liam, my darling husband. I am so grateful that you are strong enough to face my vulnerability, be a mirror image of your own, are able to bear the inexorable nature of truth and open your heart to our inherent, primal nature. I love you in all dimensions, through different reincarnations, hardships and above all in grace.


To the Book on Its Journey


The Camino that Takes Me Within


Closing the first door – My hometown of Koper


Mother Mary – Medjugorje


The First Ascent – The Magnificent Pyrenees


The Local Legend – The night walk in Zubiri


An Unbearable Pain in my Heel – Puente la Reina


The Vulnerability that Gives Birth to Me


The Esoteric Aspect of my Pilgrimage – Nájera


Endless Love on the Way


Nurturing the Language of Love towards Oneself – Belorado


The Opportunity for a Mindful Birth – The Meseta


Dissolving Complexity – Boadilla del Camino


“These Freaking Mosquitoes” – Still the Meseta


More from the Meseta – The town of Léon



“Meeting” our Brother Simon Again


Say Yes to life – Astorga


Letting Go of the Past


Discovering the Dragonte (Dragon) – Villafranca del Bierzo


Wolfish Hunger in the Middle of Spain – La Faba


Equipped with Bountiful Hope


Awakened Contact with the Body – On the way to Sarria 171 Awareness Shifting to the Dreams – Sarria


Letting Go of the Mind’s Limitations – Portomarín


Liberation from the Chains of Past Shadows – Arzúa


Free Falling with My Wings Wide Open – Santiago


Step by Step, a New Way – Olveiroa


Complete Surrender – Cee


The Celtic Goddess Dance – Finisterre


The End and the Beginning


When being present becomes a present


Unconditional re-parenting of the wounded inner child


The body – an ongoing creation


Vulnerable I AM


Loving fully, what a joy


Awakened literature



My heartfelt thanks go to my beloved family, whose depth and range of pain as well as lived experience have taught me just how important it is to choose to be your true self. I am grateful to be able to walk the path of this life alongside a fearless fighter, my dearest sister Alenka, whose freediving feats push the limits of the mind’s boundaries and allow her to surrender to the transformative power of water. Special thanks are also due to the committed spiritual leaders Rev. Dr. Nancy Nester and Rev. Ken Page. I am also grateful to everyone involved in preparing this book, those able to open their hearts to the messages it seeks to convey: much gratitude is again due to Liam, along with Andrew, Dora, Nika, Paul, Barbara, Urška, Ivan, Tina, Nataša, Polona, Zvezdana, Mea, Lucie, Ed, Žiga, Ilona, John, Theresa, the dear Camino family, and many others. I truly appreciate everyone who attends my workshops, coaching sessions and Heart & Soul healings, since in this way we are together in creating an important change in our collective energy – a shift towards Grace and Compassion.


To the Book on Its Journey

It is far from easy to be hurt and vulnerable, but if you’re courageous enough and keep faith in life, you will come – Sarabraj


arabraj is a woman from the Slovenian Littoral whose life was shaken to the very core. It all started with three unexpected losses: her brother, mother and father. Their deaths were followed by the discovery of a tumour in her abdomen. When she also became unemployed, she soon realised she could no longer close her eyes to the truth: something had to give. So, she did the very thing she was most afraid of. She went on a journey all by herself, saying “I handed over the reins before free falling.” In her book Vulnerable, Sarabraj candidly and fearlessly shares the journey she was required to make before she could heal. She asked me to read her still unpublished text. Too busy with work, I forgot all about her request. But, when forced to make some space on the hard drive on my 11


computer, I found it again. Vulnerable is a book I couldn’t put down. I simply had to meet her the very next day. Sarabraj turned forty-four this year. She graduated in communication sciences and worked in various positions at the Slovenian newspaper Dnevnik for twelve years, in positions including journalism, head of marketing communications and president of the most prestigious national entrepreneur award, Gazela. A firmly grounded woman, an organised “Miss” who later became a “Mrs” after meeting a Dutchman, Sarabraj describes her husband as extremely understanding. Her married life began amid the tragic circumstances of her closest family members gradually being taken away. She struggled to let them go. She could not understand why she was faced with so much misery all at once. Her body felt cramped and she was no longer experiencing a state of flow. A tumour formed in her abdomen. It was only when she had fallen deep as possible, when there was nothing left to hold on to, that she was forced to let go of all control, so that a new path could begin. A path that would take her to Mother Mary in Medjugorje. When discussing Mary in her book, it seems as if she is talking about herself. Indeed, she is that Mary. A daring woman able to open up and accept so much pain before ultimately letting go of it. A woman who found that her strength and power lay in her very vulnerability. And, just like in Mary’s eyes, the strength and power contained in Sarabraj’s eyes reflect that of someone else. She is able to see something beautiful in everything and allows other people to see the good within themselves. Today, this is her earthly ‘job’, but prior to this she had to complete a dramatic pilgrimage: El Camino de 12

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Santiago (St. James’ Trail). Footstep after footstep, as described in the book, she matured into a full adult following the death of her close family. “The path gave me such a wonderful opportunity to open up the most hidden parts of my heart and most unsettled parts of my mind. Gradually and accompanied by a strong desire to free myself from its grasp, the pain was able to fully express itself during my pilgrimage, but also, through a tunnel of vulnerability, brought me back to my soft, compassionate, strong yet graceful self. The Camino is a place where you can open up your heart in silence or aloud, but are never rejected. The Camino will transform your ego into dust, but only if you let it.” Words of wisdom that touched me in places I didn’t know existed. On her pilgrimage, she ran into people who saw her revisiting her roles as both a daughter and the sister of her older brother: a drug addict, who died from hepatitis C, the first Slovenian to overcome his addiction in a community of Don Pierino in Thailand. Oh, how proud his little sister was at the time, before being overcome by grief and hurt when the toxic environment at home again proved too much for him. Along her epic journey, Sarabraj ran into a man who had also been a heroin addict and managed to get clean several times, but had always fallen prey to the drug again as soon as he left the pure environment of the pilgrimage for a more toxic one, until one day he decided simply not to return to the big city. He chose to stay on the Camino de Santiago, where today he offers home-made snacks to the pilgrims passing by. This man’s story helped Sarabraj to better understand her brother’s path. When you take such a journey, strangers become even closer confidants than your family, friends or partner. You 13


experience unconditional love with them. When you give in to the flow, you get exactly what you need. “As soon as you stop trying to control the outcome, but accept everything life brings you, you become truly free.” Sarabraj also became free by starting to let go of the people who were keeping her down, finding that, as soon as your heart opens up, a world of grace is also revealed. “We have access to the knowledge we need. We are different from Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Theresa and others only in the fact that we refuse to spiritually mature.” Walking into the unknown, in extreme conditions ... as she puts it “is excellent therapy to let go of your human superiority complex.” Not only that: according to Sarabraj, extreme circumstances further deepen the belief there are forces beyond the limits of our mind. Before, whenever someone asked Sarabraj what she wanted, she always thought of other people. How she wanted her mother, father or brother to be healthy, always forgetting to unlock her potential, as her visionary “tata” (father) continuously reminded her to. She says she started to wake up late. She did not read any books, did not feel especially spiritual, but was anchored in everyday professional life. She was a perfectionist who loved to have everything under control. She was the one who took care of the relationships in her family... that is until one day on the Camino a tree whispered to her: “Throw everything that is false away.” What that truly meant was something she only recognised, footstep after footstep, along the Way. She learned to live minute by minute. Her path was bumpy. While many dark possibilities came true, she never stopped hoping. She saw how important dreams 14

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and passions are for a fulfilled and healthy life. But she also realised that unhealthy relationships can prove to be a great test of spiritual maturity, and was grateful to have chosen a family that had ultimately taught her so much that she started to unlock her heart to divine love. In her opinion, one of the toughest tasks she was facing was to write down on paper what she actually wanted. She told me that we should try this just to see how challenging it can be. Another of her unfulfilled wishes was to write a book, without knowing how, where or when she would complete it, before she found herself in a small village in the Netherlands living among introverted people. Why was she in that small, sleepy village? The answer soon came: so that she could write a book. Vulnerable is a book which provides new insights, showing that being vulnerable and sensitive does not necessarily mean we are also weak. Vulnerability is a choice, a decision. An opportunity to get in touch with ourselves and thereby also with others. When we declare we want to discover our vulnerability, this often means the end of any existing rules. Also, for many of our existing friendships with those who refuse to see our vulnerability because it disturbs their certainty. Sarabraj knows that by revealing her own vulnerability she is pointing her finger at that of every single one of us. More and more people are beginning to realise that being authentically in touch with your pain, admitting you are vulnerable, is what gives you power and strength because vulnerable people are also in touch with the source of the vast power of the heart, and this is what people are looking for today. 15


Reading Sarabraj’s book reminds me of Wild by the American author Cheryl Strayed. Both women had to lose members of their family before finding themselves. In a moment of utter powerlessness they then set off on a journey. Cheryl Strayed hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, while our Slovenian Sarabraj decided to complete the pilgrimage of El Camino de Santiago, or St. James’ Trail. Both travelled alone. Sarabraj writes in her book that she did this so as to physically experience an individuality that she hadn’t been able to feel before, intertwined in the relationships in her family. They both set out on a journey without any fixed schedule, without bills, without telephones ringing, without rushing, all in the hope of catching…what? Themselves. Both got to meet those seeking life and in (non-)coincidental meetings found the right answers. Both women were inexperienced hikers, with backpacks and hiking boots that eventually produced blisters. The American author ultimately came face to face with her Wild Nature, while Sarabraj encountered her powerful vulnerability. They both wrote books that make readers yearn to challenge themselves to the very core. Urška Krišelj Grubar, journalist and author


A morning:

n e-mail was waiting for me in my inbox one rainy

“Dear Ivan ... I am sitting at my computer in the Netherlands, where my Camino is continuing. During my morning meditation, I asked my soul for a new step and received a clear message – a book – this time, it was you and your lovely book who inadvertently brought the needed sparkle ... my heartfelt thanks, my dear ‘Caminero’.” – Sarabraj “The pursuit of my personal spiritual quest is challenged anew every single day” (P. Coelho) and my Camino is never-ending. When I returned from my pilgrimage to Santiago, I excitedly looked around on my computer at home for friends and pilgrims who already had or were intending to complete the Camino. This is how I met Sarabraj. As soon as we exchanged our initial thoughts, we realised we had been on the same trail at the same time, been in the same places and sometimes even spent the night in the same albergos. 17


Perhaps our paths had even crossed, but we never saw each other, greeted each other with an hola or wished each other the well-known Buen Camino. HE obviously had completely different plans. “Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves. On a pilgrimage, you have to rely on God. You have to trust that God will provide for you. To show you the way, fill your plate and open the doors. Do not lose the faith that there are still good people in this world.” (comp. Matthew 10:5–15; Mark 6:7–13) The famous pilgrimage has been completed by millions whose stories always prove fascinating. Even though I have read many books about the Camino, I was still eagerly looking forward to Sarabraj’s. I was immediately engrossed by its contents, instantly feeling as if I was there with her. Walking and laughing and crying together – dancing in the rain in León and waiting for her blisters to heal, reaching the Obradoiro Square together and contacting our loved ones at home. But when I found myself reading on and absorbing the wisdom the book contains, I realised that her work is something more. The sequence of places and events is irrelevant, so I kept returning to those pages, rereading them, gaining a different understanding. What was Sarabraj trying to tell me? Where was she taking me? Memories from my childhood and teenage years came to life in front of my eyes. The memories of my friends and family were ever-present. I now remember having walked and talked to them, to myself, to the eagles and the plants. Sarabraj, thank you for your understanding and thank you for helping me see my Camino from an aspect previously enveloped in greyness – the fog of 18

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the Pyrenees. So much wisdom is explained in such a simple way, and I need to admit that I am a light year behind you. God gave flowers their fragrance, birds their singing abilities – humans were granted the mind – and YOU gave us this invaluable book, so beautiful and so simple. Inexperienced readers may see your book as rather strange, but I can tell you it is not; on the contrary, it is wonderful and miraculous! It opens a door that has always been there, which we have either failed or refused to notice. I would like to wish the book all the best on its journey. Buen Camino, Vulnerable... “My world has turned upside down, has been filled with light from within. Now, I am going to have to change everything and build my life on other foundations.” – Jean-Marc Potdevin Ivan Gričnik, author


The C a m ino t hat Ta k e s M e W i t hin

The best journeys in life are those that answer questions you never thought to ask. – Rich Ridgeway


y decision to complete the Way of St. James (the Camino) was guided purely by my intuition. I unconditionally listened to the voice within that made me focus on this exact pilgrimage, even though I did not know anything about it at the time. Oddly enough, I was prompted by the soul to embark on the Way alone, without anyone to accompany me. My limited self, of course, started to seriously contemplate if I was even ready for this, given that I had not previously ever taken a single step on my own. Restrained by my family, with whom I had had a very close, sometimes co-dependent relationship, I had never been fully able to stand up independently. This is what occurs because the reins created by a family’s vibrations are claimed by their pain-bodies instead of their hearts, and when your fear forces you to contract and cramp up, instead of loving and thus facilitating expansion. Unhealthy relationships can turn out to be a great test of maturity, and I am deeply grateful to have chosen a family that taught me so much. So why did I go on the Camino by myself? This decision was, in fact, a natural continuation of my maturing into a complete, true self. It was an opportunity to also physically experience my individuality in a way I was unable to previously due to having been entangled in family relationships, even though that changed in recent years. From someone seeking to establish perfect intra-family relationships and be a perfectionist, I was increasingly surrendering to every passing second my life faced me with. By letting go of control and the illusion of reality, I automatically replaced all 22

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of that, simply living in the moment every single step of the way in all its authentic shape. After our mother died I experienced a sense of surrender in every cell of my body, what is nowadays known as the light and full presence. That presence when everything stands still, when time and space are no longer, when you are embraced by grace and compassion, by wisdom and peace. It is this very awakening to my potential that provided me with an invaluable power and inner strength that made it possible a few years later to overcome the biggest challenge of my life – overcoming the following physical departure from earth of our beloved father. Given that my sister and I had become very close with our father when we were left alone after our mother’s death, his transition into the Light was made even more painful by the surprise of having to say goodbye on his birthday. The awareness that his loss left a ghastly emptiness behind triggered an inner process of seeking full-presence that I embraced during this most challenging of times. Despite the presence-mantra having become very popular these days, being able to be fully present in the moment, when everything you used to know and that constituted a source for meeting your human needs (safety, love and creativity) is falling apart before your eyes, requires a great amount of power and courage. In his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle writes: “The pain-body is a semiautonomous energy-form that lives within most human beings, an entity made up of emotion. It has its own primitive intelligence, and it is directed primarily at survival. Like all life-forms, it periodically needs 23


to feed – to take in new energy – and the food it requires to replenish itself consists of energy that is compatible with its own, which is to say, energy that vibrates at a similar frequency. Any emotionally painful experience can be used as food by the pain-body. That’s why it thrives on negative thinking as well as drama in relationships. The pain-body is an addiction to unhappiness.” On top of my pain-body roaring as loud as it possibly could due to all the loses, at the same time as my husband had to leave to work abroad, I left my job after twelve years of building a career and had a tumour surgically removed from my abdomen. Pfft. At times, I was sick and tired of it all. I kept asking the soul, Oneness, God, if they, to put it mildly, had gone berserk? Could it really be that someone would be provided with so much sensitivity, with the ability to become attached and show empathy, only to have it all taken away moments later? Yes! A clear, pragmatic yes which, simultaneously, decisively explained that this amazing polarity had enabled me to find myself in the centre, in a soul aligned with Oneness (Spirit, awareness) space. As if the infernal swing of polarity had been broken at one point but, instead of flying up into the air I landed with my two feet firmly on the ground at the zero point. Left with my vulnerability, my soul, and my tenacious heart. Along the Camino I deliberately chose to spend a lot of time in silence. This gave me an opportunity to heal my wounds, break free, and align myself with my most intimate parts. Having felt the need to surrender myself to stillness for a while, my wish was realised on the pilgrimage, I afforded myself as much silence and just enough high-quality 24

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interactions with others as needed. These exchanges generally reflected the developments occurring within. Quietude enabled me to notice and internalise the invaluable messages given by the mirror image of others. In that silence, I got in touch with the most authentic dimension of life. The part of life that allowed me to discern and hear aspects concealed from the majority’s eyes and ears. In silence I perceived so much more, but in particular higher quality information that is otherwise hard to find in the cacophony of the known. In this dimension I was not overcome by intrusive, irritating thoughts, screaming “Here I am”. No, I heard a crystal-clear voice that announced itself when needed. The Camino appeared in my life as a testing space for me to apply everything I had learned in recent years, in a way comprising its own microcosm. Every single pilgrim was shown the ideal path for them to mature within. It was all set up brilliantly. I observed how we were being gently but firmly trained into Oneness and how our faith in forces stronger than ourselves grew step by step, limitlessly. My very first lesson came when I was faced with packing. I decided to take a 30+8-litre backpack with me, prudently putting things inside only after weighing them. The very idea of making an epic journey for a month and a half with so little luggage made me laugh. Another need that arose within, accompanied by all the other changes, was to lead my life lightly and without any unnecessary junk. That is why, in recent years, I had been giving everything away that I no longer needed. I burnt my diaries, as fragments of the past that were no longer required in the full presence of the moment. The feeling of freedom became ever more 25


overwhelming with every box that found a new home in the hands of those who still needed the things it contained. A wonderful lesson about how I had to make the time to give things away to the right people. The decision to travel lightly and devoid of material possessions thus also proved practical on the Camino. What a wonderful experience! A small bar of soap for my hair and body, baking soda for my clothing and face, a tube of antiseptic cream for my face and any inflammations, a small towel, pegs so that clothing for the next day could be dried on my backpack…You need so little when you accept that material objects cannot fill a void in your heart. I set out on my journey, surrendering to the moment, comforted by our father’s words: “Tjaši (which he used to call me before I grew into Sarabraj), life is a very long story. Never be in a hurry”.


C lo sing t he f irst do or – My hom e tow n of K oper

The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage. – Thucydides


itting in front of a pile of boxes, I slowly said goodbye to almost forty years of attachment to the things that adorned our family home in Koper, on the coast of Slovenia. The books our father had collected for so many decades were given new homes all over the country that needed them more than us, while the childhood photos that hung across the entire living room were removed with a heavy heart; I could not take them with me into the world. Kitchenware, tableware, glasses, hundreds of wooden spoons, excess cutlery… everything was packed into boxes and carefully given away. I only put one thing aside: the wooden cooking spoon that showed the greatest use, which would always remind me of the delicious lunches our father prepared with the purest love. After our mother passed, he made it his life’s mission to feed his two girls. The mushroom soups he used to prepare immediately after spending four hours or more plodding through the forest, picking all sorts of delicacies for his family would be worthy of their very own chapter in a Michelin guide. Wildflowers were also part of the story, as it brought him such joy to be able to spoil us with a nice bouquet he had picked. He sometimes took care of us so intensely that it seemed he was trying to make up for something in both the past and the future. As if he had known that he’d soon be leaving us. Initially, clearing out the house proved to be quite a daunting task, knowing how attached our father, or tata, as we used to call him, had been to all these items. How he hoarded stuff like a hamster. God forbid if we ever threw anything away. When he was still married to our mother he always struggled to find a balance between amassing ever 28

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more things and getting rid of them. But then, one day out of the blue, when, completely unprepared, we were officially told that he was dying, he said: “You know, Tjaši, I can’t work out why I continued to collect so many things, surrounding myself with old items that hold so much heavy energy within. Now, lying here in this light room in the hospital, I can feel how it all was such a nuisance. Why did I keep on trying to find security in those objects, in the process compromising my freedom? Why did I keep living in the past, suffocating from nostalgia, while ultimately missing moments of time? Was the pain of the moment too deep for me to accept? Was the void too big?” Such words proved so helpful when packing everything up that could not come with me. The guidance was unrelenting, the inner feeling I needed to travel through life lightly and free of possessions made it all a little easier. And yet, it was not easy to consider every item harbouring some of my family’s energy and to detach myself from it. Especially being super-sensitive enough to perceive every layer of it, as I did. To make matters even more challenging, the Universe entrusted me with a truly special task. Most of the clearing out had to be done by me alone. I kept burning sage, asking my guides to protect me from all the old energy that I had absorbed deep within at certain moments. But my firm commitment to let go of the restraints of the past, together with endless hours of parallel spiritual disciplines – yoga, meditations and energy clearing – helped me get through the day. During our mother’s passing I hardly knew what was happening, but our father’s death was completely different. Mindfully, I surrendered to the experience, seeking to keep 29


the pain as authentic as possible. All kinds of defence mechanisms tried to interfere with my experience and ‘help’ by, all of a sudden, robbing me of a few shades of my mindfulness. This is how, in energy terms, the left half of my body stopped functioning correctly overnight. Since I was already highly awakened energy-wise, I found that feeling extremely peculiar. This was followed by physical symptoms, incessant food intolerances and a strong craving for carbohydrates. A defence mechanism against the impending emotional pain that I knew well from my childhood days. Comfort food. But food intolerance? Perhaps I was refusing to eat because the food was no longer being cooked by our loving father? Perhaps I was rejecting life itself? I felt as if part of me had remained aghast at the moment I learned that our father, my daddy, my dearest person in the world, was dying. A part I sought to bring back to life by meditating, practising awareness and oriented focus, as well as by triggering emotional and physical pain on purpose. Emotional pain was provoked by facing everything that reminded me of our father, by holding things in my hands that were him. I also gave myself permission to read the diary entries he secretly used to write to me when I was a baby, when it was already clear we would remain confidants for eternity. While reading his notes that I found in a drawer while cleaning the house, completely alone, on the family living room floor, my body was overcome by such raw pain that it occasionally felt like a whirring vacuum trying to suck me up into nothingness. Nevertheless, I managed to pluck up enough courage to feel it. But better to feel something in such a case than to experience a strange numbness hanging like a 30

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thick fog over the left side of my aura. Better to experience a painful presence than to be abducted by the distant past. The lack of self has a dramatic effect on all moments that are to come. It is challenging to seek to be in harmony with yourself if some of your wholeness is currently lacking. In my case, physical pain was triggered by running, sometimes covering a 15-kilometre distance completely spontaneously. Yet this was not enough. My body pushed me even further in its desire for a challenge that would help me catapult me over the entire matter at hand. Perhaps the Camino?


M ot he r M a ry – M e dj ugorj e

If you have only one breath left, use it to say thank you. – Pam Brown


n one month, my husband was due to start working in the Netherlands. My family’s ‘belongings’ had been only just cleared out and dispatched, while I started to feel the need to travel to a sacred place in Bosna and Herzegovina, Medjugorje. Suddenly, I felt I had to go straight away. It seemed as if I was being called upon by our mother’s spirit, which had travelled there in search of answers before she died. As I take such hints very seriously, I looked online and quickly found a group about to travel there in two weeks’ time. It was quite soon, to be sure, but before travelling to the land of tulips, the Netherlands, to visit my husband and my new to be ‘home’ land prior to going on the Camino, I wished to thoroughly refresh my energy in the embrace of the gentle pink rose light of Mary. I therefore immediately registered for this mystical pilgrimage. The bus ride was quite lengthy, although I was in no hurry to go anywhere, and it was an excellent training in tolerance and compassion. I wanted to sit alone, as I felt that I was, more than any­ thing, yearning for quietude – for the gentle embrace of total mindfulness. Without any stray thoughts about how incredibly unmanageable I saw my future, a life from which everything that, in my mind, represented security and love had been stripped away. My family, my home, my local environment, my loved ones… Yet life had another plan in store for me. All the other seats on the bus were occupied. So I ended up sitting next to a man who, in the middle of our journey, started 34

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passionately recounting stories about the Camino and all his adventures along the Way. He even invited me to one of his Camino presentations, but somehow I didn’t think at first that this was for me. I found myself more affected by his passion and drive. We thus arrived at what was supposed to be the jaw-dropping all-inspiring sacred Medjugorje. Initially, I could not establish any real connection with the area’s energies. I was still blocked by something. My sense of control did not start receding until after I had climbed to the top of the Križevac Cross Hill, and also Crnica Hill, and spent a good hour outside in the pleasant sunshine that bathed Medjugorje. The considerable pain I could feel in the hearts of those in attendance, together with my own strong resonance, meant the evening service was not very enticing. I thus ended up sitting on an empty bench in the outside area where services are held if the weather is good. Gazing at the precious statue of Mary, I tenderly tried to convince her I was ready to meet again. Two years before, I was able to establish my first ‘coincidental’ connection while attending a Hatmara Merkava workshop conducted by Naomi Imber Feinberg. At that time, I experienced a spontaneous meeting with this exceptionally pure experience of awareness which, in just two hours and surrounded by vibrations of intense full maternal mindfulness, opened the door wide to a world of unconditional love, compassion and grace. The pure vibration of the archetype of Mother Mary showed me the moment Jesus was born and was crucified, taking me into her overflowing authentic maternal feelings that overcame her fear and concern. I got it. I understood how important it 35


was to let go and the sheer amount of power she required to allow him to leave at the moment of his greatest pain and suffering. I experienced the same thing with our mother, after overcoming the needs of my wounded inner child to keep her here on Earth, thus allowing her to merge with Oneness. In exchange, I was gifted by Life with comprehensive and full mindfulness, the ability to surrender to the flow and the magic entailed in a genuine connection with the flow, a connection with Life. Mary’s energy was fully embraced in my heart. At the end of the meditation, the tears that flowed were so intense that I had to wipe them off on my clothes. My body was shaking like a leaf and my cells were, at the same time, overwhelmed by a powerful wave of intense light, releasing cramp after cramp, relaxing cell after cell, providing me with the forgotten feeling of being whole, of being perfect, of simply being. The purgative feeling that I experienced made me holy in that very instant. I experienced such a sheer connection with my femininity that I started immediately to draw strength from it, something that I have continued doing every second to this very moment. In Medjugorje, the pure vibration of the feminine archetype of Mother Mary did not visit me in a way that I would have perhaps wanted her to at the beginning. Somewhat in the sense of “Sarabraj, everything is going to be okay”. She had something, more agreeable, in store for me. After a dialogue in a meditative state with her during the main service, I made the time to take a walk. Fully relaxed by the silence permeating the evening air of Medjugorje, my shoulders gently fell into their natural position, while 36

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my brain fell into surrender. At a certain moment my legs stopped in front of a church, and I was shaken to the very core of my being when a small light started dancing in front of me, gently descending from the sky, swaying, providing me with a deep feeling of inner peace and excitement at the same time. It would be hard to explain in rational terms exactly what I saw, but then again, I no longer try to use my left brain when it comes to such one-of-a-kind experiences. At the same time, I heard a part of the speech of the parish priest in charge of the service from the speakers: “Do not fear. You should be courageous truth-tellers. Be loud, be heartfelt, be sincere. Do not fear, because fear destroys your lives. Be fearless, as what time requires from you, most of all, are your authenticity, your bravery, and your heart.” Wow. It felt as if God had spoken to me through that channel. Oh well, perhaps it was only my very decisive soul? Ever since our mother’s passing, my life had been full of a multitude of unconscious experiences of sentience that slowly formed a meaningful picture. Angels that had been ‘downloading’ endless information from the universal library of collective knowing delivering theme straight into my heart, parallel reality, and, the most powerful of all, the awareness that thoughts and sounds were powerful creators. In addition, I was embraced by the awareness of the synchronicity of human existence, initially filled with unconscious, but with time, increasingly visible signs of Oneness. Something that can only happen if you are awake, present, mindful and if you accept it unconditionally. I then moved to the back of the entire complex and found myself among images of the Stations of the Cross and 37


a huge sculpture of Jesus which, according to other visitors, released drops of water from a bronze body in ways that had not yet been explained, a mystery to the sculptor himself. When we had visited that sculpture during the day, with a huge crowd of people standing in front of it, I said to myself that I was not willing to ‘humbly’ wait in line for the moment when water would start dripping from the bronze. That moment proved simply too overwhelming for my mind – for my ego, especially having to wait in line. “I am not going to wait for my soul, and even less to have a dialogue with it, as I hold it within,” I said to myself, rather condescendingly, and left. I made an agreement with my soul that if it wanted me to show the gift of those few tears that it should all be done differently. This is how I ‘coincidentally’ found myself in front of that sculpture under an open star-filled sky. As I couldn’t help but feel curious and indulge my curious spirit, I moved closer and looked whether something was happening after all. Several drops of liquid fell from the sculpture’s knees, followed by tears streaming down my face. In that moment, I was completely alone. Physically speaking, that is. Whereas spiritually I was overcome by a deep knowledge that the area was crammed with all those others passing me their golden threads of the heart in various ways. Taking three handkerchiefs from my pocket, I caught a few drops in each. For my sister, for my husband, for myself, just in case. Before laying down to rest that night, a message from a book written by the fabulous Father Anselm Grün and Linda Jarosch, entitled Queen and Wild Woman (in Slovene and 38

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German), in which the authors sought to describe archetypal figures of the female by means of women from The Bible, wrote itself out in my mind’s eye. My life had already been connected with Father Grün’s while I was creating Light as a journalist, and I found myself deeply grateful to synchronicity for the meeting that allowed me to include a passionate woman in my subconscious existence. In the book, Father Grün mentioned that art history often ascribed to Mary an erotic charge but, simultaneously, gave her a compassionate, powerful, self-confident, defiant and determined image. How freeing it was for me to know this, after having tried throughout my entire life to believe in the immaculate figure as the only way to the Light. The fact that this was written by a compassionate Father who was willing to give room in his existence to the polarity of life, and that I was provided with the gift to get to meet this energy face-to-face, awakened me from the ‘good girl’s’ lengthy slumber. As this image arose in my thoughts one more time in Medjugorje, I became aware that the most authentic part of me was trying to tell me not to deny my ‘dark’ (unknown) side, but to audaciously accept it in my vulnerable state as a way to achieve wholeness and holiness. Father Grün’s sister and co-author of this brilliant book, Linda Jarosch, wrote the following: “The archetype of Mary holding her dead son in her arms stands for the suffering experienced by every woman in their lives. The suffering of every mother who has lost her child, the suffering of every woman who has had to let a loved one go, the suffering of every woman who has been forced to sacrifice her health or give up any of her tasks. It 39


stands for every woman who has had to relinquish anything she holds dear, for every woman who has lost anything that she used to live for. This kind of sacrifice is painful. It overwhelms you with a feeling of sadness and loss. You have to go through a period of grief, and passing. It reveals what has been lost and the darkness that follows. What ultimately makes you process that loss and endure the pain? What power comes to us women from Mary, the one who changes things, the woman who overcame her grief and transformed her pain? Mary came to terms with it. Accepting your pain can be a long road to walk, if you are willing, like Mary, to accept the suffering and stop resisting it then something is going to shift within. If you ask yourself: ‘What do I need to learn to be able to endure this?’ you are ready to take a further step in your development. Initially, suffering brings loneliness, insecurity, and vulnerability. During that period you learn to accept that you need more support from others. Mary was not standing alone below her son’s cross, but was surrounded by people who provided support that she accepted with open arms. When you suffer, you need to be able to trust. You need to be able to trust that you possess all the power that you need to overcome the pain. If you resist utilising the power within, you will continue to be a victim and to place the blame on others. You will insist on suffering and refuse to mature. You can see how dying in nature leads to the creation of something new and the same can be applied to you. When you suffer, you need to keep the faith that you will be able to overcome it. You need to believe that it will lead you to something new. If you possess hope and faith and do not suppress your suffering, you know that it is 40

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hard and that it could break you, but you hold a firm belief that things can turn for the better. Whenever you have hope and faith, you can persevere and await a new understanding that will help you resolve any issues you are facing. You can also pray, meditate or look for peace and quiet that will bring you clarity and reveal a new purpose of your suffering. When you look back on it afterwards, you will realise that you have gained something valuable, that you have survived the darkness and learned something more about yourself. Suffering is thus transformed into a positive force and maturity to be reckoned with.” (Translated from the book Kraljica in Divja Ženska, Linda Jarosch and Anslem Grün, written in Slovene edition.)


The F irst A sc e nt – the M a g nif ic e n t Pyrenees

When you’ve gone so far that you feel you can’t take one more step, you’ve gone only half as far as you’re really able to. – Greenlandic proverb


fter my soul made up its mind, there was nothing left for me but to follow it. There was no more room for hesitation. All those deaths that I had been present for in a truly conscious manner changed me completely. I found out that finally I could hear my inner, fully present voice. A voice that guided me unconditionally and compassionately and that I trusted with all my being. A voice that dissipated the mist of fear-based vibrations and that also steadfastly held my heart when it would prefer to break from sheer pain. A source of wisdom that I could most easily describe as a connection with the endless power of life. A courage powering me on the wind of wisdom, leading me to discern the impossible in the eyes of the mind. It was this very source that called upon me, in that very moment, as I was watching a magical light in the middle of Medjugorje, in front of its central church, that it was time to embark on the Camino. I did not know the first thing about walking the trail and the trip to the Netherlands was also ahead. I politely asked the soul to orchestrate it so that my mind, which in the past usually liked to complicate matters when faced with something new, would leave me alone. Everything started flowing like a river, fearlessly, clearly and sensibly towards setting out on the Camino. From practical matters such as the choosing right shoes, finding a low-cost plane ticket and accommodation at the first hostel in Bordeaux, from where I set out for the starting point of the Way in the French part of the Camino, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. 44

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I had never been on a trip by myself. Let alone with just a 30+8-litre backpack and on foot. It would have been a bizarre thought merely a year prior. But the excitement of having undertaken this task took me by the hand and, at times, made me almost fly along the Way. Before leaving, I also held a very active discussion with myself, seeking to truly scour any thoughts that could prove distracting during my pilgrimage. One of my meditations was dedicated specifically to the Camino and all the views that I had gathered about it based on the experiences of others. I became conscious of it all and let it go. I set out with an empty mind, as I wanted to experience it fully, without any limiting ideas. This move proved extremely beneficial when I experienced the Way in all of its unique vibrations and profound beauty. The journey started in my home city of Koper, where I was picked up by a van that took me to Venice Airport, from where I was due to fly to Bordeaux. As I was sitting in the vehicle my eyes turned to the balcony where our father used to stand, giving me a thumbs-up as a sign of power. “Be strong, my little girl,” he used to say. “You are different from most people as you are guided by compassion. Your path will not always be the easiest one, which is why you will have to be extremely strong.” Tears poured down my cheeks. I missed him so much during that moment. But then a small voice in my heart told me how his awareness was with me, so I allowed myself to experience his love beyond the physical level. Closing my eyes, taking a breath, my body was enveloped by a wave of warmth. In my heart, I felt a deep-seated love for my past 45


and for my family from whom I had learned so, so much. At the same time, I also felt that I was fully ready to take my very own steps, to go my own Way. The journey continued easily. On the plane to France I met a lovely young woman enraptured by my intent. We ended up discussing life and the importance of presence, and her aura began to visibly glow. Again, that sparkle in her eyes filled me with hope that change was within reach of only one embrace of full presence. She was very interested in the concept of total surrender and the fact that nothing had been planned, that I was not worried whether I would be able to get a transfer ride from the airport to the city centre, whether I would get stuck on the Way or being a solo female traveller, attacked by anyone. A whole bunch of fears that had occupied me several years ago faded away. If you allow yourself to go with ‘The Flow’, you are always awaited by exactly what you need. When you cease to control the outcome and unconditionally accept everything that crosses your path, you become free in the truest sense of the word. When we arrived at the airport my travel companion kindly escorted me to the bus stop. As soon as we arrived, the driver opened the door, ready to go to the city centre. My new friend threw me an enquiring glance, both of us smiling at the ‘coincidence’ which is, when you notice it, no longer there. Deeply grateful to my soul which, despite all the pain experienced during the past years, had not yet given up on me, I set out towards the hostel in Bordeaux and on the following morning left for the railway station, from where I travelled to Bayonne, where there was a bus headed to my starting point, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. My journey took place without any 46

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problems or the fear that I would get anywhere too late or become lost. As I was really not dwelling on whether I would be starting my pilgrimage at the right point, the fear of missing it melted away. It was more than enough that I was roaming the world with a backpack on my shoulders, even if it meant that I would somehow end up having a surfing-yoga experience on the French coast. This feeling of freedom that I didn’t have to complete the Camino and the Camino alone, to be able to achieve that highly valued freedom, actually inspired me to be immensely spontaneous and fully flowing, which would make this way so exceptional. At the starting point in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, I checked into one of the accommodation facilities that are so common in the area, followed by registering with a special authority where I received my pilgrim’s passport that entitled me to cheap accommodation and to be identified as a pellegrino – a pilgrim. After an excellent French dinner I lay down in the dorm room, and came across my first pilgrim returning home after completing the 1000-kilometre Way. His light energy truly resonated with me, calming me down completely. I knew that everything was okay and that there was no reason to be nervous. On the first morning of my pilgrimage I woke up only at 6.30 AM, having decided, as a result of adverse weather conditions and upon the recommendation of the volunteer at the office, to complete the first leg of the Camino in two days instead of one. He thus called ahead to make sure I could have a bed to rest in and find a place to get something to eat. His kindness filled my heart with joy. The weather was 47


far from pleasant and the ascent strained my muscles considerably. I looked forward to the warmth of the lodging, and getting something warm to eat. The raincoat I was wearing got completely soaked and the mixture of sweat and precipitation turned my clothes into a heavy, sticky and cold mass that stuck to my body in a rather uncomfortable way. After I arrived at the mini hostel where I was supposed to have a bed reserved I was greeted by the promised ‘exceptional French hospitality’, which manifested itself in the rather arrogant stance of one of the members of staff, who failed to recognise my name on the list of those who had booked a bed. The kind gentleman from the registration office had been good enough to ring the lodging to make a booking, feeling that this would be the best course of action in that kind of weather, just to be sure I’d get a bed. And well, since my name of Tjaši Artnik Knibbe probably sounded something like sasitnikibbe in French, the person on the other end of the line perhaps simplified matters by ignoring everything, which is why neither my name nor anything resembling it could be found in the book. This is how I ended up standing for two hours in a rather cold room, praying not to fall ill with pneumonia at the very beginning of the pilgrimage. I was feeling uncomfortable with the idea of having to continue in such weather, as it is a bad idea to be hiking in high mountains with foggy, rainy and windy conditions. Especially at the beginning of the Way, when you still believe in the weakness of your mind and its limitations, and do not yet trust your intuition 100%. Ultimately, the hospitalero – the host – took mercy on me, granting me a bed. I spent the afternoon freezing in 48

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my sleeping bag on the bed, and, until dinner, the majority of guests were also lying down. There was nothing else for us to do on such a cold and wet day. The room was tiny and contained five bunk beds. We were all walking over each other, waiting for the rain to stop, to be able to take in the wonderful mountain air. During dinner we sat down together. Someone thought it would be a good idea for us to get to know each other. Everyone started sharing their stories, where they came from and why they decided to complete the Camino. Shocking stories that held so many vibrations of love. Light-seekers ground down by life in its wheels of transformation. I felt at home, truly accepted and enjoyed the in-depth conversations conjured up with my co-travellers from all over the globe: South Africa, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain… bright souls whose stories filled my heart with hope. The following morning I woke up to a wondrous sight. The rising sun in the Pyrenees tugged at my heartstrings and body in a truly special way. Excited by what was to come, I hurried out. Jumping up and down like a small child. Free, happy and incredibly alive. But the The Camino had something else in store for me. My initial romanticism was immediately replaced by a clearing process, and being aware of it made all a bit easier. My journey started with an extremely strong wind. This gave me an excellent opportunity to dissolve all thoughts about how this weather could give rise to illness. As soon as I ascertained that I was actually being cleared and in a unique way embraced by the wind not a single drop of liquid fell out of my nose. Still, I have to admit that I sometimes 49


wondered whether my nose would not simply be blown off and fly into the many friendly horses who were giving incredulous looks at the poor humans struggling on the Way. It was so interesting to watch these animals casually surrender to the wind, lying around the meadows as if they were on a beach in Ibiza, while we kept fighting the weather by almost crawling along the mountains. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud from deep in my lungs, although the sound could only be heard in my mind, having been blown away by the wind to the far depths of France. I even tried to take a photo of myself with my phone as that crazy wind slapped and shaped my face as it pleased. I looked like a rubber-faced comedian. I wanted to keep such moments for when I’d need something to laugh about. Holding the phone in such a wind required some acrobatics, but I succeeded; the device did not fly far up into the mountain tops or down to the horses that curiously observed my actions. The wind blew so strongly that it felt like I was about to get blown off my feet. It was pure madness to fight the adverse conditions by walking into them. My abdominal muscles were strained to the maximum but my heart was rejoicing. I was happy and my commitment was enforced with every single thrust of wind. When I saw a sculpture of Mary in the distance, a wellknown grace brought to life by her gentle energy awoke within me. Reaching the figure, I knelt for a moment, kindly asking her to relieve me of everything that was not love. Continuing, I observed a pile of rocks left by the pilgrims seeking to release their burdens during their journeys. I 50

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decided it was time – time to let my own go. There, in the grip of the hurricane wind, it was time to let them go forever, thus opening up a view of my own way. My Way. I took a photograph of my family from my pocket. One of those rare ones that included all of us. Brother, mother, father, our two cats (that also died around the same time as our father), my sister and I. The terrain made it extremely challenging to crawl to the first large rock, below which the photograph could be placed. The wind forced me to keep lying down, the gusts not lessening for even a second. I lay down in the middle of the Pyrenees, letting my burdens go. Tears fell all over the place, yet I was safe in the knowledge that this was the right way to go about it, that the Camino was my Way. I had to settle accounts with my past at the very beginning of the pilgrimage if I wanted to live in the moment. It was hard to let go of it all, but I knew it was the only right course of action. I succeeded in part but I did not yet know that the Camino was a process, and that nothing was set in stone. I slowly pulled myself from below the fence and sat down, allowing the wind to shake me. I ended up crying alone, in the middle of the Pyrenees. But you are never alone on the Camino. Soon enough an Australian woman, also fighting the wind, found me covered in tears, although tears she could not see because the wind was too strong to see anything. We struck up a conversation, and feeling the closeness between us gave us some peace. The pilgrimage then continued mostly in silence. Because of the rainfall during the previous day some parts of the Camino were extremely muddy. In some areas we had to just wade into the mud, left with no other option. 51


As soon as we saw Roncesvalles in the valley below we miraculously regained our strength, deeply grateful that this particular challenge was now behind us. We walked to a special hostel that offers a truly fascinating experience. After the small room I had spent the previous night in I was greeted by a huge, renovated hostel with more than 400 beds in a single room, placed within special booths so you did not feel there were so many people crowded inside. The excitement of staying with such a large number of ‘survivors’ in a single room was a wonderful experience that immediately made me feel, once again, that you were never truly alone on the Camino (which I soon also realised was true in life).


The Lo c a l L e g e nd – The nig h t wa l k in Zubiri

The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. – William James


oon after I bid farewell to my beloved father, with whom I shared an epic relationship, full of depth, emotions, ups and downs, and at times also co-dependent love, and after a successful operation performed on a tumour and once again ending up in ER as a result of the failure of my entire body, a strong intent for complete and utter change arose within me. As everything in the Universe takes place according to such intent – the action principle – it responded immediately and I found myself unemployed. After spending twelve years within my comfort zone I was tested by life as to the seriousness of my desire to change, by being provided with zero opportunities to stay in the same place. Only after our father’s passing did it fully dawn on me that my darling sister and I had to say goodbye during the past eight years to our older brother, mother, father, and four cats. I now had a blank page, a vacuum that needed to be filled. It was no small feat to introduce so many changes to the field of consciousness, as my defence mechanisms were activated instantaneously, and only in my dreams did I allow myself to experience the whole horror of being left so alone. The knowledge that it was nothing but a thought, along with so much gratitude for every single moment that I got to feel, proved far from helpful after an active dream, during which I, without any inhibitions, experienced the pain that accompanies loss. It was then I knew that I needed to act. This is what the Camino de Santiago, when the good 850-kilometre pilgrimage almost seemed too short, also ended up 54

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being. A pilgrimage to the end of the world – the importance of the final stop, at the city of Finisterre, where I could burn a piece of paper containing all my feelings, thoughts, images and, ultimately, almost my entire past. To let go of my darling tata that I had not quite accomplished in the Pyrenees. But the Way showed various faces that I had not counted upon. Precise as a surgeon, the Camino kept uncovering layer upon layer of sorrow, anger and frustration that had been covering the view of my heart. I crossed paths with people and situations that took my breath away, relaxed me in vibrations of profound happiness, and contracted me in cries of grief. After the Pyrenees wind I thus came across ‘nightly monsters’ who accompanied me on a fascinating walk between the forest and torrential water. In that moment I wondered whether I had perhaps taken it all a step too far. A story, when, at two AM, the soul whispered that it was time to walk in the dark. Its charge was so powerful that my common sense was turned off. With a lamp on my head and a backpack on my shoulders, I set out into an unknown forest in Spain looking for…what? Courage. This was a new part of the story on the way between Zubiri and Pamplona, where I could not sleep a wink during the night. Actually, everyone in the room was tossing restlessly. I sat on the edge of the bed and started to meditate. A voice in my head whispered to me that I had to continue my pilgrimage. I was confused. Seriously, in the middle of the night? Increasingly restless, I set out. The other girls in the room had no clue where I was headed, but when we ran into each other again a few days later they asked where the 55


hell I had gone that night. “Into the forest to get courage,” I replied, amused by their surprised expressions. While trying to tie up my hiking boots that special night, a young man returning from a party entered the hostel. Throwing me an incredulous look and laughing at the fact that it was two AM, he asked me where I was headed. “To the forest, where else?” At the time, I obviously thought it was at least four AM. After getting out on the streets I also ran into the owner of the hostel. I was thinking that that small village was incredibly active for this time of the morning. “Are you looking for a place to stay?” she asked me with some doubt in her voice about what she was seeing. “No, thank you, I have rested enough, I am continuing my pilgrimage.” “Where are you going? And now?” Smiling, I confirmed my intent and set out. The owner called after me that I was loca (crazy), and added “buen Camino”. It was then that it started to dawn on me that it probably was not four AM. Taking out my phone from the backpack I checked the time. 2:20 AM? Oh my God. Dear soul, what trouble have you gotten me into this time? What should I do? Should I continue or stop someplace to meditate until dawn? “Continue. Courage. Courage. Courage, and, most of all, trust!” And so I went on. Initially, I was deeply grateful for the fact that I was not that terrified, and even proud of embarking on this adventure. Indulging in the quietude of the night, in observing the stars, in the sheer depth of reality being born when humankind is quiet. But my soul did not tell me to go into the woods for sheer entertainment, and the action began soon enough. 56

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Exhausted from the first leg of the Way, I sat down on a bench in a deserted village and treated myself to a piece of chocolate. Behind me, I heard the most peculiar noise. Turning around, I was surprised by a whole bunch of cats making the strangest sounds. As I love cats I was willing to accept their presence, although their sounds, combined with the dark, made me wish to run back into the woods. And so I did, still far from courageous, I know. But the true test began in the forest. The trail was becoming increasingly dark, covered by trees and bushes, and I could hear the roaring sounds of a large stream that made me feel unsafe coming from the right. Almost frozen with fear, I did not want to stay in this situation for a moment longer than necessary. I tried to look around me, but the ghastly darkness, combined with the loud river, forced me to just look right in front with my headlamp firmly secured. When I heard an unusual sound in the bushes, I turned around to see what was happening, only to trip over my shoelaces, then fall headfirst down to the ground, and hard. I could no longer feel my shoulder, and I was bleeding from a cut on my chin. Down there, in the middle of a Spanish forest, I got to learn how heavy a backpack can be, if physical forces need to be reckoned with as well. There was no time or courage left to spare for any major considerations, so I intuitively grabbed a stone from a small brook crossing my path and pressed it on my chin, trying to stop the bleeding, quickly continuing in the dark, observing the importance of staying fully present. Without looking left, right, up or down, as I was enveloped by darkness. Observing also the importance of staying as focused as possible, to not disperse my attention 57


out of fear, but to stay fully present in my own energy. Where the light and the solution that, as a rule, always take you in the right direction, can be found. Of course, this is only true if you do not allow yourself to become a hostage of fear. So in the dark I learned two lessons: When you walk, do not look too far in front or in the back, as looking into the unknown means you won’t know what awaits you that instant. Be fully present in the moment, step by step. This is what you can take to your heart. More than that only leads to fear. Knowing and creating is in the here and now. And the second lesson? Do not believe your mind. It always exaggerates. In the moment before falling I had probably only heard a small deer somewhere nearby, but my mind had imagined a huge monster. I walked out of the forest safe and sound, and I will never forget the sunrise in front of Pamplona. Sitting in the lotus position, I treated myself to a meditation on new beginnings. That sunrise marked a new birth for me. The roaring river stood for my unknown, uncontrollable and at times frightening subconscious. The flow stood for the need to release redundant thoughts. My fall embodied the importance of focus. The feeling of expansion instead of contraction, however, stood for the well-known feeling that, whenever I was in my heart, I would always be safe. As soon as I was properly bathed by the sun and took enough time to breathe in this freeing experience, I set out towards Pamplona. Surely I arrived in the city that day earlier than most other pilgrims along the Camino. The wondering faces of the still sleepy locals made me feel a special morning attraction. 58

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How did I become a ‘local legend’? Because the story of that insane woman walking through the forest alone in the middle of the night spread like a virus among the other pilgrims. While I was happily swimming in the water during one of the subsequent stages of the pilgrimage, I was approached by a kind Finnish father who started to explain how he would love to walk in the night with his son during a full moon, but that he was somewhat afraid. After hearing the story of a woman who had fallen into a river, broken her jaw, only to be saved by a few German pilgrims. I laughed at how the story had changed as it had been passed around on the Way, like the mind’s ability to make a mountain out of a molehill.


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