Rebecca Gallo is trying to put into practice the lessons she learned while walking The Camino. Follow along as she continues her spiritual journey — whatever that might mean.
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June 12th, 2013
As a Resident Assistant at the University of Scranton, one of my jobs was to promote activities being held in our building. This usually involved making signs that were eye-catching and would get students interested.
One month the psychology graduate students were tasked with doing a program in our building and my fellow RA’s and I were tasked with getting students to attend. Our posters said things like, “You do it 600 times a day. Want to know what it is? Come to the lounge on Wednesday at 7″ and “You do it 50 times before you get to your first class. Sometimes you do it with other people, sometimes you do it all alone. Do you know what ‘it’ is? Come to lounge on Wednesday at 7 to find out.”
Our posters were a raging success. The only problem was that the presenters didn’t have nearly as stunning a talk. I sat through the dry speech feeling bad for my students that, based on my posters, had expected so much more.
I did, however, learn two things from that presentation
Presenters and promoters should be equally enthusiastic about their topic.
We make more than 600 decisions every day.
June 5th, 2013
The thought had been percolating in my mind for a few months. Taking a year off from working seemed — at first — a little too far-fetched and perhaps a wee bit improbable. But as often happens, the universe listens to our whispered dreams and sends us just what we need.
New Year’s Day 2011, the universe sent me Nina Yau’s audio book Minimalist Freedom. I first heard of Nina when she decided to wear the same outfit to her corporate-America job for seven straight weeks to see if anyone would notice. Only one person did. Shortly thereafter she left her corporate job to live out her dream of being a writer.
My dream was to travel. For a year. Visit friends. Talk to strangers. Do a work-exchange. Walk the Camino. But I had a full life. And a couple jobs. And what would I do with my apartment and my stuff?
I followed Nina’s blog as she shed her belongings and her old life. I was inspired and jumped at the chance to download her audiobook. I can honestly say that listening to that book propelled me forward — making my dream of “a year off” a reality …
May 29th, 2013
It’s a very tiny book. It’s so small, in fact, that twice I went to the library to check it out, twice the library computers said it was there, and twice neither I nor the librarians could find it. ”It’s a small book,” they told me. ”This has happened before…”
On the third try I did indeed get myself a copy. A small book, with a small title. Three words, one syllable each: Help, Thanks, Wow. Author Anne Lamott subtitles it “The Three Essential Prayers.”
“This is a good one,” the librarian told me. “You’ll be reading it and then something just hits you.” I took her word for it and slipped the thin book into my purse.
I love simple, and Anne Lamott has done just that. She doesn’t profess to “know it all” about prayer. But she’s been on her own spiritual search for a while — having documented her journey in numerous books. In all her seeking, she’s learned a few things and I’m happy she’s decided to jot them down for the rest of us to ponder. In this book, she’s boiled prayer down to three one-word essentials.
I reflected on how I use (or don’t …
May 8th, 2013
“Make sure you stop in the church at O Cebreiro and read the prayer there,” Rick’s e-mail told me. He had gotten ahead of me on the Camino, but would send me daily updates on his progress and things not to miss. I didn’t see this particular e-mail before I arrived in O Cebriero. But I found the Prayer of La Faba easily enough, and knew it was something special. Having been on the Camino for a month now, the words resonated with my experience, and that of most any pilgrim who has walked The Way.
Seven months later, I read that prayer to end one of the meetings of our local chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino.
Although I may have travelled all the roads,
crossed mountains and valleys from East to West,
if I have not discovered the freedom to be myself,
I have arrived nowhere.
Although I may have shared all of my possessions
with people of other languages and cultures;
made friends with Pilgrims of a thousand paths,
or shared albergue with saints and princes,
if I am not capable of forgiving my neighbour tomorrow,
I have arrived nowhere.
Although I may have …
April 24th, 2013
I have a confession to make: I don’t go to church on Sundays. Nor any other day for that matter.
I know many who read this site are dedicated followers of Catholicism. I, however, am not. I’ve been going through a years-long process of discernment — trying to figure out if I still want to be part of a religion that no longer seems to fit with my beliefs.
Since I walked out of Mass in Santiago almost a year ago, I have been to a Catholic Mass just three times — all at the invitation of others.
It was during the first that I realized I was no longer sitting there angry: at the stance the Church chooses to take on gay marriage, on women in the priesthood, on celibacy. I was no longer trying to fit into a place where I didn’t belong. I was there this time as an observer. “Oh this is how they choose to live out their religion,” I thought, as if I was attending some other religious service I hadn’t grown up attending. Just like everyone does their own Camino, everyone does their own spirituality. Who am I to judge?
These days, I …
April 18th, 2013
Weighing in on the Busted Halo Office Clean-Up Challenge with some tips for Fr. Dave, Fr. Steve, and everyone joining in at home
(Click for larger image)
It’s spring! Well, on the calendar at least. No matter the temperature, many are feeling their spirits lighten. We’re waking up from winter hibernation. We’re stretching tall, rubbing our eyes and looking around to see: a big mess.
What are all those papers piled around the room? What’s all that stuff sticking out of the drawers? We’d like to open the closet to pull out our spring clothes, but are scared to open the door for fear of what might fall out. The feeling of lightness starts to fade. The weight of having too much stuff pushes down on us.
But have no fear. There are people out there who actually take great joy in helping others in just this situation. Lucky for you, I’m one of them. And lucky for all of us, Fr. Dave and Fr. Steve are taking on the Busted Halo Office Clean-up Challenge and have asked me to give them — and you — some tips on getting started.
Decluttering versus organizing. Many people think, “I want to get organized,” and the first thing they do is go out and buy “stuff” to help them start: containers, closet organizers, baskets. They …
April 10th, 2013
Longing for a simpler, less cluttered life? The Camino taught me a few tricks for making "simple living" a reality.
Our new pope decided he preferred a two-room suite to the 12-room apartment his predecessors have occupied since the early 1900s. He cited reasons of simplicity and community. Simplicity is making news, but it’s not a new concept. Jesus inspired his followers to leave everything behind and, “Come, follow me.” But I don’t think Peter walked away from a 4,000-square-foot home with full closets. Are you inspired by Pope Francis’ choice? Or just looking for a way to bring a little more simplicity to your life?
Americans are living in a time of great abundance. “Oh! But look at the economy!” some say. I don’t mean financially. I mean when it comes to buying material goods. Anything we think we may want is available to us, 24/7, every day of the year, and delivered to our door thanks to the Internet. No money? No problem. The Internet takes credit cards.
Last year, I spent 37 days walking the Camino de Santiago through Northern Spain. When I told people along the pilgrimage that I taught classes on decluttering, pilgrims from other countries couldn’t believe that people actually needed such classes. Some societies are not nearly so consuming as ours. One of …
April 3rd, 2013
Along the Camino, yellow arrows point the way. A pilgrim sees them painted on trees, on buildings, on boulders and sidewalks. No maps are necessary. Just follow the yellow arrows.
In college a friend posted the following on his office door: ”This life is a test — it is only a test. If it had been an actual life, you would have received further instructions on where to go and what to do.” I might modify this and say, “You would have received yellow arrows to point the way.”
When trying to decide to go to Taize or stay in the other night, I wished for an arrow to appear — either pointing to the door or to my couch. As I wondered if I really needed to buy the new pair of jeans I’d just tried on, I wished for an arrow — pointing to my wallet, or directing me out the door.
Along the Camino, there were times I saw two arrows pointing in different directions. One way led to an albergue where, if I was finished walking that day, I could rest for the night. Following the other arrow kept me on the path — if my …
March 20th, 2013
A pilgrim walks The Camino near the town of Burgos, Spain. (CNS photo/Felix Ordonez, Reuters)
There he was again, up ahead of me on the trail, walking his bicycle, his backpack fastened to its seat. I had seen him a few times over the last week but never once did I see him actually riding that bicycle.
I could no longer stand the mystery. When I caught up to him he smiled and greeted me, as all pilgrims do, with, “Buen Camino.” He spoke no English, but thanks to sign language and the few words of Italian I knew, I managed to ask him if he ever hops on the bicycle himself.
“No,” he said. He gave me an explanation supplemented by pointing to his pack, then putting a hand to his low back and showing me a grimace. Later, a pilgrim who spoke both Italian and English confirmed what I had suspected: this man had wanted to walk the Camino and did not want to use one of the services to carry his pack for him. So he brought a bike with him whose sole purpose was to hold his pack.
He was not the first person I saw …
March 13th, 2013
Not too long after I returned from walking the 500-mile Camino to Santiago my mother said, “Your brother-in-law is very impressed.”
“Yeah. He gave you three days.”
“Three days? He didn’t think I’d make it past three days?”
“Your sister Liz gave you a week.”
I laughed and realized they had every reason to be skeptical. I was not a hiker, nor did I consider myself athletic in any sense of the word. The last time I attempted anything even remotely close to this was when I walked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon 10 years earlier. By the time I came back out, my boyfriend was carrying both of our packs and I was in tears.
So if you think you’re not in good enough physical shape to walk the Camino, there is hope.
How to do it? I followed the advice of Leo Babauta of zenhabits.net. Leo was an overweight, unhappy smoker. Six years later this father of six was a runner, a non-smoker, and the founder of one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. What did he do? He changed his habits. One very small step at a time. And that’s just what …
March 7th, 2013
“How were you able to take so much time off from work to hike the Camino?” a reader asked a few weeks ago.
The short answer is this: I resigned. However, you don’t have to leave your job behind in order to walk the Camino. If you’ve been thinking you’d like to take the journey to Spain to walk The Way, but are not sure you can take six weeks off, here are a few suggestions:
Ask. I met a young Canadian woman who decided to walk the Camino after watching the movie “The Way.” She was a hairdresser and wondered how she could get the time off, but she was determined she was going. She first told her employer about the movie, saying, “I’d really love to do it.” To her surprise, her employer said, “Oh, you must go!” Then the hairdresser started telling her clients, all of whom loved the idea. She received tips and gifts and prayers of support — and assurance that her job would be ready to take her back upon her return.
Do a shorter Camino.… The last 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the Camino can be walked in less than a week.
February 27th, 2013
The kitchen had no stove, but that wasn’t going to stop us. “We can just make a big salad,” Philipp said. We all agreed and off we went to the only market in town. Besides the lettuce, tomatoes, and onion we bought white asparagus, zucchini, and olives – things I had never put on salads back home. But I wasn’t home. I was in Spain, walking the Camino to Santiago and preparing dinner with people I’d met less than two weeks earlier — some of whom I’d spoken with for hours, others with whom I had not shared more than a smile.
The kitchen at our albergue had just one knife but we were all still able to help with the preparations. Those with pocket knives lent them to those who wanted to cut the tomatoes and onions. Others washed and tore lettuce or distributed the olives among the seven plates.
Salad dressing was homemade — the market had none. Philipp squeezed juice from an orange we bought and combined it with some olive oil to make a lovely citrus vinaigrette. Bread was sliced. Wine was poured. We sat to eat outside under the Spanish sun remarking that, for just …
February 20th, 2013
The other day, as I helped a client organize her office, we got to talking about the difference between scarcity thinking and abundance thinking.
“Scarcity thinkers believe things are in short supply. They hold on to what they have and acquire more when they have a chance — whether they need it or not.” I picked up yet another bag filled with office supplies and added them to her growing stockpile.
“Abundance thinkers, however, believe theirs is a world of plenty — whatever they need will come to them when they need it. Or, in this day and age, can be bought 24/7 online and delivered to their door. These are the folks who only buy what they need when they need it.”
“I’m definitely a scarcity thinker,” she said, feeling a little bad about it. I assured her that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. My father is a scarcity thinker. It was a good mindset to have when grocery shopping for his family of seven. If an item was on sale, he bought a case of it. Who knew when cranberry sauce would be on sale again? The Great Depression created many scarcity thinkers — people held on …
February 15th, 2013
Imagine a life without hearing the words, “Is that for here or to go?” No coffee to go. No drive-thrus. No take-out containers.
Imagine walking into a coffee shop where no one is staring at a piece of technology. Instead everyone is either engaged in conversation or silently taking in the scene around them.
Impossible? Maybe in this country. But such was my life along the Camino. For 37 days my only option was to sit down and enjoy my beverage or my meal. Instead of assuming I wanted everything in a disposable container “to go,” it was assumed I was sticking around and thus everything was served on real plates with utensils made from something other than plastic. Takeout was not even an option.
Walking into any cafe along the Camino, I rarely saw people staring into the screen of their laptops, or scrolling through the Internet on their phones. I saw something that used to be common in coffee shops: people gathered talking to each other.
I loved this single-focus mindset. It was impossible to drink coffee while walking on the Camino — they were two independent tasks, each to be enjoyed in their own right. …
February 7th, 2013
Rebecca, center, eating with fellow pilgrims on the Camino.
“I feel like my week is off somehow if I don’t come,” I said to Chris as we left the coffee shop. I used to have that feeling about church. Now, I have that feeling about a Tuesday morning gathering — a gathering of returned Camino pilgrims.
I went on the Camino in part to find out if I was on the right path in my spiritual life. It was there that I realized it wasn’t a religion I was seeking per se — I was looking for a community. I never imagined I’d find it at the Atlanta Bread Company.
It’s an informal group. There is no set agenda, no proposed topics of discussion. We show up at the coffee shop sometime around nine and great each other like long lost friends — even though I knew not a single one of these people six months ago when I moved to Asheville. We ask after spouses, children, holiday plans. Eventually, without fail, discussion turns to a Camino memory. Or what we’ll do the next time we go. Or — a favorite of mine — how we’re applying …
January 30th, 2013
What do I miss most about the Camino? If I had to choose just one thing, I’d say, “The simplicity of it all.” More specifically, the fact that there was just one item on my to-do list most days: walk.
“How far did you walk each day?” people ask.
“Twelve to 15 miles in the beginning, but sometimes I did up to 18.”
They are left speechless — a blank stare on their face. “But it’s all I had to do each day,” I tell them. “If you had all day to walk, you could walk that far, too.”
I was reminded of that sentiment last fall when I saw a painting of blue and green mountains. Across the top it read, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”
And that’s what it’s about: time. And what we choose to fill it with. How much of it we choose to fill. In his Life’s Little Instruction Book H. Jackson Brown advises us:
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert …
January 16th, 2013
“So how far are you planning to walk today?” was a question often heard on the Camino.
In the early days of my walk to Santiago, I knew the answer. I had an Excel spreadsheet that listed all the towns in which I planned to stop and the distances between them — in both miles and kilometers. I printed it on purple paper before I left home so I could easily find it, usually stuffed in the middle of my guidebook. “It’s just a rough idea,” I told fellow pilgrims who saw it.
My plan was to ease into long distances. I did five miles on my first day into the Pyrenees. I crossed into Spain on my second day — walking 10 miles. My goal for the third day: 13 miles. But I didn’t follow my plan. I followed Vincenzo. Or, more accurately, his advice.
Vincenzo had walked the Camino twice before. He looked at my purple paper and told me not to stop in Zubiri as I’d planned. He said it wasn’t a very nice town and that instead I should walk on to Larrasoana. So I did. I walked 17 miles that day — more than …
December 19th, 2012
“What’s this?” I said, picking a book up from my friend Tara’s dresser.
“Oh — my friend gave it to me and Russ for our engagement. I haven’t read it yet though. It’s about a woman whose mother puts her prayers in a box, and the daughter tells about finding the boxes after she dies.”
I turned the book over and read the back cover. Then, I opened it up to read the synopsis on the inside cover. I put the book back on Tara’s dresser and filed away the thought that perhaps I could find time to read it in the next couple days — in between my duties as one of Tara’s bridesmaids.
The next day, with time on my hands before the photographer arrived, I headed out into the Orlando sunshine. I spread myself out on a patch of grass and started to read. I finished the book that day. But it took another month before I started my own God Box.
What is a God Box? Simply put, another way of doing something many of us already do. A friend is going through a difficult time and you say you’ll pray for him. Or a request …
December 12th, 2012
The Belief-o-matic. It sounded like a new-fangled kitchen appliance I would have seen advertised on late night TV — back in 1985. I could see the greasy haired salesman on my screen telling me how simple it was to use: “Insert beliefs and in no time at all, you’ll have the perfect religion!”
But this wasn’t a Home Shopping Network sales pitch — it was a website. As a woman who has struggled with her Catholic faith for a while — so much so that she took off on a 480 mile pilgrimage walk to see what she could discover — the whole process intrigued me. Answer 20 questions and be presented with your perfect religion. No need to call the 800 number on my screen. I could simply insert my name and e-mail address and get started. So I did.
If only it was that easy.
Question 1: What is the number and nature of the deity (God, gods, higher power)?
As I read through the seven answer choices I realized I should have followed the advice I give my students preparing for the SAT: read the question, think about what your answer would be, and only then …
December 5th, 2012
I punched a zip code into the labyrinth locater. Jackpot! The search returned two labyrinths in Asheville, North Carolina. The first was at a Catholic church, but I wasn’t ready to step foot in one of those at this point in my life. The second was an outdoor labyrinth at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. It was a mere one-and-a-half mile walk from my temporary home. The next morning, I headed out in search of this circle of stones, eager to walk the labyrinth and hear what it had to tell me.
My body fills with a comfort upon seeing a labyrinth. For those that have never walked one, know that it is not a maze. There are no wrong turns in a labyrinth. There’s a definitive starting point with just one path to follow — and that path is guaranteed to lead you to the center. If only life were so simple.
Instructions for “how” to walk a labyrinth vary. I tend to use the method I learned the first time I was introduced to these circular paths:…
I pause at the start to think of the question into which I’d like some insight.