Mantra Monday + A book review

Look for the gifts

I have a sick child at home today and am still recovering from the-cold-that-will-not-end. Plans have been thrown out the window and this week’s mantra is now simply, Breathe, Stay Present, Look for the Gifts.

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Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed
by Sonia Choquette

I loved Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail so when I saw that Sonia Choquette had a new book with a similar theme, I grabbed it for two reasons.  Sonia is a world class intuitive and spiritual teacher whose memoir, Diary of a Psychic, was one of the first books I read when my intuitive abilities started to open up. Though my path is very different than hers, in reading her story I felt like I’d found a mentor. The second reason was that I was fascinated at how someone who was hugely successful in the spiritual world had a personal life that was such a hot mess.

Exhausted and in emotional pain over the ending of numerous relationships, including her marriage, Sonia feels called to walk the ancient pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago across France and Spain. The book is a composite of the daily details of her walk – what she ate, what her hostels were like, who she befriended and what happened to her toes – and her emotional releases and spiritual realizations.

She talks of being shamed for her feelings by her parents, the nuns at her Catholic school and by spiritual teachers. I have railed against this for years. The “spiritual bypass” is deeply harmful and the only way through our difficult feelings is to experience them fully so they can be released. This might seem obvious but with the popularity of (distorted) Law of Attraction ideas, and “just think positive thoughts” bull-poopy alongside cultural conditioning such as “good girls don’t get angry” or “boys don’t cry” so many people feel horrible about feeling horrible.

The magic of the Camino finally allows Sonia to release her pain and the healing she experiences is so profound the skeptic in me raised an eyebrow. In all fairness she does wonder if she’ll be able to hold on to the peace and forgiveness she feels once she leaves the sacred space of the Camino, but clearly she is deeply and forever changed.

She is also realistic about what it will take to return to her life. I loved this section on ego:

I had no illusions that I was done with my ego. I knew it would, again and again, try to run my life, as I was only human. I knew it would flare up when I was tired or feeling insecure, or felt afraid to be seen. Only now, I knew how to tame it. There was only one way. I had to love myself fully and conditionally. I had to have compassion for myself and be sensitive and responsive to my authentic needs. I had to pray daily for guidance and give myself the time and space to nurture my spirit and enjoy my life. I had to stay present in the moment and not leap into the future or fall back into the past. That was a tall order, but I knew it would bring me peace.

I also needed to stop seeing my ego as “the enemy” and start seeing it was the “me” who needed more love. I didn’t have to fight my ego when it flared up in pain. I needed to soothe and calm my ego, handing it over to the care of my spirit and to God to quiet down and reassure.

This is so lovely. We can’t be human and not have egos (despite what some spiritual teachers try to tell us) but we can be less driven by them. And that is what brings greater peace and joy into our lives. Deep breath. Yes.

Sonia’s writing is honest and engaging. I don’t know that many people of her stature in the spiritual world would write so candidly about their personal and emotional struggles. It’s a lovely reminder that we are all human (and not to be placed on pedestals) and that we all have our particular lessons to learn. Because she is so warm and open, after finishing I immediately downloaded samples of several of her other books. I feel like I can trust her because she doesn’t pretend to be perfect or have it all figured out.

I’ve also added several other books on the Camino to my wish list. Unlike Wild, where I thoroughly enjoyed myself but had no interest in hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I can feel a little internal tug to walk the Camino myself one day. I guess we’ll see what the future brings.

Walking Home: A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed is a fascinating glimpse into the healing power of the Camino de Santiago and the magic, mess and wisdom of the human mind and heart.

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