Learning
Monday, 25 June 2018 09:38

The Story Teller

The Story Teller
By Nancy L. Frey
24 June 2018

Story Teller 21

The most extraordinary gift that I have ever received as a result of my work leading and guiding groups along the Camino de Santiago is the sculpture The Story Teller. Commissioned by a six-time Australian client, who has become a wonderful friend over the years, The Story Teller by Australian artist Laurel Billington is a remarkable sculpture that manages to bring to life the journey along the Camino de Santiago as this dear pilgrim remembers me conveying it to her. All the symbols of the journey are amply present – yellow arrows, the flora, the scallop shell, the backpack – as well as iconic links to the stories – the chickens of Santo Domingo, the Puente la Reina bridge, the Way of the Stars and the dog pilgrim.  

When I received this gift I felt truly overwhelmed with emotion. It was deeply moving to have a dear client and friend sum up in such an extraordinary way what the Camino de Santiago had come to mean to them led by Jose and me. People often say to me that I tell stories well. One New Zealand man once told me that I could “make the stones talk” – a compliment that I found very gratifying. I love the stories of the Camino and I adore sharing them with others. It’s a pleasure to bring to life the hopes and dreams of pilgrims over the ages, the trials they suffered, the hazards they encountered, the saints and relics they visited along the way and the many miracles that motivated them to continue on. A good story continues to motivate and enrich our lives. We all have stories of our own which makes it possible to relate to all of these human and endearing stories we encounter along the Way

Story Teller 2

Published in Latest
Wednesday, 20 September 2017 12:53

The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age

Video of Nancy’s talk: The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age (Jan 2017, London)
By Nancy L. Frey
September 2017

In January 2017, I gave the keynote address at the Confraternity of St James’ Annual General Meeting in London titled The Smart Camino: Pilgrimage in the Internet Age. In the talk I briefly review some general changes I’ve noticed over the last 25 years and then present my research on the incorporation of new media technology into the Camino and how this has impacted being a pilgrim. The rise of the Internet is the single most important change in the Camino during this period and has dramatically impacted how people engage with the pilgrimage experience before, during and after the Camino is over.

The video is long. To help facilitate listening to the parts that are of most interest, I’ve broken down the video into segments and themes. Please let me know if you have any questions or observations.

0:00-1:00 - Intro to video
1:00-4:35 - Intro about talk and Nancy’s 25 years’ experience on Camino
4:35-5:30 - Nature of change on Camino
5:30-22:15 - General Changes on the Camino over the last 25 years
     • 6:55 - Pilgrim’s Office and Statistics
     • 7:45 - Numbers
     • 8:27 -  Sex
     • 8:50 -  Internationalization
     • 10:11 - Mode of Travel
     • 10:50 - Roads Traveled and Development of other routes
     • 11:44 - Acquisition of the Compostela Certificate & Certificate of Distance
     • 14:18 - Motivations and Expectations
     • 16:33 - Infrastructure
     • 17:50 - John, the Pilgrim Helper and Red tape
     • 18:29 - Equipment
     • 19:13 - Invasion of our Attentional Space
     • 19:42 - Graffiti & Pokemon Go
     • 21:08 - The Cathedral: Security, protecting patrimony and limited access
     • 21:33 - What happened to the wild dogs?
22:15-23:38 - Changes related to Internet Age. Tech is a tool but not a neutral tool.
23:38-26:44 - Pilgrimage/Camino is a Rite of Passage with three stages: Prep, During, Return. “While the physical component has remained relatively the same, for most people the mental component has changed dramatically…” The Camino in the Cloud.
26:44 – 35:47 - Stage 1: Preparation for the Camino in the Internet Age. Anxiety is normal. Information overload, we overly complicate the Camino, developing pilgrim identity pre-Camino
     • 33:12 - What to take and packing lists
35:52 – 1:02:15 - Stage 2: Being on the Camino
     • 35:52 - Outcomes of preparation and spectrum of mobile tech usage
     • 38:45 - Experience of time and place impacted, Incorporation of “Tech time”; bracketed time away disrupted, stay inside comfort zone
     • 42:56 - Internet age pilgrims have new needs and new neediness; my sacred tech time; increase virtual connections and decrease face-to-face connections
     • 47:10 - Impact on Camino community and social relations
     • 49:53 - Relationship to Home; the importance of “missing” and “longing”; collaborative pilgrimages
     • 53:48 - Digital Detox pilgrimages
     • 56:25 - Shift in thinking and expectations about “what is the Camino?”; controlling the Camino and fear management; “not having a bed” anxiety; having a “Trip Advisor” Camino; dilution of the power of our experiences
     • 1:00:30 - Tech industry encourages us to trust tech and not ourselves; WiFi App; Progressively outsourcing skills to phone and atrophying those abilities within ourselves.
1:02:15-1:05 - Reaching Santiago – transition point; experiences mediated by phones; losing trust in our memories; capturing moments vs contemplating moments
1:05-1:11 - Stage 3: The Return Home
1:11-1:14:59 - Conclusions

Published in Latest
Tuesday, 15 November 2016 09:32

R&K Know Before You Go Galicia

R&K Know Before You Go Galicia

The travel journal Roads & Kingdoms asked Nancy to write an insider article about Galicia in their "Know Before You Go" series for the November 2016 launch of their book Grape, Olive, Pig. Here's a link to her article:

View Article

Published in Latest
Monday, 20 July 2015 13:45

Ginnie's Scallop Shell

May Camino 2003

There are some people you never forget! Virginia and George Havens traveled with us 12 years ago in May 2003 along the Camino de Santiago. They formed part of a special group that came together as strangers and ended up sharing many wonderful moments and developing friendships that still endure today. I have a photo of that memorable group taken at the Camino’s literal high point – la Cruz de Ferro (the Iron Cross). Looking at each face brings back a flood of memories. Some of them went on to travel with us two or even three times. Others we have kept in touch with via email and holiday cards.

One such special couple is Virginia and George. At the time they were a spry 78 and 79 and they are still going strong! Jose and I fondly remember how beautiful Ginnie was always lovingly cared for by George. Ginnie’s a birder and I can still remember hearing about her work with birds and building birdhouses. As we walked she’d point out birds I couldn’t even see. Many times over the years I have wished she were along on other walks to keep teaching me!  On that trip we also discovered that Ginnie and I and another woman on the trip, Nancy Grandfield, are all Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters. That was a great coincidence! At the end of walk, during our final dinner at the Parador in Santiago de Compostela, George got up, ordered champagne for the group and gave a very special and meaningful toast! What a couple!

Over the years we have kept in touch and George sent me an email telling me about Ginnie’s continuing education through Case Western Reserve University. He wrote:

Her latest [class] was Sports History which required writing a short paper on an object related to some athletic activity (baseball bat, football, etc.). Ginnie chose her scallop shell and we thought you would enjoy seeing her report to which she attached a copy of the Camino certificate that you gave us.

We did enjoy seeing her report and asked if we could have permission to publish it here with a photo of Ginnie. We hope you enjoy this as much as we did! We greatly enjoy seeing how the Camino continues to evolve in people’s lives and can inspire projects such as these 12 years later! Buen Camino, Ginnie and George!

The Scallop Shell
By Virginia C. Havens

The symbol that evokes memories of achievement, endurance and adventure is the white scallop shell hanging on a cord at my desk. This type of shell was first worn on the hat of St. James, patron warrior saint of Spain, and today it signifies a completed pilgrimage walk on the Camino de Santiago across Spain.

Virginia Havens 2015First, a brief history of St. James, a disciple of Jesus, and this 500-mile trek to Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. James came to Spain shortly after the crucifixion to spread Christianity. On returning to Jerusalem, he was beheaded by Herod and his body sent in a casket by the other disciples back to Spain for burial. After some 800 years, the burial spot was forgotten and unknown, but on a certain night the field was illuminated by the stars and with this guidance the burial casket of St. James was unearthed and discovered. This startling discovery resulted in a sacred pilgrimage to this holy site that drew pilgrims from all over Europe.

The Camino starts in eastern Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France and Spain. It descends through Roncesvalles (a historic location where Charlemagne once fought the infidel Moors) then on to Pamplona. Logrono, Burgos, Leon, Bierzo, Arzua to Santiago to be blessed in the great cathedral there. In the middle ages, pilgrims walked the 500 miles across Spain seeking redemption and a spiritual encounter with St. James, and receiving forgiveness for their sins. This walk along this ancient road became a venerated tradition and Santiago became a popular pilgrimage destination. Last year over a million individuals were reported to have traversed the Camino and then received the scallop shell to reward and verify their experience.

In my years of reading I would come across references to this famous “road” and I would think “Oh the experience of walking it...walking, thinking a and meditating” with all of Spain stretching out before me, all open, no restrictions, no time table...just me and the world.   

In 2003 my husband and I decided to tackle the Camino, at least a part of it. We would do 100 miles in 12 days in an arrangement that extended across the entire road, but avoided the less interesting parts. It was for me a magnificent experience and the shell recreates memories of golden wheat fields filled with red poppies, impressive ancient buildings, bridges and churches, warm and kind mountain people, owls and great beech trees and exotic foods. And then the memory of walking 8 to 10 miles each day on weary, weary feet, then the last demanding push for 12 miles up an almost unending mountainside on a never-to-be-forgotten day.

What are the lasting, indelible effects of such an experience? First of all, I am always aware of having the gumption to do such a trek at a senior age. Then having the courage to cross the ocean, plant my feet on strange soil and move out on a 100-mile effort, and accomplish it. It was a singular decision in my life – that produced a bold, unique and highly satisfying experience that confirmed my commitment to an adventurous life. It reinforced my love and appreciation for Spain. It left me with regrets that we were not able to do the tough trek to the Everest base camp at 18,000 feet in Nepal (which we had planned) and on to the Antarctic in the footsteps of Shackleton.

05-01-15

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by Nancy L. Frey, PhD

Oldest Known Pilgrim's Scallop Shell in Santiago de Compostela

One of my favorite objects on display in Santiago de Compostela's Museo de las Peregrinaciones (Pilgrimages Museum) is this scallop shell dated to before 1120. Identified as "Vieira de peregrino (Pectem maximus) " (Pilgrim's Scallop) the room text tells us it: "was found in a burial place in a plot that was later occupied by the north central nave of the Romanesque cathedral of Santiago. Therefore, it is prior to 1120. The scallop shell is the symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago, taken by pilgrims on their way back home to the most remote places in Europe." We are looking at the oldest known scallop shell used by a pilgrim to the shrine of St James in Santiago de Compostela.

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Tuesday, 03 March 2015 12:08

On Foot in Spain

"Aside from marrying my husband and having my son, this was the greatest thing I have ever done. Everything I hoped for, and more, happened. Please know to what a great extent you enhanced my life…"
Cynthia, Portland, Oregon, USA,
Camino de Santiago, 2003

I have done so much raving on to people about how wonderful On Foot in Spain & particularly Nancy & Jose were, that they should never need to advertise. It was all such a special experience as evidenced by our reaction as we walked into the Santiago Square – still gives me goosebumps….Nancy & Jose – you are absolute legends….”.
Bron & Michael, Vermont, VIC, Australia
May 2017, Camino de Santiago

Nancy and Jose

Sam, Jose and Nancy on Portugal tour by client B. Cameron

WHO WE ARE: YOUR OWNER-GUIDES - NANCY & JOSE

Receiving feedback like the above testimonials, written 14 years apart, fills us (Nancy & Jose) with a tremendous sense of fulfillment. Our primary goal on our trips is to help facilitate the engagement of our travelers with something meaningful within themselves or the rich landscapes and experiences within which they are immersed. Being a part of someone’s potentially transformative experience is a great honor and privilege. Jose and I both have a great passion for and knowledge of Spain, where we live (Galicia), the Camino de Santiago and it is a pleasure to share this with those who accompany us.

OUR ORIGINS

Both Nancy and Jose have always held both walking and learning close to their hearts. Their paths crossed while Nancy was conducting her doctoral dissertation research on the Camino de Santiago in the hamlet of Roncesvalles (Navarre) and Jose was just beginning a 450-mile/780KM walk across Spain. Their paths rejoined a month later in Santiago de Compostela and since then have not diverged.

Together they co-authored the chapters on Galicia, Cordillera Cantabrica (Picos de Europa) and the Camino de Santiago for Lonely Planet’s Walking in Spain (1999 and 2003 and Hiking in Spain, 2010) and co-authored Lonely Planet's 1st edition of Walking in Scotland (2001). Nancy and Jose started On Foot In Spain Walking & Hiking Educational Adventures in 1999. They have three children, Jacob (2 Feb 1999) Marina (05 Dec 2003) and Sam (27 Nov 2006), and live on the Galician coast.

 

Nancy L. Frey, PhD

Nancy on top of Mt. Dana, Yosemite circa 1978

Nancy on top of Mt. Dana, Yosemite circa 1978Nancy’s love of hiking grew from annual summer trips to Yosemite led by a Dad who always knew the name of every tree and who reveled in leading his children to inspirational points. Thus it wasn’t too surprising that when she selected her subject material for her doctoral dissertation in cultural anthropology (UC Berkeley) one very attractive element of it was the prospect of traversing the north of Spain on foot.

Since her first walk in 1993, Nancy has walked the Camino de Santiago numerous times and cycled it as well. In her book on the modern day journey, Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press, 1998), Nancy brings to life the contemporary way by discussing pilgrims' motivations, mishaps and discoveries while walking as well as providing insights into why the route is so popular today.

In the late 1990s Nancy lectured for ElderHostel and the Smithsonian Institution on their educational tours in Spain, Portugal and France. She also taught a course on the Camino de Santiago at the University of Santiago. Nancy is currently researching the impact of the internet and mobile technologies on the pilgrimage experience and on being a pilgrim. Her website Walking to Presence is dedicated to sharing her research and insights on pilgrimage in the Internet Age and to helping travelers to reflectively engage more fully with their travel experiences.

One of Nancy’s favorite roles on tour is bringing to life the history and culture of the places we visit through a wide range of stories and consistently receives very positive feedback for how she conveys her knowledge. To learn more about this facet of the On Foot experience, read The Story Teller. In this photo, taken by client F. Fehr, Nancy has just told the group about the history of the special mountain village O Cebreiro and explained how and why the yellow arrows were invented.

In her free time she enjoys reading, swimming, kayaking, tending her flower garden and her hens as well as cooking savory pies and tarts.

Jose Daniel Placer
Jose Daniel PlacerA native of Santiago de Compostela, Jose received his law degree from the University of Santiago and then made a 180 degree turn away from being a lawyer and back to his real passion: children and the outdoors. He has taught outdoor education and coached soccer, basketball and volleyball.  He runs the children’s theater program for the local school where he writes and directs the plays.

With Europe as his backyard, Jose has hiked extensively both within and beyond Spain since he was a teenager. Despite having enjoyed the Italian Dolomites, and hiking in the Alps while studying law at the University of Passau in Germany, his favorite stomping ground continues to be Spain’s Picos de Europa.

Jose’s picnics have received tremendous praise over the years. When not on tour Jose lovingly tends his fruit orchard and garden and enjoys experimenting with new recipes from our own harvest.

Jose especially enjoys writing short stories, carpentry, restoring furniture, working his garden, kayaking and mountain biking.



ON FOOT PHILOSOPHY
Each time we set out on a trail we go with the idea that to walk is to learn. Slowing down to the rhythm of your feet inevitably brings more to your immediate attention and consequently allows for greater speculation and wonder. We abide and live by the slow travel, slow experience movement as an enriching way to experience a new culture.

On our journeys into northern Spain’s exceptionally beautiful back roads we want to give you the opportunity to challenge yourself physically (without overdoing) and at the same time pique your curiosity by pointing out the not so obvious as well as providing insights into the wonders of the everyday. In this photo, taken by traveler J. Laskall, she captured Jose demonstrating the usage of the Spanish botijo, glass wine holder, traditionally used by field workers.

ON FOOT PHILOSOPHY 

Art, architecture, anthropology, folklore, history, Spanish fiestas, cuisine - we interlace them all into each day of your tour. Our carefully designed walks, combining charming accommodations in rural inns, monasteries, and hotels with the finest in local cuisine, will immerse you in the riches of northern Spain’s cultural life and landscapes.

ON FOOT FAMILY

After nearly 20 years of running On Foot in Spain, our family has grown up with the business. Nancy wrote a four-part series highlighting the challenges and joys of having their family grow up with On Foot in Spain as a constant presence. Over the years we have developed very special friendships with travelers from around the world who have joined us on 3, 4, 5 and even 6 trips! We feel very blessed indeed to have created a huge network of the On Foot Family around the world. Thank you to all of you who have made it possible. Please see our group photo gallery to enjoy the experiences of our some our 1500 clients on 160 tours in the last 18 seasons.

On Foot in Spain Family On Foot in Spain Family
2010                                                                                             2017

To read about the On Foot Family story, please read here.

 

Find out more about On Foot in Spain......contact us at

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Friday, 07 November 2014 10:21

On Foot in Spain endorsed by Lonely Planet

Published in Latest
Friday, 03 January 2014 13:38

Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve

In December 2013 the BBC aired a three part pilgrimage documentary with adventure traveler and writer Simon Reeve as the presenter. I was consulted by the BBC for their film preparation as an expert on the Camino de Santiago and then interviewed by Simon Reeve in Santiago de Compostela in June 2013. A small part of that interview appears in Episode 2 of Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve in which Simon covers pilgrimage in northern France, along the Camino de Santiago, and then, finally, in Rome. In this clip from Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve, Episode 2, I answer Simon’s questions about Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrimage city, about Santiago or St James as a multi-faceted figure (Apostle, Pilgrim and Warrior) and about the sticky issue of whether or  not the bones of the Apostle James are really in Santiago de Compostela or not.
For more information about the full episode, please see the BBC website. This segment in which Nancy Frey appears with Simon Reeve is reproduced with permission from the BBC.

Here is the direct link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01kqjg3/episodes/guide.

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Boots Marina de Almeida PradoBrazilian photographer Marina de Almeida Prado joined us in June 2012 along the Camino de Santiago.
Here she shares with us and comments on some of her favorite photos from her pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. To see more of her work, please visit her website.


Marina de Almeida Prado's Photo Essay on the Camino (2012)

In September 2010, exactly on the 14th, I woke up thinking about the Camino. I knew absolutely nothing about the Camino. I only heard of a few people who had already done it. I eagerly started researching. But a few days later I was completely discouraged, because in my current life with a son, husband, job and home, the thought of leaving everything for 40 days off was just impossible.

One day, just because I couldn’t get it out of my mind,  I posted the word "CAMINO" on Facebook  and immediately a friend  asked: Did you do it? I said no and that I would love to do it but 40 days was not feasible. And she told me, there were other ways to do the Camino and told me about the website www.onfootinspain.com.

She told me: “Choose which way and how many days you want to do it.  I recommend it!”
My contact with Nancy began on the same day, but due to lack of vacancies, I waited until June 2012.

And on June 3 I left for Spain. This would be my first trip all alone after 12 years.  A very special moment.  I chose the route "On Glory Roads," The Camino de Santiago From Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela in 12 days.

I’m a photographer and I took all my equipment with me. But I wanted to photograph every second of the journey  and by the third day I opted to take pictures with  my Iphone 4S so I could use the effects of Instagram and immediately post all my emotions to the world.
There were places and people during my journey that touched me so much. During my time on the path, away from my daily life, I realize what a very privileged person I am. What a great life I have and that I am a truly blessed human being.

One thing I can say for sure: after 12 days in the company of 11 wonderful Australians, 1 American (Nancy), and 2 Spanish guys  (Jose and Sam), something very special was born inside of me. Unforgettable!

I’ve attached some of my favorite photos. Click here to follow the link to the gallery. Here are my comments about some of the photos:

Romanesque bridge of Puente la Reina
I couldn’t believe how gorgeous this bridge was. The water reflection was just amazing! The most beautiful bridge I’ve ever seen!
 
Pueblo
The second most beautiful view of my path. I felt like standing there, time stopped.
 
Camino
This moment was my favorite, because this view is the winner! I could feel the immensity, the liberty. My freedom!!
 
Stones
On the path, lots of stones piled up. These really impressed me.
 
Jose’s Picnic Bar
The picnics were always a pleasant surprise, with different kinds of cheese, cold cuts and salad every day. A moment we all look forward to! And,the pilgrim bar, long-awaited throughout the path by all of us!
 
Real Monasterio San Zoilo
Another very special moment in my path...The deepest blue sunset of my journey. The view from my bedroom window.  I think I could grasp the meaning of blue.

Cruz de Ferro
I was very touched when I arrived at the Iron Cross. One of the simplest and most meaningful moments of the Camino.
 
Iron bucket
For a moment, this iron bucket made me go back to my childhood at the farm.
Close to Cebreiro. A very special place.
 
Botafumeiro
The mass, the smell, the people and the place. Pure emotion.
 
Marina de Almeida Prado
Fotógrafa -  MAP . PHOTO
http://www.marinadealmeidaprado.com
+ 55 11 999102932

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Nancy’s Book Review

Walking Your Blues Away. How to Heal the Mind and Create Emotional Well-Being by Thom Hartmann (Vermont: Park Street Press, 2006).

A pilgrim on the Camino has marked the way with an arrow pointing towards a heart. Things of the heart are ahead.I was gifted this book by a body worker[1] who walked with us along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in 2005. After sitting on the shelf unread for at least a year, the right moment finally arrived to crack open the pages. It’s a quick read and easy to access. The most compelling parts are when Hartmann discusses how walking is a potentially healing activity for emotional trauma. This concept immediately began to resonate with my own anthropological work on the contemporary reanimation of the medieval pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, which culminated in my book Pilgrim Stories. On and Off the Road to Santiago (UC Press, 1998). In the late 1980s people from many different backgrounds, countries, walking experience and belief systems (and frequently without a religious motivation) began to take up the traditional symbols of the Santiago pilgrim, the scallop shell and staff, and set out on demanding journeys walking westward across northern Spain (and even the far corners of Europe) to reach the tomb of the apostle James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela. Every year since then, more and more people undertake this walking journey and come home with positive stories of self-discovery, personal triumph, transformation and, even, change.

I found over and over again during my research that many people were led to walk the Camino (a personal journey that can range from one day to four months depending on the walker) to work through their own personal issues. Many were at a breaking point – graduate from college, mid-life crisis, retirement – or had experienced a loss – divorce, death, employment.  Whereas many pilgrimage sites, framed within a more religious context, are sought out by pilgrims to heal the suffering body, I found repeatedly that along the Camino, as they walked, people were healing the suffering soul.  In Pilgrim Stories, I write:

The journey of the Camino can reveal wounds – loss, failure, fear, shame, addiction – left festering from daily life. Experiences along the way often act as the catalyst that allows them to be exposed. It has been, and appears to continue to be, a road for hopes and miracles of fulfillment of a different order. Some pilgrims, acknowledging this themselves, refer to the Camino as la ruta de la terapia, the therapy route (Frey, p. 45).

Through the walking experience people opened themselves up, usually without any perceived intention on their part, to a whole series of unforced emotional experiences.  Time and again, people recounted thinking of people that had not been in their conscious thoughts for years, developing a more active dream life as well as feeling ‘more deeply’ while on the road.

In my book, I discuss this process of opening as part of the elimination of the distractions/stressors of daily life. When life is reduced to its basics and your mind is not absorbed with the minutiae of running a busy  life, full of obligations and demands, all of sudden there is space for feelings, emotions, memories to come to the surface. While walking (though also many times during sleep and dreamtime), pilgrims described to me how they came to new insight, resolution or clarity regarding issues from the past. The walking became a healing process for both known and unknown or conscious/unconscious (prior to beginning the Camino) issues from the past.

In Walking Your Blues Away, Hartmann has added a new dimension to my understanding of this healing process on the cognitive level with his discussion of ‘bilateral therapy’ – the alternating stimulation of the right and left lobes of the brain ‘while thinking of a problem or issue’ (p. 30). Stimulating both the thinking and feeling parts of the brain with the bi-lateral movement, the person is able to process the experience in such a way that it is moved from the forefront of memory to the past thereby reducing its negative hold on your psyche.  Apparently most of our memories are processed during our REM sleep – another form of bi-lateral stimulation. Sometimes, though, the memories are too big/painful to be worked through in REM. Bi-lateral therapy works to simulate the same type of memory processing so that painful experiences can be worked through and moved into the past. Hartmann explains, “With the walking therapy…in most cases this recognition that the experience is in the past happens during the walk itself.  That is the key indicator that the session has been successful” (p. 13). By  applying bilateral theory to walking (an activity that requires the constant stimulation of the brain’s left and right hemispheres with its side-to-side motion), Hartmann offers an excellent way for people to heal themselves without having to resort to traditional ‘talk therapies’,  or even any kind of verbalization of the trauma or painful memories.  He posits that perhaps we have been healing ourselves, since the dawn of time before we had experts – psychotherapists, psychologists, shamans, etc. – by engaging in our most fundamental human activities: walking and thinking.

His work is strongest when discussing the history of bilateral therapies and the application of them to walking based on his own experience and practice. Bilateral therapy has its origin in the development of healing techniques derived from hypnotism first recognized as therapeutic by Mesmer in the 1700s. He describes the fascinating story of Freud’s initial usage and success with bilateral therapy and hypnotism before he abandoned this path in favor of psychotherapy when hypnotism was discredited in Europe and America in the 1890s. His middle chapter on cultural bi-lateralism is over generalized and I found it to be an unnecessary distraction to the larger theme.

The last three chapters provide concrete advice on how to utilize his technique not only for resolving past trauma or negative feelings around a nagging issue but also as a means to increase creativity, motivation and physical health.  His technique is thoroughly described and is easily accessible to the lay person.  It consists of five steps very briefly summarized here (pp. 62-67):

1 – “Define the issue”. Figure out what’s bothering you and picture it in your head.

2 –“ Bring up the story”. Flesh out the issue and determine its level of strength inside of you.

3  – “Walk with the issue”. It usually takes less than 30 minutes to get resolution.

4 – “Notice how the issue changes”. While walking observe how your feelings around the issue shift.

5 –“Anchor the new state”. Review the transformation of the feelings to fix it in your mind.

He encourages a positive and optimistic viewpoint and helpfully reminds the reader: “Remember: There is no failure. There is only feedback. Learn from the feedback and continue on.” (p. 65)

His ideas resonate with my own observations of how people experienced the walking along the Camino. It was very common for those walking to come to some kind of resolution or decision. Many people wanted to do something more creative with their lives upon return home. Others spoke about returning to the Camino to ‘recharge their batteries’ – that the walking along the Camino gave them mental and physical energy that they felt lacking in their daily lives. Perhaps it was simply engaging in this process of bi-lateral movement while walking that allowed people to stumble along the path to their own healing process. In 2008 I interviewed a modern-day Camino legend, John the English gentleman who aids wayward pilgrims in his campervan, for a chapter I wrote for Lonely Planet’s 7th edition of Spain. He had a nice of way of describing the same process of healing. I asked him why he thought people were walking to Santiago today and he responded :

“My impression is that a very large proportion have suddenly been confronted with a grave problem with home, work, family, career, their physical health or love life…and they are so overwhelmed by their everyday preoccupations that they don’t know what to do about it. Walking the Camino is a unique kind of therapy. I call it ‘Self-administered Ambulatory Psychotherapy’. Troubled minds heal themselves – by walking the Camino de Santiago. (Spain, 7th edition, article: Camino de Santiago by Nancy Frey, p. 125, Lonely Planet, 2009).

John has also observed the healing quality that is experienced by those who walk this historical pilgrimage path. Intuitively people have sensed that walking to Santiago will be good for them and have heeded that call to go, once again, the ‘human speed’.

Hartmann’s book and technique will potentially be very helpful to people who walk (or those who don’t but who would like to) and who would like to more consciously make their walks productive for healing, creativity and focused thinking. While for many people the bi-lateral movement brings about the healing without realizing it, by having the technique available, it can potentially help people focus on problem solving as well as ‘anchor’ the new state so that the change is more lasting. In Pilgrim Stories, I write: “While it will not determine outcomes, making the pilgrimage can help the participant on a personal level to ‘rework the past’ and possibly ‘move toward a renewed future’ (Frey, p. 46). This sentiment is in essence the point of Walking Your Blues Away – it takes a very basic human activity and explores its great potential for healing and future well-being. Go take a walk!
[1] Thank you Erin Susan Parks for bringing this book to my attention.  Erin is the owner of LMT Massage for Optimal Living in the Atlanta area.

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