Return to site

Going backwards to recenter the goal

 I want to offer a magical memory and metaphor I've long carried.

Twelve years ago, around this time, I had just finished a month of walking on the Camino de Santiago in Spain - a historical pilgrimage that draws thousands each year.

I went on that journey during a significant transition in my life when the way forward was muddled and complicated. Being on a journey where the only thing you needed to do was walk on a path guided by yellow arrows seemed like exactly what I needed.

But the downside of such a clear destination is that it can become difficult to detach from that focus. Conversations on the trail often centred on how many km’s you had walked, and how many you had to go until you got ‘there’. Some hikers barely stopped for lunch, wanting to wait until they met their goal for the day before they would rest. 

It seemed all to similar to the rat race I was trying to leave behind.

One day after discovering a booklet left behind by the inspiring Peace Pilgrim (read more about her story here), a friend and I decided to turn around for a day. We wanted a reset, and a practice that would help us make space for the re-connection that we had come to the Camino to find.

“Hey - you're going ‘backwards!” we heard as we started walking the other way. 

We picked a basket of berries, held angel cards in our hands, and started slowly and thoughtfully retracing our steps. Whenever we came across a hiker, we offered some berries and drew them a card. We were met with confusion, gratitude, and some deeply meaningful conversations. 

It was the most magical and memorable day on my journey.  

Turning around that day was an act of re-centring my goal amidst the noise. I had gotten so caught up in reaching the destination that seemingly everyone was moving towards, that I had forgotten why I had decided to walk the Camino in the first place. 

Centring kindness, presence, and connection brought me more clarity than any sooner arrival in Santiago could have given me.

Re-visiting what I learned that day helped me to realize how much I've been in a mode of striving. I've been focusing on reaching largely external goals, trying to get to a destination that I set for myself.

And while there are many wonderful things that can come from that kind of drive, I was reminded to slow down and enjoy the journey.  I committed to re-centre why I am here - not to achieve, or to arrive - but to connect, and to serve.

The wise words of one of my Ember alums came back to me - 

“love is the goal, always".

Sometimes the noise, the never ending list, and the yellow arrows, make it all too easy to forget that gem of wisdom.

May this week find you a moment when you can turn around and recenter what matters most.