600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan

Leaving our stones behind

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My dear friend Maria, whom we all call Maria-menal (Maria + Phenomenal), said something very wise in the midst of a humourous moment one day.

A biker stopped and talked to us when we were walking together one day, and we found out that he lost his camera in Santiago and thus lost all the photos he took in the last five days of his journey. He was cycling in reverse direction from Santiago to where he was five days before so that he could take again all the pictures he lost. "The journey was just too beautiful!" he exclaimed, expecting us to understand why he would walk back. After he left, Maria turned to me and said in an unbelievable tone, "I would never walk back, not even a step!" We laughed, because poor Maria then was walking with two soles full of blisters (details ommited here).

Later, we realized the wisdom of that casual comment because it should be applied to our lives. How often do we look back in our lives and live in the past. How often do we hold on to the baggage of hurts, unforgettable memories and unresolved anger.

On the highest point of the camino at 1,505m above sea level, lies a simple sacred cross atop a weathered pole on a pyramid of stones. It is called Cruz de Ferro. By tradition, fellow pilgrims bring a stone from their home, country, to this point to leave it behind. Leaving a stone behind seems to symbolize leaving one's memories, emotional luggage behind and then moving forward. It could also mean adding a stone at this sacred point to symbolize joining in as a witness of this collective blessed journey. Over the years, people have added significant belongings, photos, letters etc to leave behind.

What I left behind: a luggage lock and a letter. I wanted to leave the 'locks' of my life, the 'locks' within behind. I left a letter with notes of everything I want to let go.... I stayed at Cruz de Ferro for a long while, absorbing the meaning of letting go.

Then I walked on from Cruz de Ferro, and it felt great.

The letting go process does not just happen over a day. It starts from the moment one decides to embark on the journey. As I walked, it became clearer each day what needed to be let go. Being conscious of what we need to let go is half the battle won. Making a ritual of it, I suppose, makes the letting go more resolute.

As wise Maria said, let's look and walk forward.

2 Response to 'Leaving our stones behind'

  1. Christof Said,'> 13 November 2007 at 00:40

    good thing you did not leave the lock in st. jean.
    am happy you made it. very happy you cought up with nicky.
    hope all is well.



  2. Denise Said,'> 22 December 2007 at 07:07

    Christof! Nicky told me briefly about you.....give me your address! I want to hear more....

    And yes, thank goodness I did not leave the lock behind! I went back into your 'trashbag' to search for it at St Jean. =)

    Hope you are well!

    buen camino, denise


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