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

Yellow Arrow No.2: Crossroads

Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Saturday, January 24, 2009
Almost when we realize we need change, we will come to a crossroad of decisions to make. This will be the moment of truth - the test of our will.

Be it leaving the job that we no longer grow in, saying goodbye to a dying relationship that we have invested our time and love in, or breaking away from a habit that destroys us etc., the decision to make change is never easy. Change is painful. But when we are able to recognize that we need change, we are already halfway there. Now is the moment to take the plunge.

I remember several distinct points in my life when I had to take plunges into the unknown. One was deciding to walk the Camino. When I found out about the Camino, I was both excited and fearful. I wanted to do it, but at the same time was so afraid. I had no idea if I was capable of this feat that drew me so intensely. I remember lying in my bed agonizing over the number of days I would walk. Could I do 3 days of 100km? 300km? I even called a friend who had cycled from London to Paris to ask him if he thought I could do it. It was rather foolish of me, thinking back, to ask another. But I needed some assurance to tell me I could do it. I wanted to. When I finally decided to walk 600km for a month, nothing could stop me.

At the critical point of a crossroad, we could either move away from who we are, or towards our center. For those of us who have been so used to making decisions guided by external influences, this inner compass is hard to find. We would find ourself struggling between our heart and our mind, between hope and fear. Take right, or take left?

While we may seek friends' words for guidance, their words will only be meaningful when they help us to grow in courage, faith and walk towards becoming who we truly are. More often than not, we only want them to say what we want to hear. Only us can decide which will win: hope or fear, heart or mind, true self or false self. I think the right choice, as a friend reminded me, is the one that helps us sleep in peace at night, that energizes us towards living our life more fully.

I hold this quote, from one of my favorite books, Follow Your Heart by Susan Tamaro, dear to my heart:
"Everytime you feel lost, confused, think about trees, remember how they grow. Remember that a tree with lots of branches and few roots will get toppled by the first gust of wind, while the sap hardly moves in a tree with many roots and few branches. Roots and branches must grow in equal measure, you have to stand both inside of things and above them, because then will you be able to offer shade and shelter, only then will you be able to cover yourself with leaves and fruits at the proper season.

And later on, when so many roads open up before you, you don't know which to take, don't pick one at random; sit down and wait. Breathe deeply, trustingly, the way you breathed when you came into the world, don't let anything distract you, wait and wait some more. Stay still, be quiet, and listen to your heart. Then, when it speaks, get up and go where it takes you."

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    Ave Maria - Lourdes, France

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