Today is the last day of a three month vow of silence. I’m a little weirded out and incredibly anxious about the reality of tomorrow and all the subsequent tomorrows. Coming back is… well… “surreal”.
When I think back to my very first day of “Sacred Silence” training on April 4th, I can safely say that I had absolutely no clue about what I was getting myself into. I’ve been able to do something that very few have the time or the resources to do (or the interest), and I am fully aware of what a very blessed man I am. However, I’m not sure I would do it again. Time will tell. It’s been one of the hardest things my soul has ever done. As one who makes a living using words, not being able to verbally process or hide behind words has been really tough. I certainly wouldn’t call it a “great accomplishment.” Feeding a thousand starving orphans each week is a “great accomplishment.” It was more like an exercise in self discipline and delayed gratification, with the hopes that it might be a conductor for significant spiritual growth and sustainable enlightenment.
I hope to “god” that it wasn’t JUST a really long and quiet walk!
People used to say to me that the Camino begins after you get home. It wasn’t until today that I began to comprehend that annoying little platitude. My mind is reeling. My soul is pounding. I feel somewhat like the character that Russell Crowe played in A Beautiful Mind (John Nash) when he’s scribbling furiously on the chalkboard throughout the night, because he knows that there are answers floating around in his mind, but as hard as he tries, he just can’t find them.
Professor Nash, however, was a bonafide award-winning genius who battled schizophrenia. I am a bonafide high school dropout who battles my own ego.
Some have questioned my decision to continue my silence until Christmas, even though I’ve already returned home. However, this has been crucial to my journey because I needed to have my silence transition into home life/real world. Otherwise, it would have been too easy just to say, “Well Drew, you felt that way because you were away.” And so far, it’s been fascinating to hear what’s been happening inside, after my return.
It’s also been curious to endure people’s reactions to what I’ve done. Today, I saw someone who was a mentor to me for much of my formative years, and all he said was that I looked like Santa…
and that I should have tried shutting up for two years because three months wasn’t long enough. (We’ve all gone for funny and missed. I actually teach a course on it.) I went over and gave him a really long hug. Someone I met in the grocery store said that they heard what I was doing but didn’t really understand it, then walked away before the awkwardness of being with a “silent Drew” got any weirder.
Speaking of walking away, it’s been fascinating how strangers had the patience to wait for me to write something on my phone, while those closest to me walk away. Being home and still in silence has helped confirm that “familiarity breeds contempt.” And then contempt breeds, at least in me, a little bit of, “YOU DON’T KNOW ME!” (Now say it like finger wagging Shanekwa from Jerry Springer.) Is it any wonder why I prefer the company of strangers?
Why have strangers been more interested and understanding of my journey of silence over the last three months, than family and relatives and acquaintances? Is it because I was more of an asshole than I even imagined? This shuddering realization terrifies me, because back in September, during my final Sacred Silence Training Day post, I wrote: … I’m TERRIFIED that I’ll come back and be the same schmuck I am today. That I’ll just slip back into life where I left off and continue on without any tangible difference. THAT scares the hell outta me.”
When I left, there were a number of fractured relationships in my life that caused me to ponder something. And after months of silent reflection walking across Spain, I believe my original hypothesis to be correct. I’M THE COMMON DENOMINATOR. Now that I’m back, there are a number of people who are expecting me to be a changed person. What if I’m not? I mean, you’d think that three months of silence and walking 15-45 KM’s everyday for 1000 KM’s would have some impact on a person! BUT WHAT IF IT DOESN’T? And even if it has changed me, how do I measure this mystical metamorphosis? If I swear less, drink less, am less sarcastic, less cynical, less condescending and less selfish – will that appease those waiting for me to be more of what they want? What if I become a daily ray of sunshine? Mr. Positivity? Mr. Nothing Bothers Me? Mr. Peaceful Easy Feelin’? Gandhi 2.0? Will walking The Camino in silence then, finally be understandable?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m not sure I give a holy grunt what others want from me. After all, they couldn’t possibly want more from me than I want from myself. So, what DO I HOPE will be different? The brilliant answer I’ve come up with on my last day is… I don’t know. I just hope that whatever enlightenment I have gained will help me be less of a jerk.
In the meantime, while I understand that not everyone is the same (the ultimate understatement!) and that not all are seekers, all I have to offer those whose sole purpose for taking an interest in my radio show or caminoconfessions.com is to fuel their existing disdain of all things Drew Marshall, are the following quotes that have burrowed their way into my mind as motivational mantras:
In the movie about The Camino starring Martin Sheen called The Way, Martin’s son (played by his real son Emilio Estevez) says to his father in a moment of exasperation (because his father doesn’t understand why his son is walking The Way), “You don’t choose a life. You live one!”
A few years ago, when I was in one of my all time favorite places to visit, I bought a five and a half foot, six pound, two handed, Claymore sword from The Highlands of Scotland. I brought it home and had engraved on it a quote from the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart: “All men die. Not all men really live.”
And of course, there’s this line from Shawshank Redemption: “Either get busy living or get busy dying.”
While walking everyday, there were four things that continuously bothered me: head and shoulders, knees and toes. Now that I’m back, the four things that continuously bother me are: soul and spirit, mind and heart. Maybe THAT’S why they say that The Camino begins when you get back? When people simply don’t understand my journey… that does not bother me. I just pray that I will understand yours. For we are all pilgrims and must walk our own Camino.
*A number of people have asked me what my first words will be when I speak for the first time tomorrow. So many ideas have come to me over the last few months. However, when I was staying at the Benedictine monastery on an island off the coast of the Western Sahara, I woke up about three in the morning and new exactly what I would say. But here’s my question for you. If you had the opportunity to choose your very first words after a great time of silence (not your last words, your first words – they are very different) what would you say? Think about that as tomorrow’s annual celebration of new hope, restoration, and the birth of incarnational unconditional love crawls out from underneath the wrapping of consumeristic chaos.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a Buen Camino!
**The following are just some brief notes I made as I became aware of them upon my return to The Great White North eh!
-customs was not going to let me back into Canada because I was carrying two walking sticks made from wood… FROM CANADA
-listening to everyone speak in a language I actually understand has been… distracting. I’ve gotten so used to only having to read body language.
-my dawg Tucker still remembered me
-showering in a shower I fit in is AHmazing
-sleeping in a big boys bed is AHmazing
-not having to wash clothing everyday so that I have something to wear, is AHmazing
-waking up and getting to choose what clothes to wear is AHmazing
(This is what I wore for 3 months: 1 pant & short combo / 1 pair of shorts / two short sleeved shirts / 1 long sleeved shirt / 1 jumper / 1 Gortex jacket / 1 Gortex pants / 3 pairs of underwear / 3 pairs of socks / 1 hat / 1 belt /1 towel – all bought from www.soujournoutdoors.com in Barrie)
-eating and drinking some of my favourite things has been TOTALLY AHmazing
-driving for the first time in 3 months was trippy
-listening to talk radio, as I used to do religiously, was irritating
-watching the news, as I used to do religiously, was depressing and irritating
-I had no idea just how noisy my life used to be
-I had to get outside and walk, even if it was below zero degrees celsius and it was snow I was sliding down and not 70 foot sand dunes
-not much has changed in the area, except… my giant “Judas” tree was laying on the ground. (I still find myself looking for signs, and that was a big one!)
-emotions are right at the surface 24/7, even anger, which was almost non-existent during the last three months (still trying to figure out what THAT’S all about)
-I’ve discovered that being away and being silent with daily strangers is far easier than being silent at home. It’s much harder remaining silent being back in a familiar environment, especially running into people I know. After three months of explaining to every person I met why it is that I’m silent, I’m officially over it. It’s kind of like coming up with a really unique halloween costume, then having to spend the rest of the night explaining it to people. While shovelling the ice and snow off the driveway today, I ran inside the house on three separate occasions. Once, when a neighbour pulled into his driveway. Once, when a neighbour came out of his house. And once, when the paperboy came by.