The Camino
eBook - ePub

The Camino

A Journey of the Spirit

Shirley MacLaine

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  1. 320 pagine
  2. English
  3. ePUB (disponibile sull'app)
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eBook - ePub

The Camino

A Journey of the Spirit

Shirley MacLaine

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It has been nearly three decades since Shirley MacLaine commenced her brave and public commitment to chronicling her personal quest for spiritual understanding. In testament to the endurance and vitality of her message, each of her eight legendary bestsellers -- from Don't Fall Off the Mountain to My Lucky Stars -- continues today to attract, dazzle, and transform countless new readers. Now Shirley is back -- with her most breathtakingly powerful and unique book yet.
This is the story of a journey. It is the eagerly anticipated and altogether startling culmination of Shirley MacLaine's extraordinary -- and ultimately rewarding -- road through life. The riveting odyssey began with a pair of anonymous handwritten letters imploring Shirley to make a difficult pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostela Camino in Spain. Throughout history, countless illustrious pilgrims from all over Europe have taken up the trail. It is an ancient -- and allegedly enchanted -- pilgrimage. People from St. Francis of Assisi and Charlemagne to Ferdinand and Isabella to Dante and Chaucer have taken the journey, which comprises a nearly 500-mile trek across highways, mountains and valleys, cities and towns, and fields. Now it would be Shirley's turn.
For Shirley, the Camino was both an intense spiritual and physical challenge. A woman in her sixth decade completing such a grueling trip on foot in thirty days at twenty miles per day was nothing short of remarkable. But even more astounding was the route she took spiritually: back thousands of years, through past lives to the very origin of the universe. Immensely gifted with intelligence, curiosity, warmth, and a profound openness to people and places outside her own experience, Shirley MacLaine is truly an American treasure. And once again, she brings her inimitable qualities of mind and heart to her writing. Balancing and negotiating the revelations inspired by the mysterious energy of the Camino, she endured her exhausting journey to Compostela until it gradually gave way to a far more universal voyage: that of the soul. Through a range of astonishing and liberating visions and revelations, Shirley saw into the meaning of the cosmos, including the secrets of the ancient civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria, insights into human genesis, the essence of gender and sexuality, and the true path to higher love.
With rich insight, humility, and her trademark grace, Shirley MacLaine gently leads us on a sacred adventure toward an inexpressibly transcendent climax. The Camino promises readers the journey of a thousand lifetimes.

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Whenever I travel, I prefer to do it light; however, seven pounds of lightness was new to me. Having done the trek herself, my Brazilian friend Anna Strong warned me that each ounce I carried in my backpack would become tons after a few weeks. Sooo . . . shoes would be essential and must be carefully selected—just one pair to walk in and one pair to put on at the end of each day. I have always had trouble with extraneous sounds while sleeping. I knew I would be sleeping in shelters (refugios) along the way with many others who snored, coughed, talked, and dreamed out loud. I wondered about my ever-present sound machine. Too heavy, I decided. I couldn’t carry the batteries. I opted instead for earplugs, even though I had been told by my homeopath and acupuncturist that earplugs obstructed the meridians to the kidneys. I carried a light sleeping bag, two pairs of socks, two pairs of panties, two T-shirts, a small towel, a small washcloth, one bar of soap, one pair of shorts, one pair of light leggings to shield me from the sun’s rays, some homeopathic remedies (for giardiases, nausea, cuts and bruises), Band-Aids, Nu Skin, adhesive tape, a water bottle (there would be fountains of clear water in every village along the way), my passport, several notebooks, a tiny address book, a few credit cards (which I vowed not to use), a little money (which I hoped I would not resort to), one Gortex jacket, one pair of Gortex slacks, one sweater (since I’d be walking in cold as well as hot weather), a sun hat, sunglasses, melatonin for sleep, and my precious Pearlcorder with many small tapes.
I am a Taurus, and therefore a person who accumulates things. I immediately understood this journey would be an examination of what was essential to me. “The road and her energy will provide all you need,” Anna told me. “She will tell you what to throw away—and you will become humble as a result. You will see what a temple your body really is, that it is not a prison, and you will discover your essence.” She told me I would find a stick to walk with. It would speak to me as though it would want to help. My feet would derive energy from the ground itself, which is why it is infinitely better to walk than to ride the Camino in a vehicle. I would receive messages from the path as though it was talking to me, until I became the path and all of its history.
I met with others who had taken the pilgrimage. They advised me not to eat too much and to drink lots of water—at least two liters per day. There would be many good restaurants, but it was best to stay within the energy of the path’s intent, which was to be essentially stripped of trappings. I should not be afraid of anything while trekking—first of all, they told me, the Spanish government protected all pilgrims and had harsh laws against interfering with a pilgrim’s progress. I was told it would be better to walk alone, even though I would encounter many people along the way. Everything I carried with me would be a distraction. I should learn to let go. And I should be prepared to die, because to do such a pilgrimage meant I was ready to give up the old values that conflicted my life.
I could honestly say that I had no problem with dying if that was what was meant to be. I had had enough of the state of affairs as I knew them to be. I was ready for a new understanding to propel me forward for the rest of my life.
In preparing for my walk, I decided to rehearse with my backpack.
I packed all the items and one day decided to walk the hills of Calabasas in California as a precursor. That is exactly what happened. I felt “precursed” with what I experienced.
It was a trail I had often taken. As I parked my car at the entrance, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a Latino man, scruffy, no shoes, and slightly wild-eyed, in the trees near the trail.
I ignored him, locked my car, strapped on my backpack, and began my hike. I fingered my Swiss Army knife and made a mental note that I was safe with it. I also noted that I would try to make it way up the trail to a bench where I knew I could remove my backpack and rest.
Thus began my contemplation on how goal-oriented I was. A goal was so important to me that sometimes the reaching of it justified the means by which I accomplished it. I walked for miles thinking about reaching that bench. Then I walked even further. The backpack was heavy and the hike was becoming a struggle. I stopped and put some Emergency C into my water bottle. I drank and walked on. Finally, I stopped, exhausted, and realized I had long since passed the bench that had been my goal! The significance of this small event was not lost on me. I was truly disappointed in my overachievement. But I had often done such things, remaining separated from the path I was on because of my intense desire to reach the goal. Maybe that was the definition of “success” in this world. I was an example of the accepted term, when what I was looking for was the true meaning of “success.” One has to achieve some version of success in order to know there is another version.
In any case, I turned around, retraced my steps, and after some miles, recognized the bench. I decided not to rest on it and continued down the mountain. When I reached my car, there was the Latino man, looking in worse shape than before.
“May I help you?” I asked him.
“My feet are burning from no shoes,” he said. “I need a ride to my car.”
I realized I was talking to a man of Spanish descent and feeling almost as though I were living a future event on the Camino. I thought, “I should be kind to strangers.”
I offered him a ride to his car, which I supposed wasn’t far away. He climbed in beside me. He was filthy and smelled bad.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” he said in a confused state.
“Sometimes we all do things for reasons we don’t understand,” I answered, thinking of what I would be doing in a week without understanding it either. I started the car and told him I was going to do the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage. He seemed to understand and know it.
“Are you Catholic?” I asked.
He nodded and said, “Yes.”
“Are you doing penance?” I asked. He nodded.
“Are you doing penance?” he asked.
I said I didn’t think so.
Then he looked at my breasts. I had made a conscious decision not to wear a bra on the Camino because the straps hurt my shoulders with the backpack. It had occurred to me that such an elimination of underwear would be provocative. I wondered if I had manifested my concern into a reality.
The man continued to stare at my breasts. Oh, God, I thought. This could be dangerous. There was no one in sight for miles.
He finally took his eyes off my anatomy and said, “Can I make love to you?”
It was surreal. I slammed on the brakes and erupted. “Are you out of your mind?” I screamed. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Of course not, you idiot. I picked you up because you needed help, your feet were burning, you needed water and to return to your car, and this is what you do? You are outrageous!” I was furious, which seemed to activate some sense of misplaced justice in his mind.
“There you go, you see?” he said. “I asked you, instead of demanding, and you won’t do it.”
My mouth fell open. I was in trouble now. I thought of really going after him more irately, but something I saw flicker across his face stopped me. He had not touched me or advanced toward me physically. Then he said, “I passed my car. Let me out,” he demanded.
There was no car in sight anywhere.
“Sure,” I answered. He opened the door on his side and climbed out.
“Listen,” I said, “you should watch that sex stuff, you know. It can get you in a lot of trouble.”
Over his shoulder he said, “Yes, thank you. I know. I’m always doing this.”
Then he walked away.
I sat in my car in a state of bewilderment. Had he been real? It was as though an experiential vision had just happened to me. I turned to look at him again. He had disappeared. There was no man and no car. I vowed to never be afraid of going braless again, and I knew I would have to give much thought to the truth that reality was where the mind was and that I had been so determined to make a goal of my bench that I had passed it. . . . Reality simply was where the mind was. I could understand more deeply why I was an actress. I could manifest what I needed in reality. I had manifested a barefoot, filthy wanderer to warn me that the Camino was feminine and, as a result, human sexuality would rise. Everyone had told me that the Camino offered those who walked it a love affair. It was the individual’s choice whether to take it. Some weeks later, I would be faced with that choice.


Most of us have a friend who has a soul meaning for us . . . someone (if we’re lucky) to whom we can talk about anything. Kathleen Tynan was one of those friends to me. She was highly intelligent, but that didn’t detract from her capacity to have a good time. She was a social animal and enjoyed the trappings of restaurants, parties, and good conversation. English, intellectual, and a great beauty, Kathleen did not fully share my spiritual interests. She was curious, I would say, but frankly tried to dissuade me from publishing any material that took me down the metaphysical path. She thought it was essentially wacky and would become a “career buster” if I shared my beliefs with the public. However, when she saw that, aside from some jokes, nothing like that happened, she became more comfortable with my search. She was also an extremely honest friend to me. Her deceased husband, Kenneth Tynan, the noted English writer and critic, had been a close friend too.
Kathleen continued to wear her wedding ring after Ken’s death, even though she was involved with other men. Ken had been her anchor, her muse, and the man who was the link to (or substitute for) her father. She seemed to be using the men in her life to reach the true meaning of who her father had been to her.
When she visited me in Malibu, staying (to my delight) for months at a time, I noticed an ambivalence about the way she gazed out to sea, staring for hours and hours at a time at the water and sky in what seemed to be a confused yet resigned contemplation. I wondered if she was finally meditating about the unacknowledged spirituality in life. I came to understand it was much more than that. Kathleen was dying of colon cancer, and she knew it. Her doctors could find nothing wrong, but she insisted there was something there. Finally, with an MRI, she was proven right. They were stunned at the avocado size of the hidden tumor.
I’ve always wondered about Kathleen’s way of dying. For years she had been expressing a profound desire to know her father more, who had died when she was in her teens. In the last years of her life, before she developed cancer, she dug out articles he had written (he had been a foreign correspondent), looked through family records, interviewed people who had known him, and searched her own childhood memories for clues as to his real identity, not only his personality and character, but his relationship with her mother, with whom Kathleen herself had had an arm’s-length relationship.
She admitted to me that the men in her life had been roads to her father, but now she seemed compelled to know him again. I put my observations in a compartment in my mind until I learned about her cancer. I wondered if the disease was not the quickest way for her to reunite with the man she loved and missed the most.
When I called her in London and told her I was going to do the Santiago pilgrimage, she knew exactly what I meant because she and Ken and her children had driven it a few years before. “As a matter of fact,” she said, “that was the last trip we took together, as well as a reconciliation. Ken was hooked up to an oxygen tank in the car”—he was dying of emphysema—“smoking and laughing with the kids in the back, as I drove, attempting to figure out what life was or wasn’t all about.”
She said traveling the Camino, even though by car, had been the pinnacle of their relationship, and on July 26, one year to the day after the end of the trip, Ken died. She was thrilled I was doing it and longed to see me in London before I went on to Spain.
“The cancer has metastasized to my bones,” she said. “So soon would be good.” Kathleen’s humor about Ken’s death and her own situation was breathtakingly English.
I said good-bye to my friends in California, most of whom cried when I left. I had taken many trips and said good-bye many times, but this occasion was different. They knew the dangers, I suppose, but beyond that they must have sensed something more. My friend Anne Marie told me to take forty days because it was the amount of time Jesus and various saints had taken in the wilderness. The people who worked for me (also friends) didn’t really understand why I was putting myself in danger. My daughter and my brother, used to my wanderings, were detached and said, “Have a good time.” My friend Bella Abzug thought it was another crazy, madcap spiritual adventure, which she couldn’t really be bothered with, and two other close friends went to my place in New Mexico to hold down the energy there. (They both had Indian blood coursing through their veins and understood that land energy mattered in terms of balancing, even though I would be on the other side of the world.) The woman who worked for me as a housekeeper took me to the airport. We hugged, she cried, and I thanked her for being such an understanding wife.
When I arrived at Kathleen’s place in London, I was shocked at her appearance and how advanced her illness was. She, however, was deeply engrossed in writing her second book on Ken, a volume compiling his letters and notes, which she had dutifully kept in filing cabinets for years. A word about Kathleen’s fortitude: She was a beauty of such exquisite proportions that the incandescence of it blinded the observer to the suffering that lay underneath. She put my American “heart on my sleeve” honesty to shame. She was layered like a rose with each petal revealed, more interesting. Perhaps our identification with each other was based on something more basic: we were both Canadian. My mother had been Canadian, and Kathleen had been born in Canada, though she had long lived in England and had adapted to English ways and discipline.
Her discipline, even in suffering, was extraordinary. She wanted to attend a book party in London given by the publisher Lord Weidenfeld. She could barely dress herself or even walk, but she was determined to dispel the rumors that she was ill. I helped her dress and make up; we got a car. I was sworn to secrecy, and my task for the evening was to get out the word that Kathleen was in good health. My memory singes with the images of Kathleen hol...

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