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Camino de Santiago No. 8: Ashrams, Mind Melds, and A Very Esoteric Evening in Arroyo San Bol

I walked up to the door of the Arroyo San Bol refuge, glad to get out of the inclement weather and thrilled to find the place open.

However, it apparently wasn´t open today-it´s official opening day was tomarrow. There were a few pilgrims inside who had somehow managed to convince them to let them in a day early.

Somehow or other, it turned out that there was a bed for me as  well, which made me very happy indeed. It´s amazing how these simple things, like a bed for the night, a hot loaf of bread, a bit of cheese or an actual hot shower can make your day on the Camino!

The refuge itself has had a somewhat nutty history. In the past year, it had been temporarily run by the Bahai (there they are again!), which for whatever reason did not work out. Before the Bahai, it was run by a wild bunch of people, and apparently was quite the party place. I had heard stories of these wild times, which apparently were not to the taste of the surrounding villages, who were extremely happy when the pleasure seekers left. Before this last group, the place had been run by a man who had left a religious order of some kind and was apparently quite charismatic. He was open to having volunteers stay on and work on the place, at at times hosted various people who were considering devoting themselves to lives as nuns or monks.

The two people running the place this time around were two extremely interesting characters-the main guy was a man named Francisco, who was a Knight of the Templar(a Catholic order); he was assisted by a guy from Slovenia named Jose, who had just finished the Camino the past winter.

Francisco and Jose had only been there for four days, and had been working on the place, cleaning it up. There obviously was much work left to be done, and the place was a shambles. It had been vandalized in the past year, and the windows had been broken. The very beautiful chapel, painted with a celestial scene, was falling in and the place was pretty dirty. They had been working away for several days when I arrived, making repairs and trying to get it ready for guests.

Francisco had previously worked at a refuge, and told me he had been told by God that he was to be at this refuge for ten years. He was not only to provide hospitality to pilgrims, he was to improve the place drastically(it did not even have a bathroom or electricity). He was also to build an enormous church/holy place on the property, using age old principles long forgotten. He had several books on the subject, and was going to be using them as a guide.

Francisco was espeically interesting to me. He had walked the Camino, and had been fundamentally changed by it. In fact, he had changed his entire life because of whatever happened on his walk to Santiago. He had become a Knight of the Templar, an interesting order of Knights, who are sort of like monks-except that they believe in having companions and they are not celibate. In fact, their insignia shows two people on a horse, showing the importance of duality, of two people. They are the only order that holds this belief.

Jose was more esoteric. I mean to say, he was the most esoteric person I have come across in my entire life. He walked around in a cream colored outfit, did not seem to be in need of shoes, looked at me intensely without blinking, and talked about Hari Krishnas and so on. Sometimes when I was talking to him(or someone else was) he would suddenly get up and go do yoga and stand on his head in the yard.

As if these two were enough to take in, the other guests also all had their own particular energy and take on life.

First off, there were three women, who had all arrived together before me. They were:

An Australian woman, sort of a free spirit, who twirled about  the yard and had been traveling for some time around the world;

An Canadian woman, who was quite pretty, drank cup after cup of coffee, had tons of nervous energy(perhaps due to vast quantities of coffee!), who had decided to turn her hair into dreadlocks that very day, and was busy knotting her hair into dreadlocked plaits;

Another woman, I forget where she was from, some Eurpean country, who had just returned from working in an ashram in India, where she had some sort of teacher. She listened to chanting music alot, talked about we manifest whatever we have in our life-although this only applied to the bad things that seemed to happen(interesting supposition, but doubtful), and also spoke for a few hours on the subject of ¨Cosmic Airports¨. Apparently these are the idea of her teacher in India, who has come upon the idea that there should be these places where people come to die and other people come to give birth-thereby creating a ¨Cosmic Airport¨, where souls from the dead can then enter the new bodies of the newly borne. Apparently, this would also prevent the trama of birth, which, according to this woman, we are all suffering from.The first one of these airports is going to be in Sweden, and there will also be another one in some very rich part of Colorado…

The last guest was a sweet guy named Simon, who looked like someone out of a Mad Max movie, as he had a dreadlocked mohawk and a somewhat alarming sense of style. The moment he smiled, though, he lit up the room. I had run into him earlier, and had hoped I would see him again. I was very happy when he walked in thru the door at San Bol. I had the sense that he was supposed to be there.

The dinner that night was odd-the food was excellent, but the conversation and the energy seemed out of whack. The ashram woman was especially hard to get along with, even when I nodded my head along, she never seemed satisfied. The whole cosmic airport thing seemed really interesting, and I tried to be as agreeable as I could to the idea and asked questions when I could think of them.. I had thought when I met her that perhaps the spiritual experience I had dreamt of was going to happen with her, as upon initial meeting she seemed like a very spiritual person. By the time she finished explaining the cosmic airport idea(what she could of it), I quite frankly felt like she was one of the most confused people I had ever met.

Along the Camino, one meets all types of people, believing in all types of beliefs. It´s all of interest to me-I usually like talking of such things. But one thing I have found, is that if you are a Catholic(or a person with a more traditional religion) people treat you differently, even if you treat their beliefs with respect. And, sometimes, their beliefs are so different, that you try to relate to them, try to understand what their belief consists of, but-by then, they´ve already made judgements about you and your belief, and they are closed. It´s a bit weird to be on what is a historically religious pilgrimage, but be traveling with many people who will not even visit a church along the way.

(Of course, this isn´t specific to the  Camino itself-it is an unfortunate thing in the world that people of all faiths, all beliefs, cannot decide together that God is all about love, and it´s that simple. Everyone has to bring their humanity into it, of course, or speak of blame instead of the love.)

But, I digress…

After dinner, the ashram woman put on some very creepy chanting music, and then Jose began chanting along with the music. He sort of seemed to be attempting some sort of Spock like mind meld with the other guests, and he spoke in this mysterious way that seemed to start somewhere but not end in any place in particular. I felt somewhat ill at ease and lost. The three women guests were apparently enjoying the mind meld very much, and I felt like perhaps they were having the experience there that they had come there for.

I felt somewhat disappointed in the evening-having come this far to the place, and having had such interesting dreams before getting here, I was surprised that I had felt little connection with the people here.

I decided to go to bed, and let them have the space for their chanting and so on.

Before bed, I asked Francisco if I could stay another day…I had the distinct sense that I was supposed to be here in this place, but had perhaps arrived a day early!

Francisco took me aside and said,¨Yes, good. You are a good person-I trust you. I was waiting for you. We have to go to Burgos tomarrow, so we need you to run the place until we get back in the afternoon. You will have to make coffee and tea for all the passing pilgrims tomarrow morning, and recieve the next group of guests.¨

Wow. So maybe that´s why I was supposed to stay here, I thought.

At that moment, Simon offered to stay also. We both knew that this is where we were supposed to be.

The other three guests suddenly offered to stay, but there were not enough beds for that many volunteers and the   guests tomarrow, so Francisco told them no.

I went to bed happy, looking forward to tomarrow, and wondering what guests would show up..having the feeling that tomarrow held something new and beautiful for me.

Next entry..¨How To Make 70 cups of Coffee With 6 Cups!¨



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