Three years ago, I attended a weekend seminar in Chinese medicine with Dr. Li Xiao Ming. In between his numerous Qi Gong teachings, he told us a very beautiful story. When I first heard it, I did not know that the moral of the story would go on to shape my thinking and my life. I have already shared it with many people I know. But I feel its lessons still ring true till this day, and have become even more relevant after my Camino. For this reason, I decided to share it in my epilogue. Supposedly, it is based on a true story.
Hundreds of years ago, a renowned Chinese doctor decided to leave everything behind in order to search for enlightenment. He cut all the relationships with the external world and went to live on a mountain. Then he moved to a more remote mountain, and then to an even more remote mountain, until he found somewhere that was entirely cut off from all forms of civilization. From time to time, he would travel to the nearest town to see some patients so that he still maintained a minimal income. The rest of his time, he devoted it to reading and meditating.
In his search for enlightenment, he hired a young assistant who was both deaf and mute. The assistant’s only task was going, every day, down to the river with his donkey and take the water back on the mountain for washing, drinking and cooking.
After several years of living like this, one night, the doctor was woken up a strong breathing sound. He followed the noise to his assistant’s room, and saw him in a spiritual form, floating in the air like a resurrected entity.
“What happened?” He asked.
“I reached the other side. ” The assistant replied. Namely, he had reached enlightenment.
“How can this be?” The doctor was furious and confused, “I was the one searching for enlightenment, and your only role was going down to the river. You are not supposed to be enlightened!”
The assistant replied, “this is the point. I could not criticize you because I was mute. I could not understand what you said because I was deaf. My only task was going to the river, and day by day, week by week, year after year, my mind became pure. When I became water, I flowed to the other side. But don’t worry. Now you know how to reach enlightenment, and you’ll be here in 20 years from now.”
The doctor decided to follow the suggestions and focus on emptiness and simplicity.
Emptiness is hard to find, because we live in a world that prioritizes goals, track-records, numbers and efficiency, over well being. But only when the mind is empty, are you able to really feel the world around you.
After the second Camino, and 1600 kilometres on my personal journey, I still find this goal so hard and so far. Maybe a lifetime won’t be enough to truly reach a state of emptiness and enlightenment. But I know that, at the very least, now I am a little bit more earth, a little bit more fire, a little bit more water, a little bit more wind. I know that I am a little bit more me.
I have walked so much in the Camino of life just to find the direction. Life, indeed, is the most challenging Camino of all. But as long as I can keep on walking, a direction is everything I need…