Lawrence Body Naturopath and writer : “The Camino de Santiago is like going through a lifetime’s processes in just 30 days”
Lawrence Body’s book “The Lotus that Blossoms on the Camino” is a practical and therapeutic guide to Spain’s famous pilgrims’ way
Lawrence Body is a naturopath and English teacher who has lived in Malaga for the last ten years. Now he shares his physical and spiritual experiences of a recent pilgrimage from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in his book “The Lotus that Blossoms on the Camino”.
How would you describe your book?
The book is basically a guide for pilgrims who plan to walk the Camino de Santiago, those who have walked it and want to read back over the experience or anyone interested in a spiritual journey of self discovery.
How did it come about?
I have always done a lot of walking, here in Spain, in England and in Nepal. The Camino de Santiago is the most famous walk in Spain and so I was drawn to it even before I considered the spiritual side to it. Then when I started working as a therapist I decided I wanted to combine the two aspects: the walk itself and the therapeutic side. I did a lot of research before I went, into the esoteric, the spiritual and the historical aspects of the Camino.
The book is full of symbolism and links with Buddhism and yoga. How does all that fit in with the Camino?
There is a great deal of symbolism along the Camino, for example in the Cathedral of León, which is one of the most emblematic points on the way due its association with light, love and healing. The imagery in the cathedral ties in with love and light and is related to the heart chakra in Hindu philosophy and yoga philosophy.
Another example is the Hospital de Orbigo bridge, where in the 15th century, a man wearing a brace around his throat challenged every knight who passed to a jousting match for two weeks. It was only then that, his conscience clear, he was able to take the brace from around his neck and express his love to the lady whose name he had been unable to pronounce before. This ties in with the throat chakra, which we use for communication, in other words to express love.
What surprised you most about the Camino de Santiago?
I didn’t expect it to be so hard, physically. They say you should take a month, which means walking 25 kilometres a day. Most guide books do not mention the pain, the blisters, the knee problems. I soon found myself giving massages to people. Everybody suffers in one way or another, but in most traditions, such as Buddhism, no one can escape pain and suffering; it is part of everybody’s journey through life. In a way the processes of a lifetime are condensed into this 30 day pilgrimage. Your spiritual goal, or enlightenment, in this case is Santiago.
How can your book benefit future pilgrims?
First of all, it doesn’t weigh too much, which is important if you want to take it with you!
This is deeper than a normal guide book. It goes into things that a normal guide book doesn’t go in to. Some people do the walk in such a rush: they are so eager to get to Santiago that they miss things on the way. You must visit the churches, monasteries and cathedrals, or just sit under a big oak tree and contemplate what you are doing. This book, as well as helping you along, gives you the chance to stop and reflect.
Do you really need some knowledge of yoga and Buddhism before you read the book and take it with you on the pilgrimage?
It helps to have some prior knowledge but it’s not necessary. Everybody is familiar to some extent with yoga and the chakras, the centres of energy in our bodies, are quite well known terms. The book also refers to aromatherapy, Bach flower remedies and massage. It would help however to be familiar with the yoga postures before you set off as you are not going to teach yourself on the way. But having said that, you can come across teachers. I coincided with t’ai chi and yoga instructors who gave impromptu classes outside the pilgrims’ refuges.
You also used your skills to help people…
Yes, it’s funny because I went with the idea that I was looking for something, a guiding light perhaps. But in the end it turned out that people were asking me to help them. Word went round that I was doing massage, reiki, etc. That was all part of my learning process because I found that I had to help others.
Lawrence Body has since been in touch with Michael Duggan who has just completed the Camino de Santiago in aid of Cudeca Cancer Care. The writer explains that two euros from every direct sale of “The Lotus that Blossoms on the Camino” through his website will be donated to Cudeca.