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My Growing Season

I haven’t posted in a while, not since I returned from my Camino trip. And while it’s been a terrific summer, I wish I could report that the lessons I learned on my trip have fully taken root and are in abundant and full flower.

That would be a lie.

There’s been a bud here and there—I haven’t forgotten everything I learned. Like the importance of community. Expressing gratitude for everything I have. Recognizing the overwhelming beauty of the world. The joy of travel.

But unfortunately, the lessons I learned haven’t been as front-and-center and practiced on a daily basis as I’d hoped they’d be.

Recently, I had a discussion with some friends about what each of us believes when it comes to faith and spirituality. While we were raised in similar Christian faith traditions, I learned that, as adults, we’ve landed in different places. As I listened to my friends share their experiences, it occurred to me that perhaps my spiritual awakening on the Camino hadn’t “stuck” as well as I’d hoped because I hadn’t paid daily attention to what I’d discovered about myself last spring. Or, made it a regular practice to remind myself. I thought: what do I pay regular attention to? What are the practices I engage in on a daily basis? I wrote a list, and it wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t spending nearly enough time writing, reading or reflecting. I was spending way too much time watching mindless TV or falling down the social media rabbit hole. By choice.

Then I recalled a time when I needed to change another behavior that wasn’t doing me any favors. I had just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and the doctor told me I needed to change my diet if I wanted to feel better, and if I didn’t want to take medicine every day for the rest of my life. But give up bread? Potatoes and pasta? Ice cream? Yep. All of it would become mostly fond memories if I wanted to become a healthier person.

The next several months were tough as I exchanged salad for spuds, cucumbers for custard. No more mindless eating for me. Mealtimes required actual and careful planning. Attention—regular and disciplined—had to be paid to what I was putting in my mouth. And it worked. After six months, I tossed my remaining blood sugar meds into the trash. I had more energy and I felt terrific. As an added bonus and to my great surprise, the craving for carbs that had been with me my entire life was gone, replaced with a craving for vegetables, of all things.

Science tells us that it takes around four months to change a behavior and do so in a sustainable way. Even still, people are gonna fall off the wagon now and then. We’re only human. So yes, I still make an occasional trip to Kopps. But I’ve learned that the odds of a new behavior “sticking” increases when we plan for it by creating a routine, by paying regular attention to it and keeping at it, even when we mess up. It also helps to let others know about the change you desire so they can offer ongoing support for the new you.

After the faith and spirituality discussion with my friends, I decided to make a plan, realizing that it wasn’t enough to “hope” my Camino experience would stick if I didn’t plan for and engage in a daily practice to make it so. And chanting “Camino, Camino” to myself whenever someone cuts me off in traffic isn’t enough. (Although it does help.)

I’ll bet most of you reading this are saying, “Well, duh. I could’ve told you that!” Okay, so sometimes, I’m a slow learner. But that’s where I am on my journey: I’ve created a plan, a spiritual “diet,” and I’m giving it the daily attention it deserves. I’m committed to mindfully growing a full, beautiful and faith-filled garden by Christmas. And long beyond.

How do you tend to your spiritual garden? How do you keep yourself growing in a world that too often brings so much heat, many of us start to shrivel? How do you continue to flourish when monsoons threaten to drown us in sadness and fear? Fellow gardeners, I’d love to learn more, if you’re open to sharing, either here or via email. And as always, I appreciate your love and support.

Photo by Jill Wellington at


  1. Ah Jill, my dear friend. It’s good to have you back. I’ve missed your writings. I appreciate your reflective thoughts and the grace and kindness you give yourself as you determine how you want to move forward further in bringing your experience from Camino into your spiritual growth. And it is with gratitude I’m walking away after reading your article more connected to the importance of being intentional in my actions to live my spiritual values each day!

    • Deanna, my dear friend, it’s good to be back. Your intentionality is my inspiration. Thanks for the kind words!

  2. Life actually does get better as long as you keep struggling to be intentional. It’s the goals and patterns that change, like it or not. No matter what you will always be brought back to the real you, by your Soul. Love seeing your words again.

    • Intentionality is a relatively new concept for me. For most of my life, I’ve reacted and responded in the moment (fire, ready, aim). Got pretty good at it, too. But I’m learning that there’s so much to be gained by waiting rather than reacting, especially if it’s waiting for myself. For me, that’s usually waiting for my heart to catch up with my head. I like the idea of getting some help from my Soul. And from my friends, of course. Thank you Mary Louise, for the reminder that we’re never alone in trying to find ourselves.

  3. Jill,
    This resonates with me. A journey changes my perspective and I always want it to “last”. Sometimes this goes well; sometimes not so much.

    After my recent trip I kept writing “new habits” on my little notepad. Now it’s a month later and I’ve already slid back into old habits

    Thank you for reminders and Buon Camino.

    • I hear you Lisa. I wish I could bottle up the magic I always discover during my travels to take it home with me. But then again, I probably wouldn’t get it past airport security. But what I can try and bring back is what always happens when I’m away–I slow down. I pay more attention. I take it all in, because I have the time to do so. And, because my typical, rapid-fire approach usually doesn’t get me anywhere (Pushy American!). So other than move to Italy, I’ll have to give it a go here. And, as others have pointed out, I need to keep at it, no matter what. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. Welcome back to your heart work! I have missed your writing for Jillosophy. Looking forward to hearing more from you and where your heart leads you.
    I will be working on my new life path in reflection and writing, listening and acting on my dreams and ideas. Of course paying attention in the quiet is where I plan to start, much like your Camino walk. Peace my friend. ❤️

    • Thanks Meg. It’s good to be back. And I can’t wait to watch and learn from you has you begin your new journey. Already, I’m thinking of how I can remind myself daily of the wisdom of “paying attention in the quiet.” So simple, so brilliant and, for me, so damn hard to do. But I’ll keep trying, if you keep leading the way. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Wishing you all love’s goodness as you walk your new path.

  5. “One day I sat in the woods, which I found to be stunningly different than walking ‘through’ the woods. And in the sitting, the woods jumped to life with a spirited activity that I had scarcely ever seen or known to exist. And as I sat there turning this way and that in order to draw it all in, I thought that it was not the woods coming alive. Rather, it was me coming to a halt.”
    ~Craig D. Lounsbrough
    A friend posted this today ironically. Since the “scallop” is already inside of you, maybe doing less is the answer, instead of lists of more things to do? Perhaps just removing clutter from your path is all one needs to do to see the true light? I don’t know for sure, but I’ve been trying to stop and pay attention to notions thrown into my path, serendipity tickles me to no end, (not to mention I LOVE the word itself!). You’re smarter than the stars above, you’ll find the way. You always do. 🙂

    • That’s awesome. The notion of stillness really resonates. But you know me–as the consummate “doer” who was raised in a family where taking a nap was almost worse than not cleaning your plate, this is one hard lesson for me to learn (or unlearn). What I think I’ve stumbled upon is to create a foundation that supports my continued learning and growing so that I don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel, or even think about it. I just get up and do it every day, like brushing my teeth. I think I’ve created something that works for me (stolen from Liz Gilbert and slightly modified). So, no more lists of things to do. Instead, I think it’s helping me develop a kind of spiritual muscle memory–like when I hiked the Camino. Didn’t have to think about how to walk (check) or figure out where we were going since our fellow hikers, the giant yellow arrows and scallop shells pointing the way made that obvious (double-check). Plus, I had all the time (and silence) I needed. To your point, the clutter was gone. Made it so much easier to discover the true light. You’ll have to let me know about your own path-clearing and attention-paying methodologies. Let’s compare notes–I’m guessing we’ll most likely find some shared, and serendipitous, experiences. Thank you my friend!

  6. As someone who tries to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into my daily practice, somedays I get out of routine. And that’s okay. I always seem to get back to it.

    • Through the years, I’ve tried to meditate but I’ve been inconsistent at best. I love it when I do it–I just need to do it! Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.

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