EBook offered for FREE 26th – 28th March
A Buddhist’s Journey Through Northern Spain on the Camino Pilgrim Route.
In a memoir of saints, sages, and swollen ankles, Helen walks across the Catholic heartland of Northern Spain. Her chosen route is the picturesque Camino Way, a Christian pilgrimage revered since medieval times. Ancient towns and villages, each with a distinct culture and cuisine, mark the way.
Memories and miles intertwine, spanning not only the countryside but also her Christian upbringing and later life as a Buddhist. What is it that compels her into the cathedrals and rustic churches she finds during her month-long journey?
‘Just as I walked from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela – a different woman now to the one who began – I also travelled from one religion to another. Perhaps I put on pilgrim boots to better understand the message of each – the verbs of their prayers – what it means to engage with life, the joys of aloneness and the delights of company.’
Through recollections of meditation retreats, monasteries in Burma and encounters with the gilded Saints and Madonnas of Spanish cathedrals, Helen contemplates the heart of two religions, in her quest for deeper meanings that can unite us all.
Buy the book:
Helen Burns’ interest in Eastern traditions turned serious in 1975. She devoted three years to Asian Studies with a Hindi major at The Australian National University, until the call to venture deeper overtook the need for a degree. India beckoned.
Time in Sarnath and Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha gave his first teachings, led her on a path of inquiry. Sitting at the feet of lineage holders and teachers she practiced within the three Buddhist traditions – Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Extended silent meditation retreats in Myanmar and Australia provided foundation for living, working and relationship over the next decades. Toward the end of this period she began writing. An early draft of a travel manuscript about the pilgrimage to Santiago do Compostela was awarded a Byron Bay Writers Festival Residency in 2004 and later, a Varuna LongLines Residency at Australia’s Writers’ House. Close to completion, in 2009, it was shortlisted for the Varuna Harper Collins Unpublished Manuscript Award. The Way is a River of Stars was published in 2013.
Through these years the pulse of India kept on. With one book completed and no intention for another, it was time to return. Descending through the clouds into the smoky night sky of Chennai felt like homecoming. A circuitous path awaited her. Helen encountered teachings of Indian saints within temples, mosques, and ashrams where the world flocked; from all-night qawwalis at the feet of Sufi saints, to lone sadhus in mountain caves. Then, one day, entering the gates of a temple to a goddess where Araiyers dance and divine with pearls, the seeds for Andal’s Garland were sown. A novel that has taken its own good time; now due for release by Odyssey Books, September, 2020
Helen has practiced as a Herbalist and Iridologist and created several businesses catering for what was once called the New Age. She divides her time between a tiny house in Byron Bay, a slightly larger abode in Far North Queensland, and India wherever it takes her.