Walk of Wisdom with a coach

Ted van Rijt and René van Nieuwkuijk met at the ‘taster day’ this spring. René found in Ted the companion he was looking for to help enrich the content of his pilgrimage. It worked.

Read their story.


René writes:

This spring I participated in a ‘taster day’ for the Walk of Wisdom. On a beautiful Saturday, we walk with about twenty people, including three supervisors, through a spring-budding Ooypolder. One of them is Ted van Rijt.

A week later I decide to sign up to walk the entire pilgrimage route. Pilgrimage is new to me. I have done retreats before. There is always a supervisor; With that I discuss my life question of that moment, the subject of that retreat. The coach guides me through my inner process. That’s necessary, I know. Because I have a great tendency to shrewdly beat around the bush. So I find it natural to look for a guide for my soul in this pilgrimage as well.


My walking shoes are ready. But before signing up, I take the plunge and approach Ted. During the preview day, he caught my eye. And I’m lucky. Because it just so happens that Ted himself is trying to figure out how he, as a professional in spiritual guidance, wants to relate to the Walk of Wisdom. My request gives him the opportunity to experience this form. A clear case of a Win-Walk-Win situation! 


Ted’s ‘Talk of Wisdom’ 

We start with a preliminary discussion about the question I want to take with me. My personal life question that is the reason for my pilgrimage. Thanks to Ted’s experience and his listening quality, this leads to some tightening up. Very meaningful to me. Because it gives me a connection with Ted and it feeds my alertness to avoidance behavior. We agree that I can call him in the meantime for a sounding board moment.

When I get home, I write the last version of my pilgrim question on a piece of paper and put it in my travel bag: “What form do I want to find to let my ‘I’ (competences) mature to use in the work/the world?” 


I’m walking nicely. I’m in shape. It is cloudy and not very hot. In the Greenlands, the sun breaks through, just when a rest will do me good. Behind some bushes I see a fallen tree that attracts me as a couch and as a bed. How lovely I had lying on it! In that peace I am struck by the inner world of that dead and fallen tree. I realize that I can take pictures with my mobile! (Which I actually only have with me for arranging sleeping places along the way.) 

I want my pilgrimage to be a way in. And ‘form’ is therefore a concrete point of attention. Finding form. Because my forms from before often no longer suffice. As a result, my gaze automatically focuses on traces (forms) that are references to an inner world. Subsequently, I start to notice more and more such ‘entrances’, especially in nature. Hatches to what you just don’t see but might suspect. And I photograph them, these gates to …? 


What does Ted see?

My journey is already halfway through and I’m worried: do I just not see what I’m looking for? Do I turn it into a ‘zwalk of wisdom’?

Because I like it. I enjoy nature, the silence, the time, the space, the encounters at my sleeping addresses. And of photographing. I think I’m completely in the ‘now’. But, I wonder, isn’t the way inside a quest, a trial, a confrontation with yourself? Aha, I’ve figured it out, yes myself: with those pictures I’m avoiding myself! The more concrete the better? Well, no: looking inside a microcosm is my disappearing act. I’m trapping.


The time to call Ted for a test. We meet in St. Walrick at the Hatertse fens. I can share my story with him in peace. Tell about my vicissitudes. Grabbing the note with my pressing life question. Pictures show. And… express my concern. Enjoy coffee and cake at St. Peter’s. Zwalrick; Is this pilgrimage?

It will be an animated encounter. Ted is genuinely curious and enthusiastic. He mirrors me that I adapt very naturally to how things are going. It seems that I am conveying the joy of my story to him. His response is clear: “I think you’re only concerned with your question. And you choose your own urgency.” 

He finds my report self-critical and nuanced. I don’t feel like I’m walking around the church, beating around the bush or falling into the trap of reasoning. It is precisely my specific eye on what is not immediately visible that he thinks goes over the core of my question. It seems that Ted thinks it’s more about appearing than disappearing.

I get the feeling that he doesn’t just listen to my words. He seems to hear another side through the concealing windows of my words. Nor is he distracted by my enjoyment of playing with language. That’s why his response is reassuring; Ted seems to be interpreting the voice of a (possibly) other side by listening to me with loving attention. I experience this as a matured expertise that exudes simplicity on the one hand, but is certainly not self-evident. I experience Ted as a connoisseur of one (or) other side and I recognize that that is the reason he had caught my eye on that preview day. An excellent guide for the soul.


Winter warmth

With an equipped and equipped mind, I can continue my journey.

I need that because nature treats us to winter scenes that week, even though spring has officially set in. The days remain freezing cold. How wonderful that I can now live on a charged heat source. I zip up my jacket tightly, but luckily the window of my camera can be opened wide. This results in more than 600 pictures, glances inside.


In addition, I collect words in my diary about my pilgrim question. – How do I ‘translate’ an obstacle into an opportunity? – or – Own powerhouse. – but also – You are what you keep silent. – and – Image designer. – I get a lot of answers.

An image designer helps someone else to identify possible causes, starting with the effect. He uses visual images to initiate that awareness process. Maybe I can use my photos for that in my work.

“Doctor, I have no illness, neither physically nor psychologically. I’ve searched. I need an image finder to help me map out my search.” Zoekte is about questions of life. Searched goes far beyond the length of a pilgrimage.


On the way I get the poem from the tear-off calendar of that Friday as a gift. Written by Argentine Roberto Juarroz:

Finding the One

is always finding the other.

So to find something,

you have to look for something that isn’t.


Searching for the bird to find the rose,

seek love to find exile,

seeking nothingness to discover a human being,

going backwards to move forward.


The punchline of the road lies

not so much in its splits,

his suspicious beginnings

or his doubtful end,

but in the biting humor

of its two-way street.


One always arrives,

but always elsewhere.


Everything passes.

But in the other direction.



No process without looking back. So a week later I’m back at Ted’s table. During the second part of my journey, he notices the search in language. It started with the concreteness of images and continued in playing with language.

The characteristic of life questions is that there are no literal answers; that’s what that beautiful poem by Juarroz is about. Yet I have found: the artist that I am is back.

To my employer, I say:

I am creative and I have depth;

Use those.

Let me explore it,



It’s a shame if you don’t do that.


I can’t imagine that I would have been able to achieve this clarity without Ted’s ‘Talk of Wisdom’. That is why I am grateful for what has come to me. About Ted’s subtle support. We didn’t have long and heavy conversations. I let him into my soul. That is the prerequisite for coaching. If the salt is in the porridge; Not much, but taste-defining. I really enjoyed that preview!

Thank you Ted.


René van Nieuwkuijk