The rain in Spain…

Today is a very rainy day… But Spain needs rain and so when I said to Maricarmen and Pepe yesterday – as the first drops started to fall –  that it was me – La Inglesa that had brought the rain; they were very happy… ‘Bring more…’ They said, ‘we need the rain…’

It fell from the sky in torrents all night long, and it is continuing now… it appears that my special ‘Inglesa rain bringing powers’, are working a treat…

Anadi and I went for a lovely watery run this morning… The ground was warm, and splashing through the puddles along the slick wet road was great fun; and as long as we remembered to avoid the white bits on the zebra crossings all was well… very slippy for bare feet, we discovered!

I have just been talking with Pablo, here in Casa Blanca, about my birthday party at the end of my run across Spain, and about the adventure itself… He expressed a mixture of awe… ‘Are you sure?’ – ‘Doesn’t it hurt?’ – ‘That is a lot of kilometres every day without shoes…’ As well as… ‘I am envious, I would like to be the person that did something like that…’

Tomorrow I am going to Granada for a press conference!

Fortunately Maricarmen’s husband Pepe is coming with me and he has translated my story into Spanish… Very exciting.

I am looking forward to being better at Spanish… But I am where I am on the road, and so it is… I will do my best with the Spanish press…!

Maricarmen says that essentially people want to communicate and so of course, they end up speaking the language that is easiest…

This is so true, Pablo speaks fluent English, and so I never have an opportunity to practise my Spanish with him… Only with those that can’t speak English… and Maricarmen of course, who is teaching me

I was about to drive home after my Spanish lesson yesterday, and I was sitting in my car checking my phone… Suddenly I looked up and saw a coach ploughing into the side of me!

He was turning out of a parking space and hadn’t seen me at all… There was nothing I could do but wait for him to realise I was there, as he crushed the back of my car against the wall… I glanced up at him and saw immediately that although it was entirely his responsibility, he was going to shout at me…

Which he did…

In Spanish of course, and then he got even crosser when he found I was English….

Anyway… We managed… I didn’t feel upset, or react, but the trouble was I didn’t know the procedure… But he did, and so in the end he filled in the form about what happened… I called the car hire people who told me what to do, but he was already doing it – and I called Maricarmen, and Pepe came and talked calmly to the cross man…

Pepe, has practised aikido all of his adult life and it showed  in his quietly spoken way with cross man

Then at the end of it all, the coach driver had relaxed and he smiled; and I said ‘it’s an interesting way to meet…’ In Spanish and he said he could think of better ways, and put his arm around me, now my friend… ? And i had learned a good lesson about ‘what to do in the case of an accident in España

Just as we were about to part, he pointed to my feet and said that it is illegal to drive barefoot in Spain… I do not know is this is true because the police who stopped me at the start of this year -when I had no lights on in a tunnel – didn’t say a word…

And i don’t own any shoes! Que sera sera…

As I drove away down the mountain, I suddenly felt upset for awhile… Not upset with what had happened, but upset at someone shouting at me…

As always, it provided a good opportunity to clear the feeling from my body, and when I got back to Almuñecar,  Anadi and I went for cheesecake and cafe con leche by the sea!

 

 

Run and become free…

Last night I dreamt lots of vivid dreams… I really enjoyed it, it felt a very interesting night time journey indeed.

I woke not remembering anything, other than that I had committed in my sleep to do more running, and therefore was henceforth not going to do anything much more than run.

My meditation on the move.

The thought of spending more time running is very agreeable… The more I run the more I become.

As Anadi and I ran along today, I mentioned that sometimes running feels rather hard, but that I recognise that setting running goals is very good for my path of spiritual clearing, and transcendence.

I also recognise that running barefoot is a process that is taking me further into myself… Or rather is helping me to let go of my self.

Anadi and I drove to Rincón de la Victoria to run today. It is the town where we stopped for lunch with Athena Jane on Wednesday. I was attracted back by the long beach and a vista that seemed to go on forever.

We ran 10 miles with ease and it felt to be a place I will return to… Soon I anticipate that my feet and my body will extend beyond the 10 and occasional 12 and 13 mile runs that I am doing frequently. I have only completed two 15 mile runs barefoot so far, but I can see the value of extending the distance now.

I can also feel how over many many years the clearing within me, is allowing me to simply run and become.

It is all I have ever really wanted to do, live a contemplative life, and run a lot!

Of course I have always ‘gone running’, but my bare feet seem to have ideas all of their own and have requested too that we run from the north to the south coast of Spain together next year…

Who knows what lies beyond that?

But I do see more and more that while I am journeying in physical form, enjoying the human journey; my spirit finds that the running road is a place of freedom, a place to let go…

A place where the madness and chaos of the matrix is stilled…

As the run progresses the body disappears and there arises the opportunity to recognise the samsara, the illusion that we exist in, and to know that we are so much more than anything we might ‘think’ we are…

The more I run, the more I become free… Ironically from any definition of myself; especially that of being a runner!

And yet I love to run, and so I will follow my dream… My night time dream of running as a way of life – and my waking dream of running to become free, and more me… Recognising that the transcendence that is occurring is opening me to an awareness that the me I defined myself by is vanishing…

We are all free already…

We are love, we are awareness; we are all born of consciousness and it isn’t through thinking ‘who are we..?’ that we discover we are so much more than we ‘thought’… It is simply through enquiring…

‘Who am I…’

 

The big rock stretch…

I am just about to go out to stretch on the top of the big rock…

It lends itself to stretching, a sort of ‘place to go’ like setting off to the gym or a yoga class… I am going to the big rock to stretch. If I take the ‘to’ out of the sentence then it seems even more interesting…

‘I am going to ‘the big rock stretch…’ I like it!

It is funny how we can change our lives by simply changing the way we view things. Stretching can sometimes feel a bit of a drag, but as you have perhaps seen in my vlogs, I like incorporating stretching into my life in a fun way; sometimes with cat companions on top of a roof in Morocco, or here on top of a big rock,..

There seems to be a bit of a theme going on here!

But it remains that as humans we create our reality through our mind; this illusion we live in can be manipulated simply by changing the way we look at it…

So a slightly overcast day where the sun hasn’t shone much, and going out to stretch doesn’t feel all that appealing can be transformed by the title

I am off to ‘The big rock stretch…’

I have also invited Anadi, and he is up for a big rock stretch, so that is the event of the afternoon – before it gets dark…

Darkness falls in a flash here; one minute light the next dark.

Perhaps it is like that everywhere but I notice it more here. sunrise and sunset always provide a dramatic spectacle and the big rock stretch will give me a wonderful view of the setting sun which even on a cloudy day can be a sight to behold.

And lunch was fun today… What do you want for lunch? ‘I think I’ll have chilli chocolate por favor…’ And so this is what I have had.

Who says lunch needs to be a sensible affair… Fun food has its place and the chocolate is the dark variety given to me by Athena Jane, so both the fact it is a gift of love and the fact it is dark chocolate mean that I perceive the lunch to hold very special qualities, magic in its energy; life enhancing, fun, slightly frivolous….

Again it is how we precieve things that can make a difference to our enjoyment of life. Although I wouldn’t choose to eat chocolate every day for lunch, I enjoyed it a lot today and I don’t have any part of me that feels I shouldn’t, or that it will harm me in any way, or make me fat.

There was a time when i was struggling with an eating disorder when my perception of chocolate for lunch would have been entirely different, and my attitude to the rigours of a daily training plan and ‘having to’ run / stretch/ do strength work were all a far more stressful event.

My life doesn’t look very different, but it feels different and I perceive many of the same things differently.

I have always been blessed with a fun energy and a sense of humour within all that has occurred in my life, which pradoxically helped me when I took life – at some levels – rather more seriously; but now it feels very different…

Essentially there is simply a level of deeper relaxation within me.

And this can make al the difference, letting go of tension within us, clearing all the reactions when we tense up against things…

Noticing how we perceive things, how we see things… Keeping an eye on our habitual thoughts, which way our energy turn when ‘things happen’ that we didn’t expect or maybe don’t like much.

Could we look at it differently? Could we press pause before we go down a habitual pattern of response?

The wonderful thing about being human is that we literally can change our lives by changing our attitude…

Little Red…

I am sitting on the terrace in the afternoon sun; Jane and I are thinking that it will soon be time for coffee; our breakfast went on until lunchtime and then we went on a shopping spree just as the shops were closing for Spanish siesta…!

But it meant we had a nice walk and then came back to where we had eaten breakfast, and have been happily whiling the time away here ever since.

Today I discovered an endless road, it climbed up and up and up into the hills. I had arranged to meet Jane and Anadi for breakfast at 10.30, but realised I wouldn’t quite make it back in time…

I texted them both and then raced off back down the hill, celebrating the joy of my new life, where I am free to run and run and meet my friends ( late!!)  for breakfast that goes on all morning.

The long road wound its way into the hills and seemed to disappear into a new possible future, and represented my life now.

It feels like a new beginning and although I am not quite yet 60, I am on my way there and I am excited about the re birth this brings, in Japanese culture…

Maricarmen has told me all about this… She and her husband lived there for some years and the 60th birthday is a re birth called kanreki, which goes back to Japan’s adoption of the Chinese zodiac calendar. On reaching 60 it is traditional to receive a red cap, and vest, that mark having completed a full cycle of the twelve-pronged zodiac calendar.

New born babies are also wrapped in red and called ‘little red one’ – and at 60 years old, the celebrated individual enters a new stage of life with all the joy and possibilities of a newborn.

I loved hearing about this tradition and it feels very fitting for me at the moment, when I have within me a sense of new beginnings, new possibilities… Everything as if it is just beginning; and my 60th birthday only 18 months away!

‘I am looking forward to being sixty’,  I said to Maricarmen, this week, and then I shared with her a story from last weekend when I flew to Valencia. I sat on the plane with two young women Hannah, and Jess both 27 years old. they were on their way to run the marathon… I told them my little red story, because I was explaining the excitement I have for my ‘new running career’… It transpired that their mothers’ are a similar age to me, one is 60 already and the other 57.

Both young women said that they were eager to share the Japanese tradition with their mothers, when they returned home after their marathon…

Maricarmen echoed my enthusiasm… ‘Yes’, she said, ‘I am too very excited to reach 60 and start all over again…’

Later on, she was  watching me make a note in my book and she commented that I have now completed a year with each of my 3 new challenges… Being barefoot, learning Spanish and writing with my left hand…

‘You will need some new challenges…’ she laughed…

‘No no…’ I said,  ‘I have only just begun with these three, I have only just set off…’

What matters to you…?

Athena Jane arrived over the blue footbridge from the airport and we whisked her away in our hire car all of us hungry for lunch…

At 3.30pm we realised we better turn off the main road and look for somewhere to eat as bars and restaurants generally stop serving lunch at 4pm… At 3.55 we had arrived at Rincón de la Victoria situated on a long sandy beach that looks like it runs for miles and miles…

Anadi and I intend to return, the place had a lovely tranquil energy… ‘I would be happy to stay here’, I said to him, and he agreed… The wide pink prom disappeared into the distance with the sea lapping on the sandy expanse with not a person in sight; the energy was easy and calm.

And we had a lovely lunch, sitting outside in the warm sun of the mediterranean winter; there was no rush and the food was plentiful… It felt that sitting and lunching together was the most important thing – both for the three of us and for them. Being together, sitting still and relaxed; no time pressure at all… Until Anadi looked at his watch and said he had a Skype call in an hour…!

This is often how we discover new places, by just arriving in them, stopping, eating, and drinking in the energy and feel of the place… It was like this with Almuñecar… We come upon our new homes unexpectedly…

I booked Almuñecar for one night 18 months ago, and we liked it so much, that we changed future plans we had to stay further along the coast and stayed there instead…

And now Rincón has appeared…. Another possible ‘home for awhile….’

I love being in different ‘homes for awhile’… As we drove through Almuñecar yesterday and pulled up outside Casa Blanca hotel and parked by the beach with the sun setting in glorious style, Jane exclaimed… ‘I like it here, this is beautiful, I like it…’ And I felt proud, like I had brought her here to show off my new home… But it is always only a ‘home for awhile…’

The moment we had checked in, I changed and went for a run to beat the fall of darkness… I failed and ran half of my run under a warm grey black blanket, not being able to see where I placed each bare foot… But they are so much tougher now, and even at times when cars approached and I needed to run on the edge of the road where there are more loose stones, it didn’t trouble the soles of my feet at all.

Things are changing all the time.

I notice the increasing strength in them, and I marvel at the adaptive ability of the body to change according to circumstances.

If my feet can do this, it is no wonder that my own ability to adapt to wherever I am is more and more fluid. It is in its simplest form the answer to how to be happy…

To really and truly be where we are in any given moment.

Today Jane and I had an outing into the mountains. While I learnt Spanish she drew and sat in the sun, and then we wound our way further up the mountain to Bubion to meet Maggie who is chief planner for Barefoot Across Spain, to eat lunch together in Teide restaurant.

It is eighteen months since Jane was last there, when we were all together as the Zen runners; a flash in time.

Another scene on the stage of life that played vividly and etched itself in all our memories…. And soon we will meet again on the road between Suances and Almunecar; celebrating our love, our shared experiences and the commitment to live fully in each step.

Kathy wrote to me echoing my sentiments that raising awareness about the end of life, and end of life care as I am doing in my run across Spain, is more about living fully…

This is what she said

‘A key message the hospice movement would like put out there is that hospice care – and they prefer to use “hospice care” rather than “hospices” (a philosophy rather than a building) – is about living – yes, it is also about dying but it is about “fully living” – living every moment in the best way we can.

Hospice care asks the question “what matters to you?” not “what is the matter with you?”…’

 

Rosa Gin…

We flew from Valencia at 10pm last night on a tiny little plane with roary engines; it seemed we climbed up and up only to start to land almost immediately; and there we were in the airport we know so well.

A swift ride to our home for the night – holiday inn express and we were in our room by 11.40pm…

We stood in the room for a minute of two, ‘I feel like having fun… Let’s go and have a drink…’ I said –  the almost non drinker!

So we went to the bar and Anadi ordered a Larios G and T, I saw a Rosa Gin – it looked full of delicious delight, and it was…

Huge fish bowl glasses full of clinky ice and lemon and then our potions of fun.

The man behind the bar asked me if I spoke Spanish and instead of saying ‘I am learning’, I said yes and so we spoke Spanish and he told us about his travels to Thailand and that he would like to travel more, but that he works so much.

We had fun and the gin went to my head, but I didn’t mind

When I woke this morning and I could still feel it in my head, but I still didn’t mind, it had been worth it!

After breakfast I stepped out of the door to find somewhere for my morning run.

One of the best legacies of being a lifetime travelling runner is that I have no anxiety or worry about heading out of hotels with no idea where I am going… An airport hotel can be a bit limiting, but I found a 1200m loop around all the parking and hire car places and lapped it until I had covered 5 miles…

I really enjoyed it, it was sunny warm, blue skies and lots of people on their way from or too the airport. An atmosphere of movement and journeying while I ran round and round and round…

And now we are sitting in our new office, waiting for the plane to arrive from Gatwick carrying my artist friend Athena Jane on it…

She has just done another big project, transforming a whole school into a gallery with 400 young people creating art during art week and making a huge mosaic with all of them, as well as 350 pieces of their artwork, that has occupied her time completely. Her deadline was 2pm yesterday when the Bishop  ‘A nice man in pink, who was rather jolly’ arrived  to view the incredible spectacle…

Meanwhile Anadi and I are in our transformed bar of the gin fun, it is now our office. Providing concentrated silence and space…

But we create the space, always the space responds to us, it doesn’t matter whether its an airport or a cafe or a holiday inn express in Espana or Gozo of Inglaterra… What matters  is the space within us, if it is still and quiet then there is no anxiety or need to create the perfect environment; but then of course the environment reflects our inner state and so it goes…

 

 

 

Feeling free and having fun….

I am sitting in the launderette watching our clothes whirl around in lots of bubbles and soapy suds.

I am having such fun, I arrived here to find a guy in bare feet doing his washing.

I went over to an empty machine, and was busy in the corner trying to make it work, but it wasn’t giving me a program to choose, and I was a bit confused and kept re reading the instructions to see if I had missed something…

The young man came over and told me the machine was broken, but that if I didn’t mind waiting his washing was finishing in 4 minutes…

We started to chat and I discovered that he is in the middle of a 3 month journey on his bike all alone. He has cycled from Belgium and he is following the coast around the edge of Spain covering 70 kilometres a day…

He doesn’t speak Spanish, but he says he doesn’t need to, he can say please and thank you and is able to get food – and he says he doesn’t need to speak much…

He has a tent with a cover for rain and a cover for mosquitos and in 7 weeks he has only used the mosquito net. He told me that he lies at night and looks at the stars, and he listens to the animals around him, and that he is free.

His name is Felix, he is 19 years old and has just finished his studies. He told me that his plan when he gets back to Belgium is to start work, and then keep travelling.

Felix told me that he likes being barefoot, I asked him what it is about it he enjoys….

He says he likes to feel the floor, and that it is fun.

He does have some shoes as he is covering many kilometers, but has also been cycling in flip flops for some of the time; he was joined by 4 Italian guys at one stage, who were incredulous at the guy cycling in flips flops…!

He told me too, how when he was at school he shed his shoes and that every student looked at him, and the head teacher ‘told him off…’

I have invited him to come and find us in Spain next year and join me for some barefoot running – He might well appear…

‘It’s fun’ of course struck a chord with me… ‘Have fun darling’ was the legacy my mother left me; and I am certainly doing that, even or especially in the launderette!

This morning when I was running around the park alone, I had a feeling of immense freedom. I was aware that over the past few years there has been a deeper surrendering to giving myself permission to run and have fun.

I have always done both things of course…

But there were often threads of oughts and shoulds , or ought nots and should nots pulling me back or pushing me in directions I might not wish to go.

Felix talked about feeling free, and about having fun.

It is no coincidence that we met today.

With many earth years between us, our energy still reflects lifetimes of finding out what freedom truly means… And we meet here, in a launderette in Spain, both of us here experimenting and experiencing on planet earth within the confines of a body and the beliefs and structures of others…

How to be free, and how to have fun….

 

Tranquility reflected in the blue sky…

The hotel breakfast had all manner of colourful juices, a green one, a pink one, and and orange one. I love healthy juices. I am easily pleased…

A run in a sunny park, with bright blue skies, tranquility in the centre of a city at rush hour, and then home to colourful juices; what more could anyone want?

Bright vibrant healthy juices, sunny skies and running have always been the ingredients of happiness for me; but I learnt really early that they couldn’t ‘make me happy’…. If life was feeling hard and painful, and the struggle was deep inside, then no amount of colourful juices or sunny skies – or even running – could change the state. They might ease it; a run could ease tension, a cup of coffee too…

How ever did I miss coffee out from the list?!

But they could not take the struggle completely away. When I was younger and my inner life felt harder, I remember going away to visit bright blue skies for maybe a week or two – or three – and seeing the cloud lift within me… I was able watch myself step more into the flow, I could glimpse the possibility of a life with more ease… But then I would return home, and pick the bags of heaviness up again and carry them with me. Even though I knew that they affected everything at some subtle level.

And this is the weight of our pain, our tension, our unresolved hurt; it is a heavy burden within us, which we can get all too familiar with… But, through being willing to notice and surrender the tension; make the clearing of the pain more important than anything else, brings the reward of the bright blue skies clearing above us, nothing to blot the clarity, the tranquility of the expanse within us reflected in an empty blue sky.

When we watch birds that fly circling around, and see gathering clouds, scudding white or deep and dark; they represent the clutter the noise, the distraction within us…

But always beyond all that we see when we look upwards – there is the clarity, the expanse, the endless stretch into infinity behind it, and sometimes the emptiness is there, and we experience the still small voice of calm…

This is the ultimate meditation to see the gaps in the thoughts, the birds and the clouds and the planes are our thoughts; between them is stillness…

Life a meditation.

The run in the park was a delight, I love the running rhythm that can be found all over the world.

Even as far back as 1987 when I ran the New York marathon, I was there a week before the race and each day I would run to Central Park and circle the lake with hundreds of other runners – more than usual I suspect as it was marathon week – but still the same rhythm… Round and round, one foot in front of the other, simplicity.

Simplicity is an inner state, like tranquility. Life can be full of interesting projects and communication and connections to all manner of exciting ness. But if there is tranquility at the centre, like the park here right in a quiet space in the centre of the City, then the possibility of expansion from the still point within is as vast as the clear blue sky above us.

Running Crazy in Valencia…

Anadi and I have just wandered back bathed in blue from above; such a vivid azul that the sky feels touchable, so bright and clear and expansive…

Today we rose rather early as the race start was at 8.30am, and even two days back in the UK had adjusted my body clock somewhat, so it was like a 7.30am start… Early, but fun.

We met with Malcolm in the foyer of the hotel and he guided us to the race start. It is one of the things I love about Running Crazy trips; no planning or finding out needed. Malcolm does it all for us…

And so we made our way with the crowds over the bridge to where the throng of people were gathering… So many people, but I liked it.

I notice so much has changed within me over time. I didn’t used to like standing in a huge crowd; and there was always a vestige of anxiety about the possibility of tripping and falling amongst so many runners all tearing off at once.

We had to be in our pen, 20 minutes before the start, quite a long time to be huddled together…

But I was very relaxed, the sun shone. I enjoyed the music of the Spanish language all around me, and the time till the gun went flew by.

The race itself was a delight. I was glad of my Skinner’s socks as it meant I could concentrate on running fast, without being slowed by any of the metal bits across the road, ouchie stretches or cobbled parts. I was able to just run…

I felt amazing. The pace was comfortable and I crossed the line in 44.31 – and I ran a very unusual way for me; the second 5k was almost 30 seconds faster than the first. I am usually the other way round!

It highlights that long slow distance is a good way of training my body. I have averaged 48 miles a week for 20 weeks and have hardly done any interval training; and the times I have thrown a bit in, have certainly not been at the pace I ran today!

Many of my barefoot miles are very slow distance indeed, as I walk the ouchie bits and only run faster on clear stretches of beach or grass or really flat road.

Anadi and I were chatting about my result as we walked back from the race finish. ‘It’s because you’ve cleared the tension’, he said, ‘it’s created the space for the run to just come out of you…’

And it has. I keep saying that since shedding my shoes, it feels like I have a whole new running career ahead of me; I feel as if the past is nothing to do with me. It is a story I can tell if I am asked, but it has no hold.

The story of our life can be a heavy weight, especially the longer we have been here! But although I can remember it, it feels as if I am shedding everything that I ever associated as  me and in its place is limitless possibility, freedom of expression and love of the moment, my fellow human being, the friends I make at every turn, and carrot cake and coffee! ?

Anadi and I are going to jog around the park now in the late afternoon sun, and take in the energy of this beautiful City. I get to know a place by running it, being in it, breathing it and feeling it.

Today I ran through the history of it; I am not a natural site seer, but I love to be in a place, merge into the energy and experience the place I have landed in.

And what better way than running through it with thousands of other human beings; doing what we love; being in the step!

 

The reflection of love…

Saturday…

We are in Valencia, it has a lovely feel, wide streets and bright blue skies… We arrived and had our second breakfast in a traditional Spanish bar…

Our first was easy jet porridge at early o clock, and then tostados con aceite y tomate at civilised Spanish breakfast o clock…

I love the feel of Spain and I love the feel of a Saturday stretching ahead without a plan. When I have written this, Anadi and I will go and wander the streets and eat some more I expect.

Do what we humans do, wander about interspersed with eating and sleeping!

What a funny journey this is, lots of physical functions and needs to take care of, as we learn that we are not the body that we are in.

But through looking after it, we can hear our spirit speak more clearly, not silenced through tension and pain.

The irony is that we often need the pain to awaken us to our truth; and yet it can also hide us from the very thing we are seeking – ease and peace within – and then instead of listening to its messages, instead we project our dis ease onto the situations, the politics, the awful evil in the world we see around us… Or other people; we project our pain onto our friends, our loved ones, rather than clear it from within…

Or we distract from it with massive activity, lots of ‘things to do’ and people to see – of course we can also stay still within ‘doing’ and ‘being’ with others – but it can also provide a space to run away from ourselves, to create noise so that we never hear our heart call to us, hear it direct us, or give us its intelligent words.

Or we damp down the pain with drugs, alcohol, food… We dull it and dim it and create enough comfort to ‘get through…’

But if we stop, and listen, listen to the messages in our body… We will find that it holds all the wisdom and the more we listen, the more we will find the silence within us, the space where the pain is hiding.

It is only through truly facing our own pain, that we will stop projecting it outwards. And when we stop doing that we can start to notice and experience more fully love, acts of kindness, joy, life possibility, growth expansion…

Because as we clear our own pain, we stop finding that all we see is pain and evil and loss out in the world, and we see instead the reflection of clarity peace and love.

 

 

Here is the vlog Ange and I made when we met for coffee in Lewes on Friday