Life, in this moment, is…

I am sitting up in bed in Casablanca hotel… It is 2.41am. Sleep is eluding me and so I have decided to turn on the light and write.

In the mountains I sleep and sleep – nine, ten and – once even – eleven hours a night. But tonight I am wide awake. My balcony door is open, and the sound of the waves outside is… Rhythmic, continuous, peaceful, alive…

Tomorrow morning I leave here to return to England, and on Tuesday I will fly to Suances, in readiness to start my journey ‘on foot’ back here to Almuñécar…

On bare foot!

The road really and truly will be made by walking it; and running it….As Antonio Machado advices ‘Se hace camino, al andar…’ You make the road by walking it…

And I have no idea what the road holds… In the same way, that every day of our lives we have no idea what each minute will bring.

It is this mystery that can lead us more deeply to the silence and trust within us… To the true joy of life, of living…

In the space of the moment where we know not what is ahead, we are in a position to fully experience what is occurring right now…

In this moment… In every moment we are here, there is so much to be experienced.

Right now, I can hear the sea, singing softly, caressing the land. I can feel the silence in this room. I am aware of the slight throb in my left middle toe, where the nail has been lost, through running a lot in the mountains…!

If we listen carefully to our body, it will speak – it holds all the wisdom – and my toe is asking that I rest awhile in readiness to set off on a big run in one week’s time…

My toe has spoken for all of my body…

Time to rest…

Except that in resting my energy is building and I am wide awake at 3.04am!

And 3.04am has a very magical feel to it; full of possibility… Full of the richness of this gift of life…

Today, my Spanish teacher Maricarmen read me some more words by Antonio Machado, about death, which spoke to me of living fully, here, now… They are in truth about this moment; about life…

‘Death us something we shouldn’t fear because, while we are, death isn’t, and when death is, we aren’t…’

 

Freedom…

I ran with naked feet in the clouds; into the hail, the rain and the snow. Feeling the earth and the jagged rocks beneath my feet, and yet protected from them by my Xero Shoes.

These ‘shoes’ are based on the way of the Mexican Tarahumara tribe, who  protect their feet by simply tying bits of rubber to the soles of their feet, to avoid damage from sharp rocks and stones…

Discovering ‘Xero shoes’ has literally changed my life… The mountain trails are now open to me again… My feet move like they are shoeless and they certainly can feel the elements!

I love being barefoot; I love feeling my running form return, my body becoming more and more flexible; fitter and more free.

I have already travelled a long way, learning in each step, I tread along the running path – mastering my art; with the knowledge that I will never fully master it… Which is why I love it…. There is no end, no finish line.

Because true mastery comes through committing to investigating deeply, its every aspect, it’s every nook and cranny; in order to let it go completely…

The path to freedom through the body, through experiencing everything… Every sensation, every feeling – every aspect of this human life… To be lived fully, the yin to the yang. The extremes of experience and feeling. The highs and the lows… The conflicts and the pain; the joy and the love…

Through being fully in every single experience, we are set free… Because living this way brings us always to the present moment.

And in this moment we can heal our past, and create a different future.

Through feeing every single thing that courses though us, we can heal that which is unhealed from whence it first arose – and in so doing create a new future, with new possibilities, free from the patterns of the past…

It is in committing to my running path that all else flows…

Everything else just unfolds; like running across Spain barefoot, learning Spanish and working in the lives of others as a Sanacion – the Spanish word for healer…

I have taken three sabbaticals now, and each time, I rest for awhile from working in the lives of others, and each time I have let go completely, thinking I may not return to that work…

Each time I have spent more time running, attaining high levels of fitness again … And then there has come a time when almost of itself my work with others returns – the door opens again within me; and  people come a knocking once more…

 

 

Leave no trail…

I wound my way down the mountainside this morning in my little red car… Seven weeks here in Spain, have disappeared in the way Antonio Machado describes in his poem… Like the water trails in the wake of a boat…

‘Caminante no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar…’

I rounded a big hairpin bend, and saw three guys who had the look of ‘free beings’, sitting by the roadside hitching a lift… I pulled over and they delightedly clambered in.

‘Que idioma’? I enquired… English was opted for; but we drove on down the switch back in silence… After a while the one sitting beside me started to speak…

I soon discovered that he was Egyptian, and ‘hops’ between Spain and Eygpt… He was amazed to discover that my father was born in Alexandria, the very City my travelling companion comes from too!
‘I have never met someone while I am not in my country who was born in Alexandria…’ He said enthusiastically… As they piled out in Orgiva, I gave my new friend one of my Barefoot Across Spain posters…

Today had been allocated – by me – as a ‘giving out poster’ day, I had made a good start.

I stopped off in Almuñécar… It felt a little like being in my village 50 years ago; I was welcomed, and my posters were immediately taken – ‘Lo pongo’ –  in the Farmacia, the Lavandaria (launderette) two restaurants, the local shop, the newsagents and then I walked back into Casablanca, where I was greeted with great warmth and invited to eat lunch ‘invitar de la casa’ on the house…

My next port of call was Rincön de la Victoria where I stayed for two weeks before my trip to the mountains… Once again I gave my posters to restaurants I had frequented… Finishing in one which also serves amazing Chocolate brownie…

We chatted about my project and they told me ‘Hablas Espanol muy bien’… I can assure you I don’t! But paso a paso, I am improving…

And now I am 36000 feet high in the sky. We are flying backwards over the route I will run, when I set off from Suances in four weeks time, to run barefoot down the middle of Spain…

I ordered some food, and said to the air steward that it was funny to speak Ingles… ‘Ah, isn’t it lovely to be going home’ she said, and carried on with her job, without waiting for a response…

But I’m not going anyway… I’m here – making the path by walking it…

Flying it en este momento!

The path is made, by walking it…

I was sitting at the top of a table; microphones in front of me, a group of Spanish men were gathered around, and were asking me questions about my upcoming project to run from the north to the south coast of Spain in my bare feet; we were talking in Spanish… Of course!

It was like being in a dream…..

Maricarmen, my Spanish teacher and her husband Pepejesús sat to the side of me, solidarity, support… I answered their questions, and spoke in Spanish about my run across their land, about the metaphor of our lives from birth to death… How we are all on the same journey, that we can support one another and connect, join on the road and walk together in step – and in the step.

I was able to communicate how being in this moment, in this step is all that is required… How life will then unfold in magical and unexpected ways. I quoted Antonio Machado… ‘Caminante, No hay camino…’

Walker, there is no path.

And I spoke these words while living them…

It is way beyond my level of Spanish to be the ‘star’ of a press conference… But it was happening and I was there – so all I could do was trust the moment, stay in the step and let the next take care of itself…

I loved every moment, rich with the tapestry of this mysterious universe unfolding and revealing itself in front of  me

I was asked at one point… ‘What do you think it will be like each day, when you are running across Spain, barefoot…?’

‘Se hace el camino, al andar’, I replied, quoting Antonio Machado once again…

The path is made by walking it…

Be melting snow…

‘Be melting snow, wash yourself of yourself…’

Today I was talking with Maricarmen – en Español por supuesto – about my life’s practise of clearing the darkness, the karma from within me; I spoke to her of how I understood what I believed I was here to do, at a very young age, perhaps just seven years.

I can review the scene and see the child now…

She is sitting in the wooden slippy pew – vast to her then – with the soft robust hassock under her feet, worn into a nice kneeling bed with much use… It served as a perfect foot rest for the little girl.

She is sitting half listening to the preacher. The church has a musty smell, wafts of the scent from the greenery in generous vases of flowers, arranged by the wives of the churchwardens, mingle in.

As his voice rises and falls, she is watching the dust float up in the sunlight that is beaming through stained glass on this particularly sunny Sunday morning…

He has been speaking for a long time; she is letting many of the words float beyond her absorption, over her head and away, when suddenly something he is saying starts to speak to her; deep within her being, her belly, her very soul… He is explaining the circle of birth, life, death and rebirth, and the symbolism of the serpent with the tail in its mouth. He is talking of cleansing from our sins, of eternal life…

Suddenly she becomes aware of this cycle, in a visceral way – round and round and round… Lifetimes and lifetimes of karma and she understands… How to return to the place of pure love, freedom, the godly state within…

And she understands she has work to do.

The preacher is saying that we must clear our own darkness from within to remember who we truly are.

That day, the young girl fully understood.

I was sharing this story with Maricarmen, and she said… ‘It reminds me of some words that Rumi said…’

‘Conviertete en nieve que derrite. Limpiate de mismo’

Be melting snow… Wash yourself of yourself…’

 

Solitude and Silence

Alone in the mountains in Spain, there is much opportunity to be silent. There is a stillness too that is almost tangible.

Today for four hours I was walking and running along the sandy, rocky, stony tracks and up steep steep climbs; while rain clouds gathered and swirled, dark blue, grey and low about the mountain tops.

I ran through wet misty air, all alone, no-one else; the sweeping grandeur all about….

There was a rustle in the trees – and suddenly just in front of me appeared a wild boar, followed closely by three more… Across my path and down the steep mountain side they went. I was very near them, shiny black robust – and then they were gone.

Hours and hours alone, moving easily allows for everything to disappear, and for the watcher to watch the running…

Later I drank coffee in the little bar where I had begun my day with coffee too… The circle complete. Spanish voices telling me about wild boar – jabalí… I understood most, but not all of the conversation; lending itself to the dream like quality of my time here in the Alpujarras…

 

In the beginning…

Caminante, no hay camino; Se hace el camino al andar.

The soles of my feet are bare and within these pages I will bare my soul  … I am going to endeavour to write this as if I have no readers; as my unfolding steps reveal my path, my writing will record it, a memoir as to where they lead me.

Three days ago I was running in the mountains alone for four hours when it arose within me that I would start to write again; I stopped two months ago; my blog ended its run abruptly – from one day to the next… On finding my days in England full of Christmas commitments, I let go of the daily discipline… And I haven’t written since.

But as I ran silently and alone in the Alpujarra mountains, the urge to write rose again… But this time, without any intention of sharing; no social media tweets, or linkedin or facebook announcements that I had once again written something down…

My idea at first was to go right back to the very beginning, when each night I wrote in longhand in a journal… I started this practise at just twelve years old and I wrote each day, until at twenty one, I reflected on the entries of my late teenage years and now just starting out on a new decade – I decided that the daily inscriptions were too full of sadness and darkness… Too full of the unresolved pain; too full of despair that I would every emerge from the confusion of my turmoil.

My writings communicated the fear that my only release from my tortured mind, would be to die; perhaps then I would find peace – but no sooner had I thought this thought, than I was immediately tormented further with the absolute knowing that the body dead was of no gain…

For I knew that the agony would remain unresolved, and there would still be the need to investigate and find a way to release myself from the tight stranglehold of the deep existential misery, that I was experiencing…

And so I stopped keeping my journal – the entries too ‘oscuro’ and sad to continue with…  I threw away the big pile of books, charting my thoughts and feelings, my daily routines over nine long adolescent years.

And as I ran in the mountains this week, I thought to simply go back to the very beginning, to write longhand again in a journal each night…

But then I moved from that thought to one of typing my stream of consciousness onto a document and gathering the pieces of work together in a virtual folder…

And then I had this idea…

To record my writing here on my Soles Journey; but to not make the process a public one. To trust that if anyone finds my entries and enjoys reading, they will simply be a reflection of my own souls journey…

Train hard; fight is easy…

I was reflecting the other day about my school days… The desks all battered, and bulging with exercise and text books – there was an inkwell in the left hand the corner… And right beside my inkwell, I had stuck a little sticker…

It was a cartoon of a martial artist in a whirl of action… The caption below was ‘train hard; fight is easy’… I liked those words, they worked for me.

In part, this was because I have always been someone who absolutely loves training.

I began a daily exercise routine at just six years old, when I would join my father for this morning squats, press ups and much more… Which he continued to do right until just before his death…

In addition to this, I liked him to accompany me to the playing fields at the weekends… I would get him to time me running the length of them, again and again… In the beginning  it was just because I liked to see what was possible, how fast I could run… Could I run faster…?

At fifteen years old when I started to train in more earnest, this little sticker spoke volumes to me…

It still does…

‘Train hard; fight is easy…’

But… Training hard does not mean pushing hard…

Training hard means applying ourselves consistently progressively and optimally – and loving it!

Last week when I achieved running five days in a row of 25k a day barefoot with relative ease, I recognised that the capacity to do this, has come through training hard for sure…

But that now, the most important thing is… As Chris Finill one of Britain’s top ultra runners, who ran across the United States from the north to the south coast – route 101 – wisely says…

‘Stay out of the red zone…’

He was advised this, before he set off on his epic journey, by someone who had failed in their attempt to cross the states; and it is something I am acutely aware of…

However my innate nature isn’t to push – or to desire to go into the red zone… My nature is definitely to challenge myself and to investigate; to explore to adventure and to see what is possible…

But I certainly far prefer having fun doing so…

As a younger person, I did often push, but this came out of my hurt, my childhood wounding, my pain… I started to push to win approval, to be enough, to be loved.

Of course I learnt – in the end  –  the hard way… Because the push brought break down – always…

And of course, the only way that we can receive love is to love ourselves… As Jesus said ‘Love others AS yourself…’

When we learn to love ourselves, we can become love… And we discover that we naturally love others from this space, and whether we are loved are not becomes unimportant… But of course the paradox is that then love is reflected all around us; from the inside out…

This can of course, be a long road to tread – this road to love.

But in each step we take towards love, the road reveals itself deeper and deeper into our hearts and souls…

And so it was on the running route, as it revealed itself in each step, that I was able to let go of the push and simply enjoy ‘training hard’….

With my body relaxed and in the zone, in the step, in each moment… My soul was set free to fly on land….

Chris said, that he travelled from the North to the South coast of America –  all 2,500kilometres – cautiously….

And I will do the same, from the North coast of Spain to the South coast…

In just over two months we all set off… I say ‘we all’,  because my adventure is now a fiesta; and we are all journeying together from Suances to Almuñécar.

In the same way that we all journey together through this experience of life…

From birth to death…

Treading each step of the way, making the path by walking it….