Run a lot…

And so how did I prepare to become fit enough to contemplate running across Spain in my bare feet?

The goal had emerged of itself, rather than me setting myself to do something…And ‘how to train for the goal’ also arrived of itself…

Run a lot….

Running training is very simple really. If you want to get better at something, do a lot of it – but of course with as ‘good form’ as possible.

I wanted to get better at barefoot running… So I did a lot of barefoot running!

This is the essence of accomplishing anything – to keep going… To have consistency and especially keep going when there seems to be no improvement….

And also when it’s repetitive and perhaps a little boring!

Although I have never found my running boring – I’ve never found anything that I have set myself to master boring… But this is because I rather like going deeply into things. This is my nature…. And so because it is my nature it’s a little more easy for me,

But it’s still a practice that can be learned – ‘how to develop the art of consistency’… It’s very important to never do so much one day that you don’t feel that you could do it again the next… This is the essence of a training program really and truly… To always to do the amount that you can keep repeating and from that base, to gradually improve or increase…

It is often not fully realised that this is the way to exponentially get better… Because the ability to do more comes out of the repetition… Of course there have to be times where we stretch to the next level – when we increase the mileage, do some more training,  heighten the quality of our speed work, do a bit more stretching or strength work…

For me, deepening of the practise works best if it ‘stretches the comfort zone’ rather than leaps too far out of it – because when we leap miles out of our comfort zone it can end in tears!

Of course some people can manage that, and it’s something that I have always asked my clients when they’re about to do a big endeavour…

I ask them imagine that they are jumping across a ravine, and whether they can see themselves reaching the other side in one leap? And if someone can’t imagine themselves landing on the other side – then I suggest that they take slower or smaller steps towards the goal…

And rather than leap out of the comfort zone – to stretch the comfort zone.

I have the capacity to adapt to leaping miles outside my comfort zone, but it’s not something that I would necessarily recommend – and as the years have gone by, I choose to stretch my comfort zone rather leap right outside it…

Now of course that’s a little bit of an irony with Barefoot Across Spain because I trained by stretching the comfort zone – but in all honesty the actual journey across Spain was way out of my comfort zone the whole way!

However because I just ‘stretched’, and I hadn’t destroyed myself in the training,.. I had grown and become stronger. I had built myself up not broken myself down, I was able to spend seven weeks ‘red lining’ it…!

This is another really important part of any training program…

To always keep building up, and not breaking down.

So it is a fine line, this red line of training – or of doing anything… We need to do enough to keep improving; and we need to do enough to keep stretching ourselves,  but not too much that means that become dull or that we give up…

Because many people give things up when they’re actually nearer than they think, and this is why it’s important to do an amount that feels good so that you don’t want to give up – because we’re often nearer than we think…

And what else?

Off course ran barefoot as much as I could, but I didn’t run all my running barefoot… When I was in the mountains and I wore  my Xero sandals, my feet actually developed incredible toughness…

I discovered for myself that running in mountainous land with Xero sandals actually strengthened my feet more than sometimes running on smooth grass, lovely sandy beaches or even smooth tarmac – because ultimately the stony stuff challenged my feet a little more.

I also discovered that you can only get your feet as strong as you can get them…

It is impossible to rush them or hurry them.

I did one practice of five days of 25K a day to simulate my upcoming challenge… I did it in the January and I discovered that I was very fit and that 25K a day was very ‘doable’, but I also discovered that I could only get the soles of my feet as strong as I could get them…

I saw in that practice run that I was going to need to deal with my feet breaking down…

I realised this because for two of the days of those 25K a day practice running, it rained and my feet did not like it! They started to break down and I realised that when the roads were wet, of course, the feet get wet and then it softened the skin and the road became like sandpaper… Not a recipe that is very good for feet!

But I recognised that I would just have to deal with it as it arose, and that I couldn’t do any more than I was doing… I could prepare my feet as best I could, but that was that…

The journey itself was going to be the place where I would simply have to work with things as they arose.

Sensation

It is important to feel everything…. The soles of my feet were a metaphor for this for me.

When I look back at the thirty eight weeks of preparation, I have a memory of just a single step.

I have a memories of sensation; of grass under my feet – the sting of a bee – ‘ouchie’ acorns in Richmond park… Rocky rough and ragged mountain pathways. Beaches…. The sand and the surf at the water’s edge…

Cold water, warm water, soft sand, hard sand.

The hot pavements of Marrakech, the Moroccan land under my feet. Sensations and memories of warmth, of wet rainy roads, dry roads. Dusty.

I have the sensation of the step.

I have the feelings of discomfort, the ‘ouchie’, the painful, impossible to run….

And then smooth, fast flowing… Sand – grass…

An asphalt track in London, well kept, with grounds people all around me.

The bliss of the blue, smooth running lanes in club La Santa… An uneven pista that needs attention in Almuñécar.

I can still feel the land.

I can feel where I trod. I can feel the hills. I feel the pilgrim’s progress.

Barefoot lends itself to letting go; it lends itself to feeling what I’m feeling – right now – having to stop when it’s too hard. Being with what is…Not making anything ‘a thing’.

And I think of the times when it was more hard, more ‘ouchie’… Running across the volcanic plains of Lanzarote to the beach at Famara. Feeling the contrast of the heat and the red gold stony terrain, with the smooth, wonderful golden sand.

And recognising that both of these contrasts are to be experienced – fully felt – to be able to go beyond the sensations in the body.

The body is a conduit for our life.

Here on planet earth, we feel everything through our body.

The physical is an important place to start with, and then we can feel the emotional and mental – also physically expressed – with greater connection.

If I can feel everything in my feet, it lends itself to feeling everything within…

If we can feel the contrasts and not get attached to either; but just allow the feeling. Allow ourselves to be in it, really experience it – to be with it, and not yearn for one more than the other, or reject one more than the other… Instead to know it is all part of the process of healing and clearing.

Being with the duality until we’re beyond it.

Not trying to get anywhere but feeling every single step.

The barefoot step reminds me to be this way…To make the path by walking it, and to stay in the step.

The journey to the start of the journey was one that I was happy to remain in.

I was happy to keep preparing…

Because life is a preparation, there is nowhere to go. Everything is as it is.

Everything is now, so there is nowhere to go, nowhere to be, except in the step.

Where did I prepare…?

The preparation took place all over the world, really and truly…

Looking back, it was an incredible journey… And the goal, the objective, meant that I had to run a lot more than usual, and so I experienced many places in a wonderful way, because my feet got to know them.

And, of course, because the feet were bare, I found that I absorbed the energy of the land in a magical and an amazing way. I have always experienced this anyway, even before I was barefoot – my way of being in places is to run in them, to sit and have coffee – and be there…

I’m not someone who enjoys sightseeing in the traditional way. I rather like running past a church or a cathedral – and maybe dipping in and sitting for a few minutes – or just running past the beautiful palaces. I have been into magnificent historical buildings and museums at different times in my life, but in truth, now, I prefer to be in the energy of the land.

I like to see the vistas. I like to feel that hear the sounds of the people speaking. I like to sit in squares and drink coffee – or sit cozily indoors when it’s raining and cold outside…

And so where did I run?

Where did I head out to run during those thirty eight weeks of preparation? What places – what lands did my feet touch?

England… One of the places was England… When the idea arose within me, I was in Spain but then I came back to England a few times and experienced London where there was verdant grass, big green grassy fields and parkland too.

We were in North London – Winchmore Hill – and there’s a lovely cricket ground there… I absolutely love the feeling off the grass under my feet – totally love it! And there is also nearby a bigger playing fields, nearly two miles all the way around…

The feeling of the grass was magical under my feet… of course there were ‘ouchie’ bits under the trees, with twigs and tussocks of mud – places which are not as comfortable, and thrice on that ground I got stung by a bee! But still the feeling of grass is one of the most delightful…

There was a running track too nearby, which I enjoyed…. I was even given the code so that I could let myself in whenever I wanted, by a groundsman who was there!

I can’t remember it – but there’s a code – Oh no, I wish I could remember it – I wrote it down in my old phone! Never mind there’s a track nearby and I let myself onto it and ran repetitions of a 1000 meters in my bare feet.

In effect my training was a lot of play – because I had set myself the mileage, so I reckoned I just needed to run and enjoy them…

So in England I did just that – a lot on the grass and then out on the roads, and around and about in the parks – Groveland park and Trent Park, and then into Central London too sometimes to run around Hyde park – and my feet got stronger. My body got stronger.

I was also in England in the winter, and it was very cold, very snowy, and pretty rainy too. I got some waterproof socks, but they wore out very quickly…

My feet got very, very cold and I remember once running a ten mile run, and I was not sure whether I would be able to complete it – because my feet were like blocks of ice!

But magically they recovered and I was able to finish the run. Also in that time in London, I took my socks off for awhile and stood in the snow to feel the energy and the sensation under my feet… It was fun to go to England…

Another training ground in England was Richmond Park…

I love that park so much. I first circled it when I was 21 years old… There wasn’t the track to guide us round the edge that is there now, a lovely cinder, gravel track, easy to run on, wide and scrunchy… But not so great for bare feet!

The track is 7 miles long and an excellent route through which to enjoy the park, to see the deer grazing in clusters and huge herds, the rabbits hopping, cyclists whizzing by on the roads close by, other runners circling the same way and the other….

Wild countryside meeting urban….

But this time, because my feet were bare I ran mainly through the centre; vast expanses of green grass greeted me and I revelled in its dewy September dampness – the sun still warm with the after glow of summer…

One day I got lost and asked a woman pushing her baby in a pram, how to find my way out again… She was intrigued by my naked feet, asked me many questions and then said

‘I love shoes, you must think that bad…’

‘No, no, I replied, ‘my message if I have one… is “to thine own self be true” – so that we might experience what we are pulled towards to experience… It is through awareness and experience that we can learn to be fully present and to fully clear to the purity of our own minds… No doctrine can take us there, it is solely our own experience and our own investigation that will lead us to truth; to the experience of our true nature…’

I also was in Almuñecar, which was the place where I was finished my run. So I trained there too for some of the time. I was there in the sunny sun of June… And I was there in October too, where the weather was very lovely and the sea, quite warm. There is a cycle path there which is green and smooth – and a track of sand, and there’s, a rugged path up the side of the cliff… And also a old riverbed that’s dried up and was so painful in my socks. But when I got some Xero sandals in January, then I experienced freedom again.

getting my Xero shoes really opened up the doors for me, because I had been limited – and kept away from rugged tracks because my feet couldn’t take that type of terrain at running pace.

Anadi and I had been here in the mountains in July just as the idea had sprouted – and we walked ten miles in our bare feet across the mountains, but it took four hours and it really was quite ‘ouchie’. So in January, I got some Xero sandals…

And I was so very glad of them, when I travelled to the mountains in February and March… I regularly ran a route of 13 miles, it took a long time as it climbed up high, before winding it’s way down the mountain again…

The weather was so varied in February and March in the mountains; some days bright blue skies with the sun warm… I trained in a vest and shorts and other days the rain and snow swept in and I shivered and froze when I stopped for just a few minutes to record a live video for Facebook….

Another place that was absolutely delightful to train in for this event, was in Conil de la Frontera , which is on the West coast of Spain. There is a beach that is seventeen kilometers long, and it is absolutely my idea of heaven.

The interesting thing is that I had planned during my sabbatical, to be running on beaches all around the world… Because I love to run on beaches. However, this was not to be, as my feet decided, they would like to run across Spain, and after the event, I now understand why…!

But I have to say, that beaches are a place of absolute joy for me. I am somebody who loves the coast. I love to run on the sand. I love the limitlessness of a long beach, where there is no end… On Conil de la Frontera, I completed my longest barefoot run so far, I went up to fifteen miles for the first time, and that was very joyous. It’s, very hot day, I remember.

We were near Medina Sedona which is the birthplace of my Spanish teacher Maricarmen… We went there one day while we were in Conil and we climbed high up to the castle and stood appreciating the glorious vista and then we had our lunch looking out over the town it was very, very beautiful indeed.

So I trained in Almuñécar, the place I would finish and it was for awhile I was training there, up and down the sea front, and up and down the steps to the Cross high up on one of the three big ‘stones’ that are landmarks on that part of the coast – and I also ran up into the hills – I discovered a road that climbs and climbs and climbs – out of Almuñécar, and heads up into the mountains…

I love the coast and it was while I was there that I learned that Laurie Lee on his journey across Spain from the North to the South had spent time in Almuñécar – he had stayed there a while and had written books there too.

I found this quite a magical thing because he has always been my inspiration about exploring Spain on foot – so much so that when I first met Anadi, I gave him a copy of  ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning’ as a gift – there must have been something already within me, that knew about my future journey too, from the North to the South of Spain.

And so in all these places I ran. I just went running.

I saw the year go by… Grovelands park, where I had run when the leaves were green and fresh and verdant, and now here I was when they had fallen to the ground and the trees were bare.

I experienced the changing seasons too in Almuñécar, too, from the July through to October and I was there again in January, and even then, the weather was beautiful and sunny at times, but very cold in the evenings and sometimes there was a lot of rain.

The rain had started to come to Spain and that was for sure.

When I was up to the mountains in October, a huge great tremendous storm came in and I wasn’t one hundred percent well because in the mountains I seem to be affected by the pollen – and because of this, it was very hard to run and so I did what I could and I broke my running sometimes into two times in a day…

I walked quite a lot of it too, and at the weekends I went down to Almuñécar – because I’ve discovered that if I go up to the mountains – really and truly I can only last a week and then my body needs a rest from the altitude, or it needs the sea – so I’ve developed a way of being up there for a few days…

I like to be in the Alpujarras because it’s very very beautiful – and there is something very special about Pitres for me…  And my Spanish teacher Maricarmen lives there, I love to do ‘one on one’ intensive Spanish – and I love the breakfasts sitting and looking over the mountains – but my body is more weak with less energy in it’s field, and so being in the mountains is always more hard for my running….

One day when I was running along the mountain path, four wild boar leap directly in front of me… One two, three, four there they went jump jump, jump jump; and it was very special time because I was very much alone… The preparation was solitary which was somehow part of the whole process for me, to be just be feeling the land under my feet preparing for this pilgrimage

Where else?

I remember I went to Morocco and I ran in Marrakesh and I had to get up very early at 6am to run before the heat of the day – because the heat in Marrakech was reaching very high temperatures.

I was there in August and it was reaching 42degrees during the day, and my feet couldn’t take this heat – my feet couldn’t walk on the land, and even my little shoes, my little beach shoes I had then, were very difficult to walk in… The heat burnt my feet!

So I would get up at six o’clock and run through the streets and I felt very good at that time in the morning and was happily running eight miles, nine and ten miles.

Then we went Essaouira which is on the coast, with a beach, which is seventy kilometers long…

I absolutely love this beach – it’s an interesting land Morocco because it’s very chauvinistic, and the women are very much covered in their dress – it’s a very different land, and so a western woman is a very different creature…

We were staying in the Medina and so each day, I had to walk through the Medina in my shorts and vest in the mornings, and this was an unusual sight because the women are robed… Although there are changes too, freedom for women is emerging; and quite a lot Morrocan women put their thumbs up to me as I was running and I even saw some of them were running in their robes too…

But, it is still the law is that the man has to look after the women and his family, and so although some women are fighting for freedom – some are staying very much with the status quo.

So I would go through the Medina and I was always happy to reach the beach, where somehow it’s very different…

There the Arab ponies are galloping – and the camels were meandering – and many young Arab men were doing their exercises with their incredible agility and strength and flexibility. I found them very inspiring, lots of football was being played on the beach too, many of the players in their bare feet.

I ran many miles on Essaouira beach; the wind is unbelievably difficult there at times – very very ferocious winds but I got used to this and I ran miles in Essaouira – miles and miles… I think I hit one of my highest weeks during my stay there…

Where else did I run?

I went to Gozo, a little island off Malta where Anadi, as a child, used to go on holiday with his family,  it’s a very small island, nine miles by four miles so I was able to practice running across a country!

I did a lot of training there, although the weather was terrible! We had rain and cold and very unusual inclement weather… I think a lot of Europe had inclement weather! But I did do good running and I put my socks on quite a bit because I could run better on the roads, which were quite ‘ouchie’…

So I practiced a lot in my Skinners socks, just so that I could get more miles really and truly… It was good training – but not incredibly good weather!

I had just come from the mountains where I’d had quite a process  – I was not well really, for the whole three weeks that I was there.

I lost my voice, and I couldn’t breathe well; I was very ‘reduced’ and let go of a lot of myself that controlled anything…. And I knew who I was because I was there alone it was a very powerful process for me…

So therefore when I went to Gozo, I had booked in two long treatments with Gerhard, who is an incredible body worker and I was able to build on the inner work I’d done in October in the mountains… Because I recognised that this journey of doing a lot of training was very clearing space for me, especially as I was doing a lot of it alone

Once January 2018 came Anadi needed to be in London because his business needed him to be there…

I needed to be in Spain, because I was learning to speak Spanish – and it felt important that I did my training around the land I was trying to learn the language of…

I wanted to be able to speak with the people as I journeyed barefoot across their land…

As it happened I needed to speak Spanish to speak to the press and to the television and the radio… It was an important thing for me to be there, but also for the both of us to be connected to our own projects, and to commit fully to our own lives.

It has deepened our marriage and our relating…

One place I haven’t mentioned of course is Lanzarote… I did a lot of training in Lanzarote, an island I love very much… A Spanish island – there’s something about Lanzarote that’s very special to me – and I managed to do a lot of training there.

I trained along the beach. I love Famara beach very much; Also I trained across that Volcanic land because I found in my Skinners socks, that I was able to cope with the quite challenging terrain.

I covered many miles there, and I did quite a lot alone which was an important part of my training…

Another part of my training was to include a few races which hadn’t anticipated…

I ended up doing a 5k race in Lanzarote in October, and I ran 21.52 in my socks… This was the first time I’d raced properly as a barefoot being…

I then did a 10k in Valencia in the November, and I ran 44 minutes and 30 seconds – again in my socks.

I was surprised by my form… Then I decided I would run a half marathon in the Christmas time, in December in Lanzarote and I just ran around, to see what happened and I finished in 1 hour 45 minutes…

So then I entered a half marathon in Torremolinos in the February because I thought I could probably run 1.40 – and I ran round in 1.39…

I’m glad I did some races because the essence of my being is a racer!

I love it so much and although I was doing a different journey…

But now, having emerged the other side of Barefoot Across Spain I find the racer in me has returned, with greater freedom and fun in my soul…

And I am light of foot and heart, ready to investigate once more on the racing road….!

Our life a process…

Our whole life is a process… A journey from our birth to our death.

While we’re here on planet earth in a body, anything we might undertake – any endeavour – is an opportunity to become connected to and understand ourselves – to know and remember our essential self.

All learning is to find out what, at the deepest level, we already know – the level of our most profound self…

So whatever we are attracted to – wherever we would like to develop new skills, to get better at something, to master it… We have the opportunity also become a master of life…

Becoming a master of life can then lead to becoming a master of letting go of this life – of ultimately learning how to die well.

If we live well, in each moment, then we can die well too.

This can only be experienced through practice…

Everything can be achieved through practice. But to fully ‘achieve’ things with Zen – being here and now – we must experience everything fully.

Of course there will be some things in our own unique energetic body, that we are more naturally inclined towards and when we practice them, the expression that emerges might be more expensive, more colourful, more bright, more fast, more tuneful… A higher level in terms of how we measure things on planet earth – than someone else…

But the secret is to value who we are and the expression of ourselves, without comparison to others…

We might be inspired by the achievements and expressions of others – but it is important that we do not compare ourselves in any negative way.

This is painful for the spirit and holds up our journey here, and misses the point…

If we are attracted to perfect a skill – there need be no comparison to another person or another expression of the same thing!

We are all unique and whatever our own expression on planet earth, in whatever endeavour we want to undertake, it is unique and valuable.

What is important is the practice.

The practice of our art… What is important is to discover ourselves within the process, to see and experience our own light and our own unique colour… To share ourselves and to be generous with our energy.

The art of running has been a lifelong practice for me.

I remember it all began when I was six years old – I am fifty nine years old now – fifty three years have passed and I am still perfecting the art of running… I am still diving deep into the learning the art and the practice of running.

In recent years I notice that the tension has gone and i feel like the child again.

I noticed when I was practicing to run barefoot across Spain, that the ingredients necessary to become fit enough were very easy. It was simply that each day I must turn up at the blank page…

We have a blank page in each new day, because in this paradigm there is night and then there is day again, which means that we have a new start every single day.

In fact, we have a new start in every moment, because there is only this moment. But in living this life on planet earth, with the illusion of linear time, every day we wake up to a fresh start…

Every day is new, so every day there is an new page on which we can create our life.

We can practice our own art, we can practice our life, we can hone our skills and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. It doesn’t matter if we are still practicing our skills and honing them and that when we come to die, we haven’t ‘arrived’ – because there is nowhere to get to, so we can’t arrive anywhere.

There is only the deepening of the practice, which where possible, needs to be practised without tension. It’s ultimate is that it is carried out with joy, expressed with clarity, because whatever we are practicing is being communicated out into the world for others to see

Now of course this doesn’t mean that we don’t dare start, because we are aware that our expression and our art cannot be clear and free of tension when we begin…

Because it is in the practicing that we can see where there is tension and stress, and so have the opportunity to clear it away. It is in the practicing that we discover our tension, and our fear, and also where we learn how to free our soul so that it is in motion through the conduit of the physical manifestation…

I have discovered that in practicing running almost every day of my life, that gradually there has been more and more freedom in each step – more Zen…

So for thirty eight weeks before I crossed Spain in my bare feet, I just turned up each day with no thought, just the action of one bare foot in front of the other…

In the past when I was training for events – while there were degrees of tension still left within me, often I would wake in the mornings and my immediate thoughts were often of this nature… ‘It’s too early’ – ‘it’s still dark’ – ‘I feel tired’ – ‘I don’t want to go’ – ‘Why am I doing this?’

Because of these thoughts, early on in my life, I trained myself to ‘just go anyway’ – to ‘just do it’, as the Nike slogan says.

I trained myself to silence my mind and its resistance.

I learned how to become the master of my body and my mind; rather than the body and mind controlling ‘me’.

I trained myself to silence my mind, firstly through the practice of putting other things into the mind – so it wasn’t exactly silencing the mind, but it was a route to stillness.

In place of any negative thoughts, I put mantras, for example ‘I love you thank you thank you I love you’ was one of my favourites, as well as ‘I’m sorry please forgive me I love you thank you’ – and there were others at different times ‘Om ma ni pad me hum’ and ‘Nam myoho renge kyo’… To name a few.

Immediately, when I awoke in the morning, if I felt these negative thoughts coming in, I would start the mantra. This meant that straight away a relaxation occurred within my being… I would then get out of bed and begin my daily practice of stretching and strength and balancing exercises… Meanwhile coffee would be brewing in the kitchen, so next I would go and sit and drink coffee.

I didn’t allow any thoughts of ‘I don’t want to go’ or ‘it’s raining’ or ‘it’s cold and dark’ to enter my being… I would instead just enjoy my ‘coffee meditation’ – present to each delightful sip, and would then literally step out of the front door.

With any practice we have a blank page of a new day, or the blank page of a new moment. Or the blank page a new hour – All we need do is begin – and the beginning is about taking one step.

One step is all that is needed, and then the next takes care of itself – and the next and the next.

This is the same in any practice, whether that be learning something academic, learning to cook, learning to sing, learning a language… Anything that we want to do – simply turning up is necessary, and not getting attached to how long it might take.

This can be more challenging of course, when we’re in an arena where there is a syllabus with a time scale… I had a time scale off thirty eight weeks ahead of me… But I had given myself plenty of time to train to get fit enough to run across Spain.

If we have any patterns of self sabotage we might set ourselves too short a time to achieve a goal, or we might start on a course with the syllabus and then not do the necessary work and get caught out because exams are approaching…

Or we might try too hard – not recognising that we don’t need to put this much effort in and then burn ourselves out with this energy of ‘trying too hard’ and doing too much…

Or we might set a level so high that it asks too much of us… Or we get attached to the outcome, and stop enjoying the process… And so on and so on!

It can be very difficult sometimes to stay exactly in the step we are in…

But the truth of the matter is we need to practice turning up and not looking too much ahead and or too much behind.

Occasionally of course, both can be useful in this paradigm, because if we have a goal ahead, and our motivation feels a bit low we can cast our eyes ahead to see the goal – whether that be a sporting event, or anything that we are working towards…

We can remember why we’re putting in the work, and sometimes it can be useful to look back and see how far we’ve come – to notice our improvement.

But the most important thing is that we turn up, and keep practicing, and then we will find the value in the practice as time unfolds…

This is why a goal can be very useful, because in setting a very high goal, it can be wonderful to stretch and discover we have unrealised skills, we might discover latent talents and inner strengths that we did not know we had…

Which had we not set the goal we would never have found.

This is why following things that excite us, or interest us, can be wonderful for our growth – to ‘find out’ through the practises…

So if our body is stiff and we want to be able to do more with it, if we want to create a supple body… It is simply practicing stretching the body and feeling it and clearing it and moving it… Doing this day after day after day and in the direction that truly supports our own unique body and its letting go, it’s opening…

And if it is seeking to learn a new language, it is just the same – turning up every day – doing a bit, doing a bit and doing a bit more and trusting that in the times where nothing much seems to be happening, this can be the time when a lot is happening…

It is often in those patches where we must just keep going…

And rest is vital too… Rest is integral to any practice.

Practicing is a vital part of life on earth, practicing anything, practicing, meditation, practicing, singing, practicing speaking in public…

In my case practicing Spanish – and practicing running.

But all of these things, also improve in the times of rest, when we let go and simply rest with nothing happening at all. Nothing attaching to anything that we feel we ‘need to do’.

It is always remembering that being still is the ultimate place to practise living from  – being silent – dropping between the thoughts to the place of complete silence…

The practice of stillness and silence is the most vital part of any practice.

If we practice from this place of silence, then our expression is limitless, and there is no attachment to an outcome.

And then who knows what is possible.

Preparation time….

Many years ago I woke up in the night to hear a voice speaking clearly to me… It was very early in the morning, about 3am. and the voice said…’When you decide on a course of action, be certain, because others will follow you…’

I took this counsel very seriously… My energy is such that I gather people, and when I suggest things, they tend to join in…!

And so in the years between 2003, when I heard this voice – and 2017 when the idea was born to run across Spain in my bare feet… In those intervening years, I continued to embrace my main expressions of writing, running – training for a variety of races – and working as a guía and sanación, whilst all the time moving towards my dream of living a life of doing all those things in the sun…!

But I held back from anything that might involve a lot of people, because I recognised the truth of those words…

‘Once a course of action is decided others will follow…’

I took that very seriously…

I’m very glad I did, because in July 2017, when the idea to run across Spain in my bare feet was conceived, it immediately had a life of its own. It became more than just a run across Spain… That would have been something very different just to set off on my own adventure – quietly, privately…

But this became a journey for many, not just me… It became something that I was sharing, and inviting others to join me in.

The time it took to be ready to ‘set off’ was almost the same time it takes for a baby to be created – nearly nine months long… The idea was conceived in July and I began running at the end of March…

It was however, a smooth journey to the start line – the road unfolded in front of me right from the very beginning… It was almost like it had already happened, and I must now live it to find out more about it, and about myself…

It felt to be a ‘pilgrim’s progress’ – a Peregrinaje – an internal journey … And as it transpired it was also a transformative journey for many of those who joined me on the path – and not only those who came along on the actual journey – but also for those who listened and watched my daily progress through Spain via social media. I witnessed the journey touching many people.

The idea was born and I was the messenger… It was almost like I was being given a task and within this important role, there was going to be great opportunity for growth – therefore, I must not question, but just follow…

It was of course, very much a physical journey and one that was going to be reliant on my body being fit enough, and my feet being strong enough, and so I planned a training program…

But even that was very smooth… I simply plotted the miles I must run….

I chose a weekly training load of 40 miles because my feet had run it on their own – I realised that I had just run forty miles in one week… I hadn’t planned it, so there was no push to it – it had just occurred… ‘We’re feeling strong’ they had communicated… Just as this idea was about to be born…

I saw that my feet held the wisdom and so I reckoned that if they had happily run forty miles all on their own, then they would be willing to run forty miles every week… And it transpired that they were…

It made sense that my long run on a Sunday generally needed to be the distance that I would be running every day as I journeyed across Spain – twenty five kilometers… In truth I didn’t do exactly that, but I ran between twelve and fifteen miles every Sunday…

My job was to get my body and my feet very, very strong and very, very fit.

And the best way to do this was to run…!

I looked to see if there was any way that I could make the soles stronger more quickly – but every single thing I read gave the same advice – run barefoot!

So I ran barefoot – unless it was very cold, or the ground was very uncomfortable and then I put on my Skinners socks… But essentially I just ran barefoot all over the place.

There was a building of excitement… I broadcast the journey out into the world… I wrote about it, I spoke about it..

And in Spain too… I went to a Press Conference in Granada where I had to sit at the head of a table full of journalists who fired questions at me in Spanish!

I was starting to be interviewed on the radio in England too, articles were being written, and a television news program filmed me running on Eastbourne seafront in my bare feet.

In Spain I was asked to do an interview for a newspaper in Spanish – my first interview in Spanish on the telephone…! When I saw the article in the newspaper, I was delighted that I had managed to communicate my story and my journey as a metaphor for our life journey – in Spanish!

Essentially I was talking about the journey we’re all on… I was communicating about living fully… How do we live fully?

If we truly stay fully in the step, and feel everything – the feet being the metaphor for this – when we can feel everything that goes on within us, and fully experience this life…. With all its sensations, sensitivities, everything… Then we are fully present.

Within being fully present and within experiencing absolutely everything, we will start to know our true selves…. Whether it is the wonderful taste of a bar of chocolate, or the first sip of coffee, or a fabulous meal – anything to do with our senses and taste… Or when we listen to music and its most absolute beauty touches our body…When it’s hot or cold outside and our body feels the sensations – when it’s in pain – when it’s at ease; everything at the physical level of being in a human body…

And to fully feel every single emotion too… Every feeling that we feel and so to clear everything within us, to feel absolutely everything.

If we feel an emotion rising in us, whether that be off anger, hurt, any feeling; even if we have an extreme feeling of excitement – or a welling up of joy…

If we feel every single one of them, it means that by feeling – we can drop down into the place of silence which is beyond all of those feelings – and more especially beyond the thoughts and stories associated with those feelings…

If we give ourselves the absolute permission to feel everything – and practice this – then we won’t attach any significance to wanting to stay with those feelings… Or more importantly get attached to the patterns and stories associated with them… Or act out of them as they are often from the past.

Instead we fully experience ourselves in this very moment – and any emotions triggered in the present, but associated with past events have the opportunity to be fully felt, and so healed as if they were happening for the first time…

And also feelings of joy and love, of being in love, of excitement – of amazing delight… If we experience them fully, then we won’t get attached to those, any more than we would try to reject the feelings of hatred, pain, disappointments, frustration…

If we absolutely properly experience every single thing, on this human journey; Then we are able to experience ourselves as consciousness experiencing itself – and gradually over time we will become the witnesser to our experience here…

Beyond the attachment to our ‘self’ is the place of absolute silence and a realisation of our true self.

To be absolutely fully present in every single step, moves us towards a place off the deepest possible relating we could ever have – first and foremost with our essential selves – and from that space we can relate to others in an unconditional way….

from a place of true love.

But more often we look ‘outside themselves’ for that connection, that relationship – because we don’t have the understanding that we must feel everything, and be responsible for everything we feel without projection or distraction or numbing…

The sense of the true self can get covered over by the feelings that have been suppressed – feeling our feelings and recognising that they are to do with us – that there is no one else to blame – sets us free…

Because the feelings keep rising up, so then what can happen is then they get projected ‘outwards’…. So instead of them being about the experience of the person, instead they can get projected onto what is in front of them.

Whether this is onto another person, or a situation, or other people – all sorts of things. But the projection goes out and it’s whether that projection of disappointment, anger, frustration or even a projection off extreme wonder, joy, amazingness… If it gets projected onto others, rather than being a recognition of our own amazingness, creativity, wonder, fabulousness – or our own feelings of anger, hatred, disappointment which are at the deepest level always going to be to do with self – and the separation from ourselves.

But if we can’t feel the feelings, we can’t know ourselves…

The important thing on this journey across Spain, was going to be about staying in the step and about letting the path reveal itself

We had Jack and Maggie doing an amazing job of plotting the route… But I didn’t know the route, and I didn’t know what I was going to feel on the road… I didn’t know what was going to occur.. Jack and Maggie worked very hard to plot a route all the way across Spain from Suances in the North, all the way down to Almuñécar…

While that preparation was going on, my preparation was broadcasting it, letting people know and, of course, within that the money started to come into to support the Friends of Sussex Hospices, and Fundación Cudeca…

After twenty weeks on 40 miles – I committed for the next eighteen weeks which was going to lead up to the start date on March 23rd, I committed to upping the mileage, but I didn’t set a kind of a demand from what happened and I ended up averaging fifty four miles a week for the next eighteen weeks and sometimes I did some bigger weeks. I think my biggest weeks were sixty seven miles…

I never approached the total mileage that I was going to be doing during the challenge, which was going to average eighty four miles a week for the seven weeks while I was crossing Spain…!

I didn’t approach that really ever except from one challenge I came to Almuñécar in January and I did one five day section where I did twenty five k a day, for five days and it was an interesting experiment, because for one thing it rained twice during that time – and my feet didn’t like that!

I became aware that rainy conditions weren’t great for bare feet because it softens them, and then the running road is a bit like sand paper really so I was aware of that, and I was aware that 25k a day wasn’t difficult for my fitness levels… So I knew how fit I was and that if the weather conditions weren’t good then they would be vulnerable…!

I also knew that there was nothing more I could do…

I recognised that I was as fit as I could be – my feet were strong as they could be – and that I had to just let go of anything that might I might be concerned about – and I saw there wasn’t anything in me that was concerned…

I knew that I could do this…

I knew in some ways that I had already done it… I remember having a conversation with Maricarmen, and she said to me… ‘You’ve already done this – now you’ve just got to go and experience it and enjoy it…’

And she was absolutely right. There was something within me that knew that the journey had been completed, that the challenge was not, in the end, going to be about making my way across Spain – I knew that I could do that. Even though as it happened, there was huge physical challenges for me, but somehow that wasn’t it.

There was something bigger, it was a pilgrimage, and it was it was going to be a travelling pilgrimage. It was traveling retreat. It was going to be about something very, very big, in truth, Barefoot Across Spain was much more than just the journey, running from one end of a country to another…

It was a pilgrimage of transformation.

 

 

 

Back to the very beginning

I understood from the very beginning that we are born of consciousness,  children of god, of the universe… I was brought up with this concept – and I was brought up with the idea of the big bang – from whence this paradigm, this universe emerged.

I also grew up with the gospels… ‘And the word was god and the word was with god and the word was god…’ and I recognised at very young age, in fact I came in with the concept, that ‘the word’ was everything that is this paradigm, and that we were all the word, which was love – the word was with god/love – the word was consciousness…

That we were all expressions of consciousness, and on that day when ‘the big bang’ happened, then consciousness was able to experience itself in every single respect… From the darkest dark; the most horrible, horrible to the lightest light –the most beautiful beautiful… And every single aspect in the spectrum – all aspects… Because this paradigm of yin and yang has to be in perfect balance – and so there will always be equal measures of dark to light…

And lifetimes and lifetimes of experiencing being in a human body has meant we can experience this paradigm, with the illusion of separation. By being in a body and being in effect separate, has meant that during the human journey we are able to experience our energy – and when we start to remember and see again, from whence we are born, when we start to be aware and more conscious – the journey to clearing our energy begins…

We can start to ‘work it out’, rather than ‘live it out’… We can start see things within us, in reflection of other people – and we can make choices and elect how we live and eventually free ourselves from the samsara…

Free ourselves from the chains of the body and so be free…

I remember understanding this when I was eight years old. I was sitting in church listening to the vicar… He was giving us a sermon about the serpent with tail in its mouth… That this was the journey the soul needed to go through – to go into and clear all the darkness, to be able to free up from the lower energies – the levels of envy, greed, anger, guilt, hate, everything in the lower chakras associated with fear and survival – in the darkness of the shadows – and also of course in the shadows can lurk feelings of judgement, pride and superiority – ‘I’m better than you’ – all of those need clearing too.

So – I understood that we must go through into the shadow – into the darkness; to clear everything, to enable us to return to the place of silence and peace… And that the serpent with tail in its mouth is completing the whole circle to wholeness…

I understood this when I was 8 years old – so for most of my life – the sermon was fifty one years ago – has been journeying with a commitment to experiencing fully and so of clearing – and with an understanding of the consciousness from which we were born, and of life everlasting…

I deeply understood that I was responsible for my reactivity to situations and to whatever I encountered in relationship. and in knowing this, when I was fourteen I can remember recognising very acutely that if I was horrible to somebody it was worse than other people – because I had greater understanding and therefore it was ‘not okay’, because I had an awareness and I already knew how to clear reactivity, rather than act out of it…

This doesn’t mean I always succeeded!

As a little girl I was also a runner… I had set out on the journey of my life with an awareness of it being a spiritual path when I was very little, and I also had a big awareness of death right from the early years – and my mother – who along with my little sister Rosy, I’m sorry to say I was horrible to from time to time – died when I was 16 and ironically my path was open. In some ways she freed me… But it wasn’t what I wanted one bit at the time – on the human journey. I felt that my mother understood me completely and I felt completely safe with her – and now I was set loose to reclaim that within myself…

I knew that it was a finite time in the body… But I also came into this life as a Christian and I internalised from these teaching as that there was life everlasting, so this journey in this body wasn’t the end or even the beginning…

I felt it was a training ground…

And I was also barefoot… I have memories of just racing around the lawn in my childhood home, with much greater freedom than I was later to experience. This was before I took up the burdens in my life which were energies from lives past that I had brought in to work out….

An opportunity to do the work in the school of life here on planet earth.

I have a this memory of my bare feet hitting the grass running, running, running, because I came in to run… I came in to run, I came in to run… And I say that all those twice because I can’t exactly explain why – because I don’t think there is a ‘why’…

I just came here to run.

It is my art and the art of running is my expression… It is my element and it is how I paint a picture… I have just always loved to run…

Teaching people and working with people has arisen from me working out how to free the chains that bound me up, and prevented my running from being the purest expression of art… Instead of that, it was often coming from tension, coming from pain – coming from some other place than its purest source….For of course when running comes from source, then like anything, what a joy and what an expression for others to see…

And I see that now – in truth, I have always seen it at some level; that for the whole of my life, my running has inspired people, my running has given people joy – given them something – given them permission to do what they truly want; what matters to them!

And so now I have reached the place I have always known… That I was born to run and that the most important thing is to have no fear. We must not fear what we are born to do!

And now having run across Spain in my bare feet where it became even more obvious that all I must do is run… I am very glad that I am still on planet earth to experience my life of running. I am glad to have journeyed and returned to where I began… I have come full circle

I am experiencing the journey of the serpent with the tail in its mouth and the words of T S Eliot are very resonant for me….

‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’.

As a little girl racing around on the beach in Africa, and then racing around on the grass in my childhood home – racing around on the playing fields in our village; asking my father to time me running, running, running free as a bird, free – loving it… Trying my best go faster… Fearless, just running and seeing what I could do… Not saving myself, or holding back in any way…

Freedom in motion.

So here I am at fifty nine years old, having journeyed all this time to return to the place I knew, but to follow and know it, consciously.

The reason I’m telling you about these beginnings, these barefoot beginnings, when I raced around on the grass, and the reason I’ve called this book ‘Barefoot to Buddha’, is because this route to my own freedom has in part been through the running step. I’ve always known this, but sometimes denied it because I thought I should be doing something a bit more sensible than going running…!

When I was a teenager, I joined an athletics club and on the first day, I did track session on the grass. I went up with my friend Wendy because it was an all boys athletics club and I felt a bit shy and so she came with me and lay on the grass watching us all run…

I have a vivid memory of running around on this grass track absolutely in my element in my bare feet….

Every time I wrote something about my running in my channeled writing, I was encouraged by my guides to keep running.

Every time I asked the question…

‘What should I be doing’? I was always told… ‘Do what you were born to do, you were born to run, and in the run, you will become more free, more you, and in the run you will become in the step – you will become the run… And in becoming the run you will free others too, because they will see your light and your light will guide them to their own freedom’.

And so I knew this and yet there was something in me that held me back, some sort of guilt, some obligation, some feeling off needing to ‘earn’ my place on planet earth, some feeling that I was wrong, ‘a bad girl’… And that I therefore had to ‘do good’ to earn my place.

Of course, the irony of this was that it held me back from my true running expression, and then there came more confusion in the running step rather than joy.

But I knew my path deep down, and so I never ever really left it. I never stopped ‘working it out’, and I don’t mean in my mind, I mean through continual experience

I would run free, then repeat a cycle of ‘self destruction’ and so lose my way again in a mire of illness and injury…. From which I would emerge wiser, stronger, greater understanding…

I would write some channeled words again, and these words always reminded me…

‘You were born to run, get back on the running path. That path takes you where it will and you will be free. What you have come to do is run, everything else will come from that place… Remember this for the people who seek you to teach them, that the first place for you to teach from, is to be learning how to run free yourself… To free yourself from anything that holds you back from your true expression…’

And so I always journeyed onwards…

This is why in the very beginning the steps towards the Buddha were barefoot steps…

As the years went by, I raced in shoes – albeit light ones… But then one day, I read the book ‘Born to run’ by Chris McDougall and it spoke to me…

And I wanted to run barefoot again… But because there was a tangle still within me left to unravel, I went too fast too soon and my legs got hurt – my feet and my ankles were not strong enough for the pace I went, and I withdrew again for awhile from the barefoot path… There was still ‘working out’ to be done…

But by the summer of 2017 my feet were bare and my soul was more free than ever before…

The journey from Suances to Almuñécar was calling me and I was calling others to join me. Each week I was spoke, broadcasting the journey, and others became excited… They booked up flights to come to Spain to run some of the route with me. The media became interested too, newspapers, radio and television…. A woman running across Spain in her bare feet capturing the imagination of many.

I knew it was a pilgrimage…

All the time I spoke with people, and they would ask me why? And I would reply; ‘I don’t know, it was my feet’s idea. My feet made the decision and I must follow them…

I was following my feet, my bare feet… I was following my running feet because they had always known the way if I’d let him show me.

At last I was following them and seeing where they would take me.

About Living….

And so immediately this journey became more than just about me going on a barefoot run across Spain! It was about living, about the journey of life – from birth to death – but also about staying in the step we are in… Being present to each moment… It started as an idea about running from the North to the South coast of Spain…. But in reality, it was about living – about being fully present.

This huge journey from Suances to Almuñécar – in my bare feet – became a metaphor of all of our journeys from our birth to our death…

Where on this planet there certainly appears to be a past, the present and a future… We are born, and then we journey through this life, and then we die…

Therefore it can be a very challenging concept that there is no past. There is no future… That actually we are in this moment, and that is all there is – and in fully experiencing each moment, we can come to experience that this whole universe – this whole incredible experiences is but an illusion…

And so can experience planet earth is a crucible for us to see our energy, where it flows – where it is stuck; to feel it all… To see and experience our unique vibration and energetic make up in a body.

We have the opportunity during our lifetime, to feel things – to feel and experience.

The samsara of this planet, the Yin to the Yang, mean that we are able to feel extremes – physically of hunger, of satiety – of cold and heat, of lack of plenty, but also emotionally, fear and ease, joy, sadness, hate, love… Fully experiencing these things, fully recognising all of the feelings within us.

And through feeling these things we can clear them and we can come to experience the silence from which we are born. The stillness, consciousness itself, which is beyond the duality of planet earth and this whole universe…

Being here is an opportunity to feel everything, absolutely every single thing.

And if we are completely able to be present, we experience life as Zen.

If we experience everything – every desire, if we taste every morsel of food – experience every feeling in the body and we are prepared to fully feel, until the point where it clears from us – whether that’s extreme joy, extreme pleasure or excitement… Passionate love and kindness – to extreme hatred, violence, jealousy, envy… To feel all these energies be able to feel them fully….

But without staying trapped in a story, or a projection of the feelings outward…

The responsibility is to feel them without attachment, without blame or projection, without distracting from them or numbing them down…

When we do this, we clear them and we can clear the pain from when it first occurred – even if this is lifetimes ago…

When we allow ourselves to feel without projection and instead to drop between the thoughts and the stories – we can find the space for the clearing to occur, and go beyond this world, to a place of complete silence…

And then we are able to be in the world, in the samsara of this whole experience – but not of it….

Treading the path in bare feet, was for me, another metaphor for this… Because walking without shoes, I can feel everything through the soles of my feet

Planet earth is also a wonderful mirror… Because we have the illusion of separation – because we have the illusion of ‘the other’ people… We get the opportunity to see ourselves – because in truth there is no other.

There is only this moment there is only us…

So every single person who we deem to be ‘outside us’ and separate and nothing to do with us, is actually a reflection of us!

Knowing this and looking at another as a reflection of every aspect of ourselves, leads us to become whole…

When we see every relationship as a mirror, then eventually we reach the point where we do not have a relationship with others, as such – we have only relating, and love – for there is only one true relationship, and that is with ourselves.

When this is whole and healed, then we can experience every single person without rejection ; experiencing the truth that we are one – there is no separation – only love…   Where we are not trying to get anything or expecting anything from the other – because we are totally aware, and have come to experience that there is no other… And there is only this moment…. Here and now…

But to experience this we must first engage fully in the rough and tumble of the illusion of separation and of fully relating without fear, of having relationships! Of living fully in every moment in every experience and doing the best we can to take responsibility knowing that there is no one to blame…

And so Barefoot Across Spain became a metaphor for life, a metaphor for beyond life… A metaphor for silence and for the step… A metaphor for the place of absolute truth, the way, transcending samsara.

Samsara is everything on this planet earth… We’re on the journey from life to death, and if in that were able to transcend the samsara and be in the silence all the time, then we are enlightened.

The Buddha, who was an enlightened being, said that there are three thousand possibilities in every moment…

He taught us how to be present, to be completely in the here and now, in this very moment, and in each moment, there is the whole universe. And within the universe there is every possibility…

We each have a unique, energetic makeup made up over lifetime’s lifetimes since the big bang, when the silence became manifest… We have created this part of the energy of the whole…

So there we are always contradictions. Life is a paradox… There is no other – but we all have a unique, energetic makeup of our own field.

This has occurred as we’ve come to experience being in a body, and created our energy over lifetimes… we are all waves in an ocean of consciousness…

Initially we lived lives unconsciously, surviving, connected to fear… But then the glimmer of consciousness arrived, and the understanding that it was possible to clear the energy and experience consciousness in the body…

To clear it, clear it, clear it to a place of freedom where the whole planet earth could be a playground, a place to joyfully dance and enjoy freedom and true love in the experience of being in a body.

 

‘Walker there is no path…’

At the same time as I started to run barefoot, I also started to learn Spanish – the two practices coincided. I had tried to do both before, but I hadn’t been able to follow through with either!

With barefoot running I got injured, and with learning Spanish, well – I just stopped when I came back to England… I didn’t realise at the time – it’s incredible, the 20/20 vision of hindsight – I didn’t realise, how integral both learning Spanish and running barefoot were to be to one another.

I started learning Spanish with Maricarmen in August 2016 – I immediately really loved my lessons… And after awhile, Maricarmen introduced me to Antonio Machado, a very famous Spanish poet… She thought that his work would resonate with me, and in particular the poem…. ‘Caminante no hay Camino…’ It continues… ‘Se haces el camino al andar

Walker… There is no path… You, make the path by walking it…’

His words resonated with me… Machado goes on to liken our past to standing on a boat – looking behind, and watching the wake  disappearing back into the sea… Like it never happened…

So it resonated very deeply with me, because of course, there is no past – there’s only now, and there is no future. So therefore, truly, really, there is only the step we’re in.

All that exists is this moment. All that exists is this step. There is nothing else at all…

Now it is one thing to understand this, to play with the concept… But to experience it fully, is quite another… To be so fully present, so fully in the moment, to experience that there is no past and there’s no future…

There is only now.

And of course to do this there is much inner work to be done, as all the time we are ‘reacting’ out of the hurts from our past, then of course we cannot be in the present moment…

With the experience of clearing the past, and being in the here and now comes a great trust… But there needs to be trust first, to be able to let go fully of the pain from the past… This means that we have to feel this pain whenever it arises in the experience of now.

We must be prepared to do this, in order to freely and fully connect to the absolute present… And from this clarity we are then able to fully trust that new impulses, which are not connected to our past patterns and scripts, will then emerge from within us.

This is what we often call our ‘inner voice’.

There is no voice in reality – and we often call it our ‘heart’s desires’, but really there is no ‘heart’s desire’… There is only the silence inside us, which is our true self…. What emerges from this silence we can trust – and we might describe this as our soul’s path.

However, of course to connect to our silence, we first have much clearing to do and this often entails many paths following our ‘heart’s desire’ and the voices inside us! And so life is an endless paradox, and often seems a riddle and an unsolvable puzzle…

But as we clear and clear over lifetimes, the impulses that arise from the silence within us – and that we follow – can be backed up with our mind, and it’s brilliant use of being able to action these impulses… And so this poem, ‘Caminante hay no Camino…’ spoke to me.

‘Walker there is no path…’

Months went by and my barefoot running became stronger… In May 2017, I took a sabbatical from my work, and now I was free to just run and to write and to be in the sun…

All my life, I had seen this was my future – to run free of pain in the sun, and to write, and here I was living this – the opportunity to live this way had arisen as part of my path of clearing… I had also began a Youtube vlog where I was charting my barefoot journey, and in it I had voiced an idea that during my sabbatical, I was going to run and write.

I had an idea that I would be running on beaches all over the world, and that this would be a lovely way to spend my Sabbatical! To run all over the world… On lovely beaches by the sea and to vlog and write about my experiences!

And so it came to pass that in the July 2017 my feet were stronger, and my body was stronger and suddenly forty miles in a week in my bare feet naturally emerged from my being… There had been a process that I had surrendered to…

I had really lived in each step. I had let path be made by walking it. My bare feet led the way, and it felt like my feet were ‘entities’ of their own, and that they were directing the way my life was going…

One day I was sitting in the sun enjoying the freedom of my sabbatical… I had been running that morning, and I was writing a blog.

Laurie Lee the author, of one my favourite books ‘As I walked out on midsummer morning…’  Unbeknownst to me, had penned his words to this exact town where I am writing this book… Almuñécar… ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning’ had spoken to me when I read it forty years ago, in the same way that the Antonio Machado poem spoke to me now, both reflecting the freedom of the journey unfolding in front of us – trusting the path…

And on this day, as I sat musing in the sun – it came to me that I would like to run the whole length of Spain in my bare feet… Right from the North coast to South coast.

The idea arose from within me – and once it had arisen and I spoke it out it had a life of it’s own…

First I shared it with Anadi, who thought it a great idea – and then I asked our friends Jack and Maggie, who live here in Spain – if they would be prepared to support me and help with planning the route – there was an immediate ‘yes’ from them…!

And none of us ever looked back…. The idea was conceived…

The route was to start in Suances on the North coast of Spain – and then I was to run all the way past Madrid, and onwards, flying south, to arrive back here in Almuñécar on the South coast…

I decided I would like to arrive on my fifty ninth birthday, May 12th 2018…

I thought I would be able to cover 25 kilometers a day, with one day of recovery (for my feet mainly!) every 6th day… This meant it would take seven weeks, so I would need to start on March 23rd 2018…

And so I began to train for this event, and also to invite others to come and join me on the route… It also seemed very natural that I would run to raise money as I journeyed, for the hospice movement ‘Friends of Sussex Hospices’ in the UK… My brother, Stuart, suggested it was important I raise money for a Spanish cause too… And so we chose Fundación Cudeca in Malaga.

Why the hospice movement?

Because my friend Kathy Gore is the Chair of FSH, and also because their message mirrors my own life’s journey, and my work in the lives of others…

Although the people in the hospices are in the last stages of their life on planet earth; the whole message of the hospice movement is about living fully… It asks those who are dying… ‘What matters, you? Not ‘what is the matter with you’?

And this is what we can all ask ourselves… ‘What matters to us’? Not what’s the matter with us?

A celebration of ourselves and our expression in our lives, rather than any criticism…

Reflecting within on what matters to us… How do we truly stay in our own unique step, and allow ourselves to express ourselves from the truest place within us….

Introduction to Barefoot to Buddha…

At the end of July 2016 I hurt my back… I experienced really deep sciatic pain that went on and on and on for about six weeks. It was a very big process because the pain was very, very deep – like nerve pain is, I couldn’t get any rest from it… As the days went by, the pain wore me down and suddenly I accessed deep down this feeling of despair, there was this flash within me that came up and said…’If I can’t run, then I might as well die…’ It was really helpful to me to find that sentence… It showed me that I still ‘defined’ myself by running, rather than ‘was’ running – and so it showed me that still, I was not free…

It just arose from the pain, within the pain of the jangling nerves, and in catching that thought that came out of the pain or rather that feeling… I was aware that there were still binds tying me that meant my running wasn’t a clear expression of my soul.

It wasn’t my artistic expression dancing around the planet. It wasn’t my spirit in motion. It meant that my running was still emerging from some unresolved ‘stuff’, from tension, from some place where I still needed to prove myself – or to run for someone else – or to run away even – from pain and a vestige still of self hatred.

I recognise that the whole of my life, my running journey has been a journey of discovery, a journey of finding out, a journey of clearing so that my spirit could dance free… Because when I came first onto the planet; when I was first born, I did run free!

The moment I could walk, I ran…

I ran around like the wind and I raced around as free as a bird in my little bare feet… And it was only over the years that the tension and the pain and the need to run to prove, the need to run fast to earn love, to gain recognition blocked the path of true expression.

And so my life became a journey to set free the expression off my spirit – and I recognised that the tensions, and the processes, and the events of my life, arose as part of my unique energetic makeup, which for sure I had created over lifetimes, for lifetimes and lifetimes… Working it out, living it out, working it out – in order to clear the way for silence and freedom.

And so during July 2016 when this pain was with deep within me – and the whole way through August too, I was able to reflect that even though I was now fifty seven years old, and although I had been working to clear this pain for forty years; another layer was peeling away, getting me closer to the centre, like peeling the skin of an onion…

I believe it was when I was seventeen years old that I first recognized that my running steps had started to become ‘locked in’ – and it was at the same time almost exactly that I started see this and begin immediately to unravel and work to unlock the pain… At the same time, I read the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull… A phrase in the book that struck a chord in me was the one where Jonathan is saying that…

‘Your whole body from wingtip to wingtip is nothing more than thought itself in a form you can see, break the chains of your thought and you break the chains of your body too…’ This spoke to me, and I knew it to be true, even though as I read it I was unwittingly becoming more chained by my thoughts!

Another phrase that struck me was when Jonathan seagull was teaching Fletch gull how to fly, and Fletch gull said… ‘Are you saying I can fly’? And Jonathan replied… ‘I’m saying you are free…’

Those two phrases struck me so much. My whole orientation from the moment I was born had been ‘freedom’… How to be free!

I read this book when I was seventeen years old; Ironically at the same time as I read these words of inspiration I was also chaining myself in; I was locking myself into my own cage – one of pressure and ‘got to’s’ and ‘have to’s’, and ‘not good enough’s and ‘not fast enough’ and ‘could do better’s’…

At the same time as society, family, external pressure was reflecting itself in the energy blocks I had come into clear – at but same time I was reading the route to freedom.

My soul was reminding me of what I knew… But here I was locking myself in – so it was a real juxtaposition.

But we cannot be free of what we haven’t yet worked through – and so for forty years I journeyed on a running path that was both my salvation of my nemesis; because running was my expression, it is my expression – it is my soul in motion on planet earth – it is the thing I came here to do. But it was also the place where my self-hatred showed up…

I was born to run – but of course and it being the thing I came to do, also meant that there were lifetimes of energetic creativity or creation that I had made myself – that was still there to be unraveled and cleared, so that I could set myself free.

I saw too that all that was necessary was to clear the way to be silent in the step of my running path; because in setting myself free – the light of my free self could guide others to be free too, because they can see their own way in my reflection, to find their own freedom

And so, in August 2016, I recognised that this was a deep, deep process, and that the pain was necessary to free me, and that if I stayed with it, and felt the despair, and felt the grief, and felt the loss…The loss of my own freedom, the loss of my own joy – and at the same time really let go of anything that was within me that was still running for anybody else but myself, let go of any part that was running for any ‘thing’ to do with anything, other than my own expression…

And so the days went by, the weeks went by, and although the pain eased somewhat – it still hurt to run.

And then in early September I travelled to Lanzarote with my husband Anadi… One day we were walking on Famara beach together… It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I was enjoying the walk, although my body was still in pain. It was still impossible really, for me to run. I had tried, but it hurt too much… Then I saw the surfers on the beach, they were warming up in readiness to go into the surf on their boards. They – of course – all had bare feet, and they were running up and down, doing some exercises, and then running again, as part of their warm up.

As I watched them this flash of an idea came into me… “I wonder, I wonder if I could run in my bare feet without any pain…

I started to imitate the surfers, my feet were already bare… I jogged gently along the sand and found immediately that there was a freedom in my step… Anadi and I ran along the beach together – I suppose we ran for half a mile, and my body didn’t hurt, my back didn’t hurt me, and the nerve pain that had kept flashing through my thighs when I tried to run, that too had gone – my knees didn’t hurt either – the restriction and tightness had lifted.

And so unknowingly, that day I began again on a barefoot journey… But the bare feet were emerging from the ‘letting go’ – paradoxically – of running for any reason other than to run; to become the run, to lose the self in the run – the bare feet were emerging in the Zen of running

I had spent forty years ‘knowing this’, and gradually peeling back the layers – to uncover what I already knew – that I needed to simply ‘let go of the attachment to an outcome’ – this wasn’t about not having a goal, it wasn’t about not creating something – steering the ship – it was about truly letting go.

And this time, I really and truly did let go…

I had ‘let go’ so many times before – and scoured off another layer or two – because I ‘understood’ years and years ago, that my running was a spiritual journey…

I knew it was a journey to experience staying in the step. I knew it to be a journey of Zen…

To learn through my running how to live a life of being in the here and now.

Whenever in the past, I really was in the ‘here and now’ – whenever I let go of a desire to win or run fast for anyone else other than me, and to stretch for the stars just for the fun of it – when I just loved doing my best, reaching high, because I loved to find out… Then my running released and my spirit soared…

Because of course trying to win and trying to run fast in themselves ARE fun if there’s no attachment to an outcome – and I don’t mind – when I don’t mind if I don’t run fast, then there’s no harm – because within the trying and the striving and the stretching for excellence; and for seeing ‘if it’s possible’ – then within that there can be opportunities for great growth…

But of course whenever we try to win to ‘prove something’ or if we want to ‘win to get power over anyone’, or to achieve a fast time because of a misguided belief that it might make us immortal in some way… Then of course this can be very stressful and lead us away from ourselves rather than towards our truest self…

So for forty years I had known this and sometimes, I truly experienced that I was free and I let go – and then unbelievable freedom of movement and speed and flying on land occurred.

I was as free as a bird again….

But then out of this freedom I started to run fast and to record fast times and to gain success… Ironically this all came about out of freedom – but then I would forget, and the dark energy pushed again out of fear, out of need, out of insecurity – of a sense that I needed now to ‘hold onto ‘ this form – and once again I would drop into the abyss of an attachment to an outcome…

On reflection when I lost sight of my truth and instead desired a sort of immortality through my running – inevitably each time I lost sight of my own light; I would become injured or ill and be reminded again of my true path….

And, it seemed I would have to start all over again…

But in September 2016, I shed my shoes and I also shed the pressure of a lifetime (of lifetimes!) I shed at last the need to try to run to earn love, or to run to please – my father or my coach, or any manner of other people around me… Instead I just started to let my feet dictate. I let my feet lead the way….

And what an incredible journey.

It was tough initially for the body to run without the support of trainers. I left my shoes with in Lanzarote, because every time I went to the beach – it was a good experience and I could run. At the end of the three weeks that we were there, I was able to run five miles on our beach, but when I put my shoes on my body hurt again. On the last day, I went for a run on the track in my shoes and my body hurt again. And then it happened that a woman and her child turned up too, and they ran around and around in their bare feet. So, there and then, I took my shoes off and I ran round the track in my bare feet and I felt no pain.

It was now October and I was transitioning, and still my body didn’t hurt if I wore very light vivobarefoot shoes… I ran only ten times that month because when I had run seven miles, eight miles in these shoes, my legs ached from the new effort so much and they were tired. So, I did a lot of strength and conditioning in the gym, and I let go off any goals I let go of any mileage aims…

I let go off everything!

I was going back to basics… I was ‘letting go’ which I had known for years was all that was required…

I went right back to the very beginning, to a time when I didn’t have any goals; I didn’t add up my miles… I just went for runs, and worked on aligning my body, strengthening my body, running as it wanted to run

And so the days the weeks went on and my running was now again a joy because it was all about finding out… I had gone back to the very beginning …

And then another step!

On January 22nd, I gave all my barefoot shoes to my friend Jane and was left with only beach socks … It was another huge liberation for me and my feet wanted to dance, they wanted to run… I remember padding round Eastbourne, because I was in the UK for ten days – it was freezing cold -4! And there I was running around in socks – it felt like freedom – it was freedom for me.

I came back to Spain in the middle of February and shed even my socks. Now I was running barefoot on the road…

So through September October November December January – for five months my feet were adapting, they were getting stronger and I could run barefoot on road, on beach and on the track – and I was loving it… I loved having no goals I loved being free, I loved the whole feeling of barefoot running…

My running seemed to have purity again, it seemed to have an expression and a path it was leading me on…

I was slowly fully remembering again that it was what I have come to the earth to do, because in following my running I’m following my soul and by following my running it’s giving me the opportunity to properly clear, to properly be free to properly be courageous and brave – and properly live what I came to live out…

To let go, to let go off everything – and of course ultimately to let go of running… To let go running – and then I found I was still doing it….

In the same way that consciousness is being able to be in this body, but to have let go of it… And then to just be in the world but not of it… Being able to live in the silence space beyond the samsara, beyond the yin and the yang, beyond the duality and therefore be able to play on planet earth…

To have fun!

And so with my bare feet I started to play, I was starting to truly live as I’d always known was possible…

When I was a little girl, I knew that we could live on planet earth and enjoy the experience and really know that it was just an experience; and that this body is just the vehicle – and life is a way to experience energy and to therefore clear energy…

And to know that this is just a flash in the eternity of our existence, here we are a spark of the infinite consciousness we are all born of…

We are all born of consciousness and we are experiencing our own unique energy playing out in a body on planet earth.

And as 2017 unfolded – I was able to experience this in deeper and deeper ways than ever before…

Through my bare feet.

But of course my bare feet were only an expression off a deeper letting go…