Baby donkeys in the road

Where else do we find baby donkeys roaming wild, meandering with their families down the street – ponies too…

Walking idly along the middle of the road, no care or concern for the cars queuing behind them.

The New Forest of course…

This fairy tale land – where I had taken my boyfriend-husband Anadi, for a mini break… Whisking him away from his computer, we’d driven in torrential rain to this magical place…

Where we walked and talked – and ran on the springy grass – all weekend long… The skies alternating between bright blue, sunshine gleaming to heavy grey blue black, with torrential rain cascading…

Between our ‘activities’ we ate quantities food in the cosy pubs – and tea rooms too, full of scrumptious cakes made for extra hungry people.

Forest people who like to hike and bike – down from London town!

The people of the forest welcomed us with warmth – so proud of their patch – to their sparkling bright jewel of a land, with these roaming animals…

Free.

As we are meant to be…

And so we celebrated the elements and the expanse of grassy plain – played together with the baby cows and foals – a silent still deer standing watching – ponies galloping…

We circled them and joined in with their dance of life…

Along sploshy paths we splished, on springy turf, beside a bubbling brook, and through the trees we ran.

Becoming running

In each step

Zen…

No where to get to – till 100 years at least..

Since my 60th birthday everything is very different…

Last night I dreamed I was bitten by a snake three times on the nose! It was a very beautiful snake, silky grey colour, a strong robust body, with smoky green criss cross markings all down its back…

But its forked tongue was biting my nose…

Anadi was with me, and did nothing to pull the snake away from my face, he appeared completely unconcerned…

After the snake grew tired of biting me and slithered away, I thought I should see a doctor! ‘It bit me three times’ I exclaimed… Anadi remained non-plussed about the whole thing and didn’t seem to think seeing a doctor was necessary…

Last night over supper, we looked up ‘dreaming about being bitten by a snake’! Google offered a few explanations, but the one that resonated with us both was ‘On the threshold of personal transformation…’

‘More like right in the middle of a personal transformation’, Anadi said… ‘That explains why I wasn’t worried in your dream…’

Since I turned 60 on May 12th and fell to the floor at 6.30am, experiencing my spirit leaving my body and zooming into a silent vast expanse. my body has been slowly regaining its energy…

All my medical tests came back top notch, but my body has been through a shock, and so, because my energy has continued to feel low, I went last week to see a Chinese doctor and acupuncturist…

She told me my energy is very low 🙂

She also said that I must get very strong and look after myself, as my healing energy is needed here on planet earth to help others, and that I must aim for 100 years at least so that I can help as many people as possible…!

And of course, she speaks the truth, the first thing a healer must ask is ‘What are the needs of the healer…?’ and then what are the needs of the other…

To be able to help others, we must first help ourselves… Show ourselves unconditional love, clear the channel completely of anything that blocks the connection to the source, of our true self – which is love – pure love

So my 60th birthday really was a re birth, a new beginning…

I am not through the process yet, but I am aware of a deeper letting go…

As a nomad I have let go of possessions and any kind of perceived safety in terms of owning property or having a pension for example, and on my birthday I let go of my body for a short while…

The experience was timeless…

And now as I settle back into my body and help it regain its energy, I am aware of experiencing something I have been living and teaching for many years…

That there is no where to get to…’

But this is now a deeper experience and it has liberated me further…

Being exactly where we are…

A bright shining sparkling sea sunny day, gleaming and fresh – greeted me as I set off to run…

Except my foot had other ideas… ‘Try running without me…’ it joked… ‘Stop running – let’s walk again today…’

My feet have been doing rather a lot of walking of late, ever since my birthday – what turned out to be – break from running….

Body said ‘no’ that day…

And so as I emerged from my unexpected stay in hospital, I walked my way back to health…

As the days passed, I grew stronger and started running about a bit – barefoot on the soft verdant green May grass…

But suddenly right foot asked that it walk for a bit longer…

And so it came to pass, that instead of ‘going for a run’, I was wandering about on the grass in front of the Grand hotel…

I was enjoying my wander, watching the waves and listening to the familiar squawk of the gulls – meandering – when suddenly, across the grass, I spied Tracy, running towards me…

Julia Chi and Tracy Owen
Julia Chi and Tracy Owen

Tracy and I first met one another on the ‘road racing circuit’, about 30 years ago – and so began a connection that has spanned half my life…

She stopped, and delighted to see one another, we chatted for a while – I told her about my hurty foot, and she immediately reminded me of the foot massaging technique…

Tracy is a wonderful bodyworker, and within seconds she had me sitting on the grass – bottom between my knees – leaning back to massage the soles of my feet and stretch out the front of the feet….

I appreciated hugely, our serendipitous meeting, and continued my barefoot walk on the grass, my foot was already feeling better…

A Personal trainer and his student were working out on the grass, with lots of fabulously energising inspiring moves…

As I walked by, Ben – I found out later it was a brother and sister team Ben and Sophie – called to me to ask me if I would film them for a while…

It was fun… I enjoyed my ‘camera person’ role…

My Sunday morning run was turning into a different experience entirely, but one I was thoroughly embracing…

I asked Ben and Sophie if I could now take some photos of them, and could I write about them…?

Ben and Sophie training
Ben and Sophie training

And so although I didn’t do what I had ‘planned’, I had a fabulous hour, out and about on the sunny seafront, meeting old friends and making new…

Being exactly where we are, with whatever is happening, lends us to truly be alive…

To recognise in every moment that everything around us is simply a reflection of our inner landscape…

And so to fully respond and be here and now…

It is letting go in every moment to what we thought was going to happen, or what we think might happen, or what we wish hadn’t happened – and instead being present to what is and always available for something new and unexpected…

My morning was rich with experience, healing, companionship – meeting fellow travellers on the journey of life.

The Tracy ‘cure’ was almost immediate…

On Monday morning I was off again, running along the seafront, free as those squawking swooping gulls…

Energy moving

As the days have passed since the unusual launch into my 60’s, I have been recovering by walking each day barefoot on the grass…

Four days ago my body was ready to run, and since then each day, Anadi and I have jogged barefoot around the fields and parkland here in north London…

Yesterday morning, I was feeling so much stronger – enjoying the wonderful freedom running barefoot brings me…

The feel of the slightly damp grass beneath my feet was exquisite – suddenly running towards us was a man, also without any shoes, his dog loping along beside him… ‘Barefoot people…’ he exclaimed delightededly as we crossed paths…

Anadi and I ran 11k with ease, and it seemed that it might not be long before I could start to properly train again…

However today was a different story…

I woke up at 2.30am this morning and my body started to vibrate from head to toe, energy was rushing all through it, down my legs and both arms… It felt very strange, and because of collapsing completely just two weeks ago, at first I had to concentrate with more focus on my breath – so as to clear any arising fear…

I woke Anadi and told him my body was doing something funny again, and that I didn’t much like it!

I asked him to put his hands on me to help calm it down, and I breathed into the strange electric sensations – which were if anything increasing in intensity…

‘What do you think is happening?’ – I asked him… ‘Its a shift in energy’, he said… ‘Likely to be a kundalini opening…’

‘Can we chant?’ I asked… And so we chanted over and over ‘nam myoho renge kyo’ – over and over – our voices vibrated together and my body continued to be electric… But any distress in me left completely…

‘I would like to know what is going on’… I said, as the sensations eventually started to calm down… ‘It’s a process of course…’ Anadi replied – ‘and it is likely the effect of you clearing so much, that your vibration is changing…’

‘So within, so without…’

As we clear energy from the past, heal wounds, change patterns, and free ourselves from any blocks within us – then of course the effects of these inner shifts will show themselves in the outer realms…

Often this occurs, simply by our lives changing – different events occurring, new people coming in, some people going… But of course, the inner shifts can also show as energy changing within the body, as it adjusts to the new vibration…

After about an hour, everything settled, and we went to sleep…

Today I woke up feeling well, but very fragile..

We had planned to run to Trent park and and run about there… But my body was too weak to run and so instead we journeyed in slower fashion, walking and talking – and swinging through the trees – enjoying the beautiful warm verdant May day…

If there was any part of me holding on to the misguided concept that there is any certainty in this life, then this is well and truly being erased 🙂

I am enjoying simply listening to the ideas and direction that are bubbling up from within, and allowing the process and the journey back to the running step and to where I am going in my life – to unfold…

Things of the spirit happen in their own time, there is no rush… We cannot force a flower to open, or the dawn to break and so we cannot rush our own evolution…

I am immortal after all!

When my brother called me on my 60th birthday to wish me a happy day, only to discover that I was in hospital having collapsed on the bathroom floor at 6.30am with a suspected TIA ( mini stroke Transient Ischemic Attack) – he was shocked and upset…

‘But we all think of you as immortal’ he said…

It happened almost two weeks ago now, I am still not feeling 100 percent physically, although much much better. I have walked on the grass barefoot each day, and today I jogged around, enjoying the feeling through my soles of my soul in motion once again.

Throughout my life, I have often felt that I came here to run and to discover the essence of who I am in the running step – or in the case of my birthday – in the not run step…

Seeing the transitory ness of this journey… Being beyond this paradigm, was different to anything I have ever experienced, even in the most clear meditative state of living…

One minute we are alive and the next we are dead…

So while we are alive, it is important to learn, moment by moment to free ourselves from fear – and so fully live…

In recent years the attachment to my running has lessened, and with that has come increased enjoyment… In the last six months I have been training to run fast – as I have done throughout my life – but with the sense of fun I experienced as a little girl, when I would insistently ask my Dad that he come to the playing fields with me – so that he could ‘time me Daddy, time me…’ From the swings all the way speeding over the grass to the slide…

But it seems that I truly had a re birth day on May 12th 2019 – a new beginning.

Because every single test I have had is above normal healthy, from cholesterol (4 – more cake for me!!) BP (112/70) to my heart and my head, my liver and kidneys, my vagina and cervix – and all my bloods, my urine, every single test show health – not even a sign of a virus…

A mystery! It seems I am immortal after all… 🙂

I asked the doctor what happened… ‘I don’t know, body’s can do funny things, I don’t know…’

I am left with greater clarity, although I can’t put it into words… I am also left still feeling exhausted…

Anadi assures me, however, that if I were to have taken the spiritual investigation drug Ayahuaska – to explore, what my body dropped me into, without any prompt – that the experience of that drug can take some weeks to recover from…

I had been thinking about stopping nomading, staying put in one place… But since my birthday – I have clarity that I will continue moving, travelling light, staying in the step and seeing where the next one takes me…

I have been prompted to blogs again…

And to vlog…

And so it is…

Any illusion we have of certainty is but an illusion, the only safety and certainty there is, exists in the unchanging essence of our truest self…

Re-birth Day

I slithered to the floor of the bathroom and was immediately aware of zooming out of my body at great velocity, speeding down a long tunnel which I never got to the end of…

I heard Anadi calling to me, ‘Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful’ – ‘I’m here’ I replied, ‘ I’ve been somewhere else’… Later Anadi reminded me that I had then said ‘It would be very symetrical to die on my birthday…’

It was May 12th 2019, my 60th birthday.

I had woken at 6.30am needing to go to the loo, on sitting up the world span, ‘Wooah’ I thought, and made my way rather haphazardly to the bathroom and back… On lying down in bed, the spinning in my head increased wildly and I felt extrememly nauseous, “something very not right is going on with my body’ I said to Anadi…

I felt I might actually be sick, which is how we came to be in the bathroom, me on the floor, with Anadi witnessing me ‘leave the building’… He said my eyes were open, but I wasn’t there, my breathing was ‘odd’ and I was pouring sweat..

He called for an ambulance…

Emily and Michael the paramedics who arrived were wonderful, reassuring and patient… It took an hour for them to be able to move me off the floor onto a stretcher…

This time last year, May 12th 2018, I was completing a 1075 kilometre journey across Spain – in my bare feet… I had arrived to sunny joy with my family and friends who either ran the last leg with me, or were waiting to cheer me in… And so I celebrated my 59th birthday arriving in Almuñécar in fabulously fun and festive style!

It took me many months to recover from the challenge, but by November last year I was starting to look up the road for a new adventure.

I have always enjoyed setting a goal, and my lifetime quest has been to aim really high, but then connect to the step and let go of any attachment to an outcome… To truly experience the Zen of running, where being a runner disappears and instead I become running…

Barefoot Across Spain‘ had leant itself to this experience hugely, the words of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado; ‘Walker there is no path, we make the path by walking it’ – had been my watchwords for the entire journey…

And so by November, I decided I would challenge myself in an entirely different way… I wanted to see how swift I could become ‘for my age’… I discovered there was a big 5 kilometre race happening on my birthday actual, at Gatwick! It couldn’t be more perfect…

I applied myself to my training and my 5K time started to improve, the speed in my legs gradually returning…

A month before the Gatwick race, I was in Majorca with Malcolm and some Running Crazy runners, including Katie and Tony who had run some of my epic journey across Spain with me… I raced a 5K around the streets of Pollensa in glorious Spanish sun and achieved a time of 21.23.

This ranked me 8th fastest 55 – 59 year old at the time this year in the UK , and would have made me the 2nd fastest 60 year old ( had I been 60!)…

All was looking good…

I had thrown a 60th birthday party too, a fabulously fun affair, which I had chosen to have on the Friday night to allow some recovery time. I had danced the night away, but I don’t really drink, so it doesn’t come into any equation with party recovery for me…

I shared an expresso martini at the end of the evening with my friend Jane who had decorated Urban Ground Coffee shop where I held my fiesta! She has a similar head for alcohol, so sharing one drink for an evening just about does it for us!

On Saturday night, I jokingly said to Anadi that perhaps I wasn’t the most rested I had ever been for a race, but I was feeling good and went to bed feeling ready to run…

As I lay in the ambulance, looking at the blue sky through the window in the roof, I had to clear a slight feeling of diappointment – and then I let go of the race and embraced the birthday I was actually having.

Being where I am, with whatever is happening, being fully present is my lifetime, daily practise.

Of course to do this, we must be present to every feeling that courses through our being… When Emily, the paramedic, had shown confusion at my ECG, I had to clear some fear and prepare myself for possible death – as it happens subsequent tests have shown my heart to be super duper top level healthy…

But we are all living uncertain lives… My practise has been to become safe within myself, with the truth that nothing is certain, as was graphically demonstarted to me on my 60th birthday.

If we are truly where we are, even within sadness, difficulty , disappointment, then we are fully alive.

This is our life here and now, whatever is happening… It is important not to let the mind create stories…

I had a wonderful birthday, a different birthday to the one I had ‘planned’ – but a wonderful one never the less… I didn’t ‘think’ thoughts or stories, like ‘I’ve spent 6 months training for this race, it’s not fair, this is my birthday…’

And any fearful thoughts were fleeting…

I stayed with what was, which was quite a wibbly wobbly unsteady world for some time! Of course, I told the entire staff in Redhill hospital that it was my birthday! And a nurse called Matt brought me a delicious birthday cup cake…

I had many many medical tests, but I was with Anadi, and we were having a lovely time together, and I was receiving birthday wishes and love from many friends and family… For a while I had still thought that I might be off and out of hospital, so that we could make it for my birthday lunch booked at The Dalloway in Russel Square…

This was not to be…!

They discovered a shadow on one of the scans for my brain, which they thought might be a TIA, (Transient Ischemic Attack – mini stroke) and so I was properly admitted to hospital… When they gave me this news, I had a brief feeling of tearfulness, but it passed quickly…

I was wheeled to the ward where my birthday lunch of a baked potato and baked beans soon arrived; followed by a pair of green pyjamas – and I became an official patient!

I was there two days – our plane to Spain flew off without us – and then discharged because the doctor could not believe I had had a TIA… All my co ordination tests and balance tests – once I had stopped being so dizzy and wobbly – I had ‘passed’ with flying colours… She therefore suspected an inner ear virus causing a vertigo attack, but because of the scan showing ‘something’ (which she reassured me could simply be a ‘dodgy photo’) , she booked me in for a further MRI to fully clear up any doubt…

I spent 45 minutes yesterday in an MRI ‘tube’… I do not particularly like being in an enclosed space! I was instructed to lie completely still…

This was a time to truly practise vipasanna breathing meditation…

‘Well done’, the nurse said as she lifted the helmet off my face, and the heavy ‘thing’ off my body… ‘How was your first MRI experience…?

‘I don’t really like being in enclosed spaces’ I replied – ”So I closed my eyes and watched my breath…’

I will have my results next week…

Feel everything as it arises…

And so that was the essence of my challenge to run across Spain in my bare feet – to deal with everything as it arose… Ultimately, it was a pilgrimage.

It was an inner journey and it was a deep recognition of the truth that there’s nothing ‘out there’.

If we look outside ourselves for the spiritual path, we can’t find it, because it’s within us… It has been interesting for me, that my running path has always been a spiritual journey, and yet it’s very active thing. I run somewhere…

It is an action of moving the body, it’s an active discipline and practice and it’s an active journey… This can therefore give the impression of being outside… Because I go for a run on and cover mileage or kilometerage!

And so during my life, it has often been a big challenge to stay in the step and to have running as the meditation.

It’s  been a recognition of the practise, that we need to deeply explore everything, every single aspect of being human – to fully dive into it – so that we can go deeper into ourselves.

This is how we are then able to let go off the human experience and go beyond it… Go beyond this paradigm of duality to the space of silence…

But to experience this, it is important to clear in every moment, and we do this must truly honestly live and feel everything fully in every moment… Until we are completely silent in the experience of being here.

It is the ultimate vipassana meditation, to see things as they really are, by living a life of self observation, and going deeply into things to let them go and so experience self transformation.

By being fully aware of all the sensations in our body and the inter connectedness with our minds, we can keep moving to the place of silence that exists in the still point in the breath…

The running path has been a very powerful teacher for me, and challenges me to stay with all that arises  – and relationship too – running and relationship being my two watchwords, because those are both the areas where I ‘wanted’ something – I ‘wanted’ through my running to somehow get something. I wanted to ‘get’ fast times that somehow I thought would give me something.

Although in truth, I never really thought that… I always knew deep inside that they wouldn’t…

But that didn’t stop me wanting to go into them, trying to find that ‘something’ through running fast times and the same with relationship…Even within a mental understanding of the truth that everything is within us, I continued to look for running and relationship experiences outside myself to find what I wanted…!

But through fully experiencing every moment within all of these ultimately fruitless searches, I did fully feel a lot… Of course, much of it very painful…

I knew that I couldn’t find my answers in the arms of another, and yet I kept going into the arms of another to look for it. And, of course if we know what we are looking for, then the paradox is that we’re never going to find it.

We have to let go of attachment to any desires, any goals and have nothing at all. But we often can’t let go of that, until we’ve deeply gone into a goal or the desire, to discover where the attachments are.

So the cycle continues. We can’t stop looking or not look for anything, until we’re not looking.

So in reality for me, training to go across Spain helped me within this paradigm, to set a kilometerage to complete each week, because within that structure, I was able to just do it…

It has always been in the practice of deeply exploring my running path, that I found spiritual understanding and experience.

Training my body, was the meditation in that I was answering the calling of the pilgrimage, because I knew that it was leading me somewhere.

It was simply about taking a step and staying in it, and seeing what occurred in the next.

I was making my way to the start line to go across Spain.

And I still love investigating how to run fast… But without any expectation that running fast will give me anything, other than the experience in the moment.

And I love being in relationship – in the arms of Anadi – but I can see myself reflected there.

I learnt through all of the relationships, that I would reveal myself to me, and that paradoxically I did find what I was looking for in the arms of the others… I saw myself, and all areas of myself that I had lost or hidden or that I denied. I found them all

So life becomes more and more of a puzzle as we go round and round, going into things to experience them…. To then let them go.

If we try to ‘let something go’ without having gone fully into it, then we can be left barren without the experience of it… But with the experience of it, we know it’s not real…

But this journey can take a lifetime – lifetimes….

Of course our experiences can also become a trap that can feel so real, that we believe them to be real… And so we keep chasing after the feeling, again and again.

An actress or a comedian, might keep chasing after the laughs and the applause… An athlete or sportsperson – the medals, the success. A runner might keep chasing the times… Or a business person the money… Or we might chase all of those things!

Where in fact, if we stay just responding and letting go of the desires and goals, by going right into the desires and goals, and following where they lead us… If we live them fully and consciously, then the riddle unravels itself and the experience of meditation on the move becomes a reality.

And we find there is no reality.

Life a meditation…

 

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….!