Life, in this moment, is…

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

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

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

On bare foot!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My toe has spoken for all of my body…

Time to rest…

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

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

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

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

 

The more I let go, the more the body runs free…

I am loving my day in the sunshine…

A tranquil day without much movement so far….

I walked across the plaza and down the few steps to the beach this morning and stood in the surf; then I walked back for breakfast and I haven’t moved far since.

It is a contrast to the previous five days where I have been engaged in hours of movement – the contrast feels good.

A pause, where the recovery can happen and the clearing, the opening, the effects emerging out the process, ‘the mission’, can reveal themselves.

‘The mission’ that I embarked on, and carried out over these past few days, has felt to be a space of silence and clearing for me. A practise that has allowed for the expansion and oneness that is the truth of us all, to be experienced in my barefoot running step – even within the paradox of the limits of a body…

The irony for me, is that I always believed that I was born to run, and yet my running steps as a younger woman, were often fraught with tension and pain, and struggle…

But because on the running path, I always came face to face with my tension, because I came face to face with where I was holding on… I saw that this space was a magical enlightening space, and that if I kept running, I would not be able to run away from my pain….

That however hard the journey, I recognised it was for my growth and held the key to my freedom.

It was the reverse of running away from my pain – I knew I needed to run right into it… And so the only way to be free was to keep running and to keep letting go of all that held me…. My pain, the places of darkness where I did not and could not love myself; all these places had to be faced and loved…

The tension and self hatred had to be released…

And the more I let go, the more this body  is able to run free…

And in the running, the body paradoxically becomes conduit that reveals the truth… That we are all one; that we are all energy and that there is no separation.

For me running is the perfect practise to experience this… Even when the soreness in my feet, the frailty of the body occurred, my spirit still was free – I did not worry or fret…

And so the path keeps revealing itself, through the running steps making the road by running it….

The Mission…

It’s a bit of a rainy grey day today; but I am now inside looking out, rather than outside looking in…
I have many layers on… I have just counted them – five!
I am warm enough now, but the four I had on earlier weren’t quite enough…

I hadn’t realised it was raining when I appeared at the front door of Casablanca this morning, until Emiliano said ‘lluvia’… Ah yes! ‘Mucho lluvia’…

I went back upstairs to take my leggings off – wet skin felt a better option than soggy leggings – and to get my chaqueta… I came back downstairs and after an ‘hasta luego…’ to Emiliano, off I went into the lluvia, day two of seeing what 25k a day in bare feet will feel like…

I enjoyed the run, despite the tropical coast resembling a cold rainy day in England.

Yesterday, for day one of ‘the mission’, it was a beautiful sunny experience…. I broke the run up into ten minute sections, where I walked for the first minute and then ran for the next nine.

Running in this way creates – for me – a meditation on the move… I simply carry out the plan I’ve planned!  All I have to do is run along, ‘paso a paso’, completing a ten minute section and then doing another.. There is nothing else, until it all stops.

I have always enjoyed running alone.

It is a completely different experience to social running, which I also enjoy. Social running is like a ‘run philosophique’ where there isn’t necessarily much attention to the actual running – but more to the companionship and the dialogue, which weaves and twists in the space between, creating something new, deepening the bond, as the kilometres unfold…

But running alone, of which I have done a lot, is very different.

For me it is a space of silence… Sometimes thoughts and ideas arise up, sometimes insights or processing of events, conversations… But often – as in these last two days – there is no thought – except when I am chatting to you in my vlog of course!

Just the step, the run, the body moving along on planet earth, soul in motion.

Some years ago Anadi went to train in China for ten weeks with the Shaolin monks, and he told me that they believe running to be the best way to clear tension from the body.

I see this can be true; but it can also be a place where tension is built, especially when there is an attachment to an outcome; a goal, a time to be achieved.

This doesn’t mean that goals and aiming for times cannot be part of a meditation… In fact they can be a huge part of a meditation because it is in setting a goal that we find out how attached we are to it… And are therefore able to see where letting go, clearing , relaxing, trusting – simply staying is the step is needed….

This is how ‘the mission’ is a meditation….

Yesterday I celebrated completion of 25k covered, by paddling up to my knees in the sea…

Today I skipped the paddle at the end, as although the rain had ceased, the temperature hadn’t risen much… A hot shower felt more appealing! I did the same run as yesterday, because the dark, the rain and the low temperature meant that an easy route felt the most supportive of my plan.

Also today’s ‘meditation method’ was that I ran with a bit more intent for 5k then very easy for 1.25k… This done four times brought me home with another 25k under my belt.

My feet were a bit sore at the end, but they have all day to recover!

 

Connection, Communication and Reflection…

I’m sitting on a stone bench in the sun – it is a sunny bright blue sky day.
It is 14.21 in the afternoon and I have no plan.
 
 I am liking being here in the sun…
 
 This morning I ran along to ‘the other end ‘ of Almuñecar – there are two ends and I ran to the Vellila end, where the road turns into a beach, and then by clambering over the rocks I reached another beach… I ran back and forth on the deserted sand for awhile before re tracing my steps to breakfast… A delicious feast of orange juice, coffee – toast with chopped tomatoes, drenched in olive oil – fresh mango and natural yogurt…
 
 I am enjoying the solitude and the sound of Spanish voices all around me.
 I am enjoying the sun and the sound of the waves as my constant music, and the wind in the trees.
 
 I am enjoying the feeling of having nothing to do and nowhere to go…
 Almuñecar has a few souls who ‘wander about’ throughout the day; they all recognise me now because I keep returning to run barefoot through their town…. And now I am sitting like them in the sun, whiling away the hours in silence, watching the world all around…
 
 
Which of course is simply our reflection in every moment.
 
 I was sitting in departures at Gatwick airport, the day before yesterday, opposite a man… I wondered what our connection might be… We were in the same space having a similar experience, and I wondered if we were to ‘press pause’ on the scene and investigate – then not only the man nearest to me, but all of us could have an opportunity to discover what it was linked us all, and reflected ourselves in that moment…
 
 It then happened that the man, me and three ladies, who had been sitting next to me, ended up chatting in the queue to board the plane…
 
 The man and I discovered we were a year apart in age, and that both of our fathers’ had worked on Sierra Leone, and that the two of us spent some of our younger years there… We also found  that he was also journeying to Almuñecar like I was, and is intent on creating a different type of lifestyle…
 
 
The three ladies – in this (rather slow) queue to get onto the plane – exclaimed as we started to venture outside; ‘aren’t your feet freezing cold?’
 
 We laughed and I told them about all the different type of reactions I receive to my naked feet…  ‘And sometimes people just stare and stare as if I am a ‘rare creature ‘ that they have never seen before…’ I explained…
 
 ‘Well you are,‘ one of the ladies laughed… ‘You are a rare creature…’ and then she continued… ‘In the nicest possible way!’
 
 
 
 
 
 
Vallilla… The ‘other end of Almuñecar. My morning run…
 

Happy New Adventures, Happy New Year…

Happy New adventures, happy New Year from Gatwick airport Hilton Hotel.

I love it here, it is one of my favourite ‘homes’, big expansive beds, deep baths and my little gym which feels like it is my own private space; I have hardly ever had to share it…

Anadi and I are sitting in Costa Coffee, and soon we will collect our hire car and drive to the New Forest where we are staying in a lovely grade 2 listed hotel which was built in 1627… It also has the New Forest’s only gin bar – perfect for Anadi!

We made this plan when we saw that the coming year would be a very different one… We decided we would come and see 2018 in here before taking off on a very new stage of our adventure together.

Because it will be together, but apart for the first few weeks…

Anadi is going to stay in the UK and carry out the same sort of ‘sales tour’ here as he did in South Africa. He has been working hard on iSportsAnalysis all the time we have been nomads – four years – and this stage is new… He is now the front man of his creation…

And I am going to Spain, I do not have a plan – not until March 23rd anyway when I set off Barefoot Across Spain – but in preparing for this, it seems my path unfolding  is to keep running and to keep learning Spanish.

I leave on January 3rd, and Anadi stays – we both have a sense of really and truly stepping into the unknown, but that it is a new adventure unfolding and that the path will, as always, reveal itself…

There is some trepidation that comes and goes within me, but I have learnt to listen to the space between my thoughts, between my fears, between even what I may feel I ‘desire’ or ‘want’ at certain times… And that in dropping into this stillness there, my soles journey is continuing…

This is the space I trust and this is the space I am walking into in 2018…

Que sera sera…

 

Birthday brunch in Bronte

This morning I ran down to the cricket field – my socks already have holes in them after 20 miles… But I decided they have a few more yet to run…

I arrived on the wet green grass, under a grey cloudy December day… And an unexpected impromptu interval session emerged… I ran 8 x 5 minutes with a minute jog, around and around the circumference of the field. I enjoyed it a lot.

The more running I do, the stronger and fitter I feel… Rather an obvious thing to write of course; but it is more noticeable for me now that I am ‘starting all over again’ in my new barefoot life.

It feels that miracles are occurring within my body simply through repetition rather than aggression… And of course the repetition can at times feel rather relentless… I reflected on this irony as I stepped into the cold British weather today – that my wish as a younger person, to be able to run forever, has come true…

I felt sadness then that my art, my expression in the running step must come to an end; I envied other artists whose mediums were through palette and brush stroke, or voice – actors artists musicians – and I identified with the hours of practise to perfect their art… I mourned early that mine was a short artistic life…

But now I find that this is not the case.

Perfecting my art is limitless and endless, and I am still learning my trade; deepening it, investigating it through repeating the steps day after day after day.

My meditation on the move

Later…

I am just back from a brilliant birthday brunch with Fi… I enjoyed it so much, celebrating with my friend – life a celebration.

We met in Bronte which is on the Strand near Nelson’s column…  When I look up at the famous structure, I can never help but remember Rowan Atkinson’s sketch, when he acted an outraged French tourist seeing sex organs all over London…

“The Post Office Tower? PAH! It is the Post Office prick! Prince Charles gets married in St Paul’s Cathedral, which looks like an enormous titty! The biggest titty in the world! Nelson’s column? PAH! It is Nelson’s willy!”

I have never been able to think of it as anything else since…

Fi and I had so much fun; we laughed a lot, which is an overriding memory I have of our runs together – we were often stopped in our tracks, bent double with laughter… And we affirmed today too, the value of those long slow fun miles – and the amazing magic effect they have on running form, almost without even realising it…

Here is our vlog from our meet up; of course I wore special jewels on my bare feet for the occasion….

Run and become free…

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

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

My meditation on the move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who knows what lies beyond that?

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

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

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

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

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

We are all free already…

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

‘Who am I…’

 

The big rock stretch…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am off to ‘The big rock stretch…’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Red…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What matters to you…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are changing all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what she said

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

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