Leave no trail…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flying it en este momento!

What matters to you…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are changing all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what she said

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

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

 

Rosa Gin…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Feeling free and having fun….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have always done both things of course…

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

Felix talked about feeling free, and about having fun.

It is no coincidence that we met today.

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

How to be free, and how to have fun….

 

Running Crazy in Valencia…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The reflection of love…

Saturday…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Three thousand realms…

My perfect morning…

We woke to blue skies and sunny warm; a complete change to yesterday… And at the top of a vista looking over to Ramla Bay, a glorious rainbow arced over us with magic in its beauteous curve.

And after running around my 10k loop feeling relaxed and strong and chatting away to one another, I came up with the best plan ever.

‘Let’s go to captain Spriss for breakfast’, and so soon we were sitting in the lovely blue haven, enjoying the best Cappuccinos and I was aware that again and again and again, I come back to the inner truth for me, that I came here to run; to find out what is revealed in the steps , to make the path by running it and everything else springs from this.

It feels so intrinsic to me, and it has always been thus, despite debilitating injury and times where it all felt too hard… Again and again the running path calls me back like a musical instrument, my feet and body ask that I must always play to discover the song therein….

And then sing it to the world.

I was so inspired by the thought of the barefoot half marathon in India yesterday, that I suddenly as if it were a new dawning rose in my soul; a deep knowing about what I want to do with me life…

The direction revealing itself…

I announced it to Anadi over dinner; I want to run all around the world, and across Spain, and maybe I will run across other lands too… But I can feel how deeply these feet of mine and the running steps know where they are leading me and then any writing, teaching, talking, sharing myself – whatever I do will spring from these steps I take.

Anadi was unsurprised, because in truth its what I have always done! I have always run, and I have always seen what these steps of my reveal, there is no change and yet it feels brand new.

Like a re birth…

Setting off again and again… Because there is no past and so it is all new… In each moment I am being re born, so although the journey might look the same in many ways – it is also entirely new… The energy is new and the lands I visit will be new even if they are the same.

Because we are creating it as we go, and so the very same experience with different energy will reveal new things, create new life, bring new love to our heart and communicate more light in the world.

Because when we keep clearing the imagined past, and the blocks to our energy therein then every moment opens to the infinite possibility of the infinite!

The Buddha teaches that there are three thousand possibilities in every moment, which means that when we embrace this idea we can draw on our courage and resilience and open to expansion in our lives… This is the core belief of Nichiren Buddhism, and they practise accessing this space, this moment to open themselves and others to this expansion, this infinite possibility

Many people feel very stuck and afraid and often cling to what they know; but the Buddhist scholar T’ien-t’ai developed a meditative practice to enable people to perceive the boundless extent of their lives at each moment. He called it “three thousand realms in a single moment of life”  Ichinen sanzen.

It is the practise of always remembering that the entire universe as we see it exists in a single moment; the Nichiren Buddhist practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo whilst holding the true Buddha nature the heart is said to actualize the principles of the Ichinen sanzen in the lives of those who practise.

I love the chant… But I don’t always do it every day; but I do enjoy the resonance of the energy that connects me to the expansion and possibility in every moment and to the innate Buddha nature within us all…

As you set out…

Today was a very exciting day!

Maricarmen said that as a student I have now officially transitioned to intermediate level…

There are three levels beginner, intermediate and advanced.. She went on to say so we won’t speak any English now, all Spanish…  ?

The funny thing is that I belong to a Spanish speaking online programme called Yabla which I love. It is chocca full of soap operas and interviews and teaching videos; yesterday I was choosing some material and I pressed the intermediate button to see what I could find there… So I knew really and truly…

It is always important when we have a ‘mountain to climb’ that before we start we look up at the peak and see truly what a journey we have ahead; it helps if we take a look at the possible twists and turns, the trees across the path, the hazards along the way, and that we have a healthy awareness of our ability, and how much help we will need… This way the magic can occur; there is space for the surprises, for expansions, the delight of reaching another level… We look up, seeing the peak shining with the sun on the glistening snow ahead of us, knowing that we are making headway and that in time we will reach the top…

As always recognising that the richness is in the journey; the process, the step we are in… As C.P. Cavafy starts his poem Ithaka…

‘As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery….’
He goes on the paint beautiful images with his words, of the unfolding journey – and finishes thus
“Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean…’
This poem speaks to me of the many journeys I have undertaken in my life… And the ‘learning Spanish one’ is already far richer than I could ever have imagined…

Although the more I learn the more I feel a novice, rather than the lofty heights of ‘intermediate’! I see how much I don’t know, how slow I am, what a long road ahead I have to reach my goal of fluency – which I want very much – but I understand that it is just like ‘wanting’ my body to get free of pain or ‘wanting’ to run faster – I understand that it is the energy of ‘wanting’ that has no place in the journey.

I am making the road by walking it and fluency like ‘intermediate level’ will appear when it does…!

Meanwhile I must make the road by walking it each day – paso a paso…

 

 

Time Travel…

I’ve landed in Gozo!

It feels as if I have been beamed here… We rose early to a bright crisp November morning, and once I was on the plane I slept most of the way – including once we had got into the car at Malt!

I ‘came too’ on the ferry; skudding clouds and the sway of the boat, bright sunshine and the view of Gozo appearing on the horizon… Apart from the supermarket having closed down, it is as we left it; as we created it!

Anadi and I were discussing the quantum physics ideas, or ‘findings’, that this entire universe is created by our mind…  We both understand this as being an energetic movement or collaboration – not the thinking brain – although of course the thinking brain is part of the energetic expression…

I love exploring with Anadi – I find the more I dive deeper into investigating the universal energy, the more it helps me to let go of any holding on, or any idea that I can control anything, and at the centre of it all, a letting go of a sense of myself…

Yesterday we sat all day in a bar in London, and we we were both going through our different ‘lives’ in this life. We looked at how although there are aspects of ‘us’ that are recognisable to others, and of course ourselves – we don’t identify any more with different lives where we ‘worked out’ and let go of different aspects…

I can remember the child me, the teenage me, the trapped by an eating and running addiction me, the insecure or suffocated in relationship me… But none of them resonate with who I am now… They are now simply stories about experiences, which have helped me understand this life and the journey unfolding, the challenges, the processes – both my own and others better…

Anadi and I met five years ago, and we agreed that neither of us identify any more with the people we were then… There has a been a shedding and a burning of the old in the ashes… Each new phase, each transition, or rite of passage has seen a rising up again, rather like a Phoenix transforming into something entirely new and fresh…

I am now about to go and run, and find out how ouchie the roads are! We were last here a year ago when I was still in my vivobarefoot shoes…

Before I left, I said to Anadi ‘I wonder what time it gets dark here? Oh well, we will find out tonight…’

I found out… It’s 5.30pm ! I was on the road, and realised that the loop I was on might be tricky in the dark! So I re traced my steps instead. I loved the run. Gozo has a lovely soft feel to it… Although the roads are very uneven in places, very much ‘in need of repair’… They could definitely be described ‘ouchie’ and yet they didn’t ouch my feet…

Maybe my feet are a lot tougher, but it just felt like I was out to play…

I had felt a familiar slight resistance to going out the door, especially as we had just travelled here and only slept for 4 hours or so last night – although I caught that up somewhat while travelling!

But once I headed out I felt free, it was fun. I loved every step.