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…’

 

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?”…’

 

Tranquility reflected in the blue sky…

The hotel breakfast had all manner of colourful juices, a green one, a pink one, and and orange one. I love healthy juices. I am easily pleased…

A run in a sunny park, with bright blue skies, tranquility in the centre of a city at rush hour, and then home to colourful juices; what more could anyone want?

Bright vibrant healthy juices, sunny skies and running have always been the ingredients of happiness for me; but I learnt really early that they couldn’t ‘make me happy’…. If life was feeling hard and painful, and the struggle was deep inside, then no amount of colourful juices or sunny skies – or even running – could change the state. They might ease it; a run could ease tension, a cup of coffee too…

How ever did I miss coffee out from the list?!

But they could not take the struggle completely away. When I was younger and my inner life felt harder, I remember going away to visit bright blue skies for maybe a week or two – or three – and seeing the cloud lift within me… I was able watch myself step more into the flow, I could glimpse the possibility of a life with more ease… But then I would return home, and pick the bags of heaviness up again and carry them with me. Even though I knew that they affected everything at some subtle level.

And this is the weight of our pain, our tension, our unresolved hurt; it is a heavy burden within us, which we can get all too familiar with… But, through being willing to notice and surrender the tension; make the clearing of the pain more important than anything else, brings the reward of the bright blue skies clearing above us, nothing to blot the clarity, the tranquility of the expanse within us reflected in an empty blue sky.

When we watch birds that fly circling around, and see gathering clouds, scudding white or deep and dark; they represent the clutter the noise, the distraction within us…

But always beyond all that we see when we look upwards – there is the clarity, the expanse, the endless stretch into infinity behind it, and sometimes the emptiness is there, and we experience the still small voice of calm…

This is the ultimate meditation to see the gaps in the thoughts, the birds and the clouds and the planes are our thoughts; between them is stillness…

Life a meditation.

The run in the park was a delight, I love the running rhythm that can be found all over the world.

Even as far back as 1987 when I ran the New York marathon, I was there a week before the race and each day I would run to Central Park and circle the lake with hundreds of other runners – more than usual I suspect as it was marathon week – but still the same rhythm… Round and round, one foot in front of the other, simplicity.

Simplicity is an inner state, like tranquility. Life can be full of interesting projects and communication and connections to all manner of exciting ness. But if there is tranquility at the centre, like the park here right in a quiet space in the centre of the City, then the possibility of expansion from the still point within is as vast as the clear blue sky above us.

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!

 

To our own self be true…

A rainy windy run today! In fact it was quite cold… Especially half way round when I was running into the wind, with the rain tumbling down… I gave myself the out to take the left hand road, that was coming soon at the bottom of the hill – if I wanted to – which would take me back for a 10k run rather than a 13k run I had planned…
It was the giving myself the opportunity to do less, which meant I carried on in a relaxed fashion, and as the left hand turn approached, I checked in – yes I was wet, and a little bit chilly – but I was enjoying the run and feeling good, and not that cold…

So I went past the road and carried out the original plan and enjoyed my training immensely – I was wearing my skinners socks too, which made it more comfortable for my feet, and I was able to run along a bit faster on the ouchie, uneven road which kept me warm.

Of course I recognise that sometimes we are on a route where it appears there is no out… But relaxing is still the key, while we make the journey…

I can remember years ago when I was racing and had been consistently winning a series of races… I was having a bit of a battle, this particular day, to maintain my winning streak and so I let go and decided that I didn’t mind if the top place went to another runner… I let my foot off the throttle, and then found myself imagining the headline in the local paper…

‘Gates surrenders winning streak’ and I didn’t mind – but then, as I ran along, I thought, ‘I might as well see if I can maintain it, and create a different headline…!’ I found a new gear and went on to win once again…

This of course was in a race where I had the capacity to win… But we can apply the same inner conversations wherever we are and in whatever situation.

The secret is to not make winning or doing well – or anything we do – a moral issue… There are so many statements about ‘never being a quitter’ or ‘carrying on whatever’; but really and truly our life and whether we carry on or stop anything is completely up to us – it is our own journey.

And it is not for someone else to decide whether it is the right or wrong thing. If we are happy with our decision then if this touches someone else’s belief system, and they show disapproval or disappointment – then the ultimate place of peace is to recognise that this is to do with them, not us.

I had a lot of practise with this as a younger person, as I kept making decisions that disappointed my father; but when I review my life I am happy I made the decisions I did. I am also glad of the inner conviction that I was born with, that allowed me to continue with them even in the face of dissent, and not much life experience.

There are times to leave jobs, change route, change direction, leave relationships – to stop.

And as I mentioned earlier, sometimes when we know that we want to stop something, but there doesn’t seem an immediate way to do this, for all manner of reasons…

In this instance, acknowledging our feelings and relaxing into the space we are in, accepting what is can help us reach either the end of that particular challenge… Or it can give us time to figure our next steps; or it can help us to find a way to be in the step of the experience however hard it is….

Because there are also times to carry on…

I have carried on with all manner of projects and situations when they have been hard, because I know that I am on the course of my soul…

Only we will truly know what is right for us, or when we must honour the course we are on, or change direction.

But first of all we may need to examine our stories and our beliefs, to really examine our paradigm… For this is where we will find out the ideas and ideals that we were given – and we can then look at where we internalised these ideas from… Was it from our family, our religion, our school, our culture, our society, our friends?

And then we can investigate whether they hold true for us now.

It is worth going deeply into the stories we tell, and those that are told about us… Do they resonate? Where did we get them from?

Where did I get the idea for instance that ‘No one remembers who came 2nd…’ That one caused me a lot of stress and distress – until I shed it for good… And even if the statements are true, does it really matter..?

To our own self be true… This is all that matters.

We know not the path another treads…

Anadi and I were ‘running across Gozo’ to Xlendi, all of 6 miles away… But we had arrived somewhere in the middle of the island, and definitely did not know which way to turn.

A friendly lady gave us very clear directions and then said… ‘You’re barefoot’! By way of explanation I said ‘Yes, I like it…’ and then carried on ‘I was born barefoot..’

This made us all laugh; but of course we were all born barefoot and our feet were designed to work well and carry us around without shoes. Some protection for uneven and ouchie ground and the cold is all that is really needed; and being in touch with the energy of the earth is said to have very beneficial effects on our body… The negative charge gives us loads of positive electrons serving as a good supply of antioxidants…

But this still doesn’t mean being barefoot is for everyone…

The path we all tread is completely unique, and it isn’t for us to project that we know which way another ‘should’ or ‘could’ go… We do not know the path another treads…

Of course there are ways that seem to be quite universal, we need to eat and sleep and drink water to survive in a human body – and breathe. We need to breathe…

But once again, we cannot truly comment on the choices another makes, as we don’t know the experiences their soul is here to experience… This whole illusion is a play on the stage of life, and we’re here to play… Sometimes quite violently and dramatically it appears – but the cycles of drama go round and round, so something is going on – even if it makes no sense to us at all…

I learnt a lot in my early 20’s when I ran my fitness centre; I learnt that people were going to ‘do it their way’, and so in setting fitness programmes the best thing was to create it to truly suit them, the amount they were genuinely likely to consistently do – whether that be once a week, three times a week or every day… And to truly find out the kind of exercises they were more likely to keep doing… I would also always enquire as to whether they really wanted to give up smoking, eating lots of cake and chocolate – rather than ever suggest they did. And if they didn’t, then work with the truth of their lifestyle.

I learnt to flow with my clients, and to work ‘with them’ from a very young age. I remember one lady very well, I can visualise her, although I can’t remember her name – she was in her late 50’s and had survived pretty well on drinking pretty much only brandy; she didn’t really drink anything else…

‘What else is there to drink?’ she had enquired… I tentatively suggested water, or maybe juice? She wasn’t very interested… But gently gently added a little bit of water to her diet… And quite liked it too!

In the end, people are going to do what they do. Sometimes, a person gets a health scare and completely changes their life; others carry on as before. Sometimes we are inspired by something another person does or says – and that point is a moment of change for us – like me seeing the barefooted surfers running on the beach… At other times, we just watch and carry on as we are…

I learnt very young that I wasn’t an authority on anything; but that I did have an ability to encourage others to be their own authority and to connect more to their own path, however less travelled or wayward it might appear to be… I was – I am –  good at helping others love themselves more and see themselves more clearly…

From a space of loving ourselves more, whatever we do or don’t do feels much better… !

Anadi and I ran ‘Barefoot across Gozo’ to Xlendi and back… Thirteen miles in all and then drove to Dwejra for lunch… This was the site of the famous Azure window… An enormous rock formation where the sea had created a huge window; but a few months ago it just fell into the sea one evening and now there is just the rock face left.

Gone in a moment, everything changed forever….

The turquoise sea…

The turquoise sea was our background music… The sound ever present, but ever soothing, gentle but wild…

We sat the three of us on a terrace, the day warm, with only a slight chill from the grey clouds. But we were wrapped up warm and sat for three hours, eating talking sharing – enjoying the space of exploration and stimulating honest conversation about ourselves, our lives our thoughts and feelings…

When I have a treatment with Gerhard, there is no talking – which I love – it is all about the energetic space and receiving; total bliss… Which is why lunch seemed such a good idea… To enjoy the connection we have, but with words – conversation – and over food!

Gerhard asked me today to remind him how we met… It was two years ago; I was looking for a sports massage and a waiter in a restaurant gave me two names. I chose Gerhard and have been going back ever since, every time we visit the island…

We lunched at Otters in Marsalforn; Anadi said as we left that he’d really enjoyed himself, how quickly the time had gone – and how he’d had lots of flash backs to his childhood times there.

But that they felt more like a past life.

It is always interesting to me how important it is to always be availale and aware of how much we don’t know; where we may still be holding on to ways of thinking or being that do not serve us, that may have come from way back in past lives – and revealed themselves early on in this life…

There was something in the dialogue today when Gerhard and I were sharing the restrictive aspects of our younger years, that shone the light on where there was still lurking a faint veil of puritanism… The whisper of a voice that says seeking happiness or enjoying things on this planet is somehow to be shunned, and that the life of ‘sack cloth and ashes’ and abstinence is ‘the way’…!

Now, in truth this does not obviously show itself in my love of life, but in our dialogue today I caught sight of it, and I was able to catch it by the tail and pull it out from wriggling back into my unconscious.

A part that says ‘I shouldn’t be happy’, and ‘I shouldn’t really engage in things that make me happy’… Now of course as you may witness, I don’t live that way. I live a life doing and being and having things that do make me happy…

I have challenged the constraints of the religion I was brought into, of the messages that life is ‘hard earnest difficult’… I have trodden my own path, and found how to live with joy, to have fun, to experience freedom…

But the point is that if within me there is still a slight voice of dissent, of disapproval… Then that voice will be dampening the possibility of absolute joy – of having the most fun… It will be taking energy – slightly holding back the freedom of expression.

We are on an earthly journey and there is much to enjoy… Like lovely food, and running and cappuccinos ?

This morning Anadi joined me again, and we ran 5 miles, which made my weekly mileage 50 again. We did some stretches of fartlek as we ran, which was fun and fluid and flowing… I am enjoying building my running form in stages… Holding steady at 50 miles feels a good way to deepen the progress I have made since July.

This week, my training felt almost too easy… That feels to be a good sign.

When we build and build, and listen to the body, when we listen to every part of our being; then we start to accomplish super human things and they feel easy… When things feel too hard, there is no way we will keep them going. Our endeavours take on the energy of a campaign…

And the nature of campaigns is that they always come to an end.

So campaigns have their place, of course – but it is important that we are keenly aware that if we are in a stretch that feels like a big effort, to recognise that there will be a time span, that it won’t go on forever…

The more aware we are, and available to notice this, and work with this…

The more we can make sure we are always building and not breaking down!

 

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…