The best worst days of my life

“Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.”—Paul Coelho

The eternal optimist, I kept on hoping and believing that my body would heal so I could walk from Rome to Jerusalem.

When I started to accept that even if my body did miraculously recover in the next few weeks that the distance and duration of the walk might turn out to be too much I started flirting with the idea that walking the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela could be a possibility instead because the total duration and distances between towns is shorter.

Yes, I was still thinking about walking somewhere even as my body was screaming out “no friggin’ way” and cramping down to protect itself— even on the days I could barely walk 40 minutes without having to sit down because of the spasms and pain. 

Yes, I’m optimistic and also very determined and stubborn.

I thought I was coming to London to catch up with Viv then walk 3000+ kilometres.

However, it turns out I have come here to start learning how to fully inhabit my body and to learn a new and easier way to walk through life.

I feel like the pain has stripped me down to my bare bones and now I am being rebuilt from the ground up.

With the help of my osteo/human movement specialist Dan, I am literally training my body how to walk without hurting itself. It has been a surprise and a revelation to discover how little I inhabit my own body through movement and breath.

The human body is an amazingly complex system. When we are injured, the body will adapt its movement to protect itself. The problem is when the injury heals the body doesn’t always revert to form. 

My body is layers and layers of adaptations.

Since tearing my ligaments in my left ankle six months ago, I have barely put any weight on my left foot. Whilst my ankle healed, it stayed frozen as I was too scared to move it in case I injured it again. My body couldn’t go back to how it used to be and even if it did, it already held onto a number of adaptations from the numerous injuries during my life.

Perhaps the biggest contributor has been my posture. I have spent years shrinking and hiding and trying to protect my heart and you can see this in my body—hunched shoulders, rounded upper back, leaning forward and collapsed through my core. When I walk, I step quietly and gently so as not to disturb anyone and to avoid attention.

I have also discovered that what I thought was gentle breathing is really barely breathing at all. I use my neck muscles to inhale shallow into my lungs and rarely use my diaphragm fully. This is especially noticeable when I am in pain. If I breathe shallow, I don’t feel the pain as much. If I breathe shallow, I don’t feel the emotions inside my body as much. This was a useful technique when my heart was broken and grieving and I didn't know how to be with emotional pain. Now I know better now, I want to feel fully alive and breathe in life.

Our breath is so important to encourage blood flow to places that need healing. 

Our breath encourages those tight places inside us to open up and release. Often it is those tight places inside us that cause our pain.

Every morning and night I practice diaphragm breathing, practices that Dan's girlfriend, Magda, taught me. During the day I am trying to pay attention to how I hold myself and breathe in everything that I do. In doing so, I have noticed how much I bend over to do anything instead of stepping in or squatting.

Already I can feel my body begin to change as I breathe myself open from the inside out. I feel light and peaceful and more free.

The last few days I have walked around Greenwich Park trying to practice what Dan has taught me—often feeling confused as I have discovered that the simple act of walking is actually quite complex. When it all seems too confusing I just remember to breathe fully, walk tall and proud and lead from the heart. I am also trying to be patient and kind to myself as it can take time for new ways of being to integrate. I gently stroke the parts that hurt and tell them they are doing good work.

I’m not walking from Rome to Jerusalem this year. 

It has taken a few weeks to accept this as I've ridden the rollercoaster of pain, sadness, anger, despair, confusion, frustration and uncertainty. I have struggled with the not knowing what is happening to me, when I will heal and trying to figure out what I will do if I don't walk. What I have learned is that being in a state of resistance does not help the body heal. You cannot fully receive healing or inspiration if your body and mind is closed down tight and you cannot make it happen within your deadline—I've tried. All I can do is set the intention to heal, commit to doing what I need to do to help myself and surrender.

I have no idea when I might try to walk from Rome to Jerusalem or even if I might try again.

Right here in this moment, it doesn't really matter.

I came to London intending to draw a picture of pilgrimage from Rome to Jerusalem but instead there is a new picture emerging, a very different journey. 

Right now, what I am really excited about is learning to be in my body in a new way that feels free, graceful and at ease.

As I wrote in my article, It’s how we travel that matters— “It’s not what we do, where we go or what we achieve in this life that really matters but how we do them and who we are being every day of our lives.”

It doesn't matter if I ever walk to Jerusalem but it does matter that I am here in this body in this lifetime being unapologetically, authentically, fully me. 

In the midst of suffering, pain and darkness it can be difficult to see the blessings of our experience. 

As I emerge back into the light, I am starting to see them now. 

What wonderful gifts to be cared for and supported by my friend Viv and to receive messages of support and encouragement from family back home and friends all over the world. 

I am so grateful for the healing gifts of my osteo Indy, my other osteo/movement geek specialist Dan and his girlfriend Magda and to be able to give them the opportunity to practice their healing gifts on me. I never would have met them if I hadn't have come to London and my body broken down.

And I am grateful for the insights about myself I have uncovered through this healing crisis. There have been many, many. 

Mostly I am grateful that I am becoming more and more of me.

Blackheath the other day on the way to see Dan for a treatment.

Sunset from one tree hill at Greenwich Park

Sunset Greenwich Park

Moonrising at sunset, Greenwich Park

A couple of my emerging pictures (these are because you asked Maggie x)