The days until the start of my pilgrimage are falling away so gracefully just like autumn leaves floating and twirling their way to the ground. There are only 3 days left of my work contract, 3 weeks until I fly to Munich and just over 5 weeks until I take my first steps from Rome towards Jerusalem.
In the last two weeks there has been a little slow walking when I have felt the urge but no training.
My Morton’s Neuroma in my left foot has settled down but not gone altogether. And my body has had a painful time adjusting to the orthotics prescribed by my podiatrist. They jarred my lower back and even now, 3 weeks later, I have almost constant lower back pain.
But this isn’t the reason I’m not training.
Others say that you should walk as much as you can before you leave in preparation.
But this isn’t an event that I am entering or a competition. It is a pilgrimage—a sacred inner journey through an outer landscape.
I can train my body but is not my body alone that will get me to Jerusalem.
I have read of pilgrims starting out then giving up when they got really lost, or they have spent too much time walking on roads or through areas where the scenery wasn’t that pretty, or because it was hard and painful. Their training didn’t help them to keep going then.
Whilst my body must wear the burden of my backpack and my feet must take all the steps to walk me to Jerusalem, what happens when the way becomes tough and I am tired and in pain? It is not just my body that will keep me going, it is my courage, tenacity, spirit and faith that I am supported on this journey by something that is greater than myself.
I notice the small voice of fear that tells me that it’s going to be so much harder because I haven’t trained. That it was hard enough last time when I was much fitter, without injuries and had trained solidly for 10 weeks before I left. That maybe by not training I am jeopardising this journey I have been working towards for over 18 months and won’t make it.
But I also notice the calmer wiser voice that reminds me that just as I learned last time, the walking is the training, that nothing prepares you for day after day of walking than doing just that.
The injuries and the illnesses have forced me to surrender my training plan. Instead of walking, my training has been the practice of surrender: Letting go of the plans I have made and the way I think things should work to be shown another way that builds on my belief and faith that I am divinely supported in my life and on this journey.
This surrendered way means starting to accept that I don’t always have to be as prepared as I think I need to be to start.
It also means being willing to accept whatever perceived obstacles arise on my path and to look at them with curiousity to unlock the gifts and the opportunities they present.
It took some time to get to this point. I have learned the hard way as I kept trying to push forward with training only to be stopped each time by illness or injury. But I am here. Surrendered to this unfolding path and current that carries me to Rome to take my first steps walking to Jerusalem.
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