The training of surrender

The training of surrender
"If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."—Woody Allen

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.

I surrendered the notion of training for this pilgrimage when I realised how I was pushing and striving and slamming the feminine part of myself that just wants to flow and move with joy.

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Another standstill

Another standstill

There are only 9 weeks left until I take my first steps from Rome to Jerusalem and again I have been brought to a standstill.

I have been pushing myself hard over the last few weeks since the ligaments I tore in my ankle at the end of March healed enough that I could start hiking. I have effectively been working the equivalent of 4 days in 3 as my contract's project moved into a critical phase, plus walking 3 days per week up to 20 kilometres per session, plus finishing the edits on my book so I could try and publish it before I leave, and not to mention trying to finalise plans to walk and pack up my life for 6 months or more.

Then 1 week ago, after back-to-back days walking 16 and 20 kilometres in the Dandenong Ranges and beside the Yarra River wearing the Princess boots, the Morton’s neuroma in my left foot returned. The nerve between my third and fourth metatarsals is compressed and fibrous tissue has formed around it causing constant pain and discomfort.

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The power of silence

The power of silence
"Silence is a source of great strength." — Lao Tzu

Silence is a continuing theme in my life right now and Lao Tzu’s quote has inspired me again.

Dictionary.com defines silence as the absence of sound; stillness.

I define silence as the great undercurrent that holds everything together.

When sound is absent, there is still something there. If you pay attention and try to hear silence, you can feel it. It is an energy that has a deep and eternal source. It holds us as if in cupped hands even when we’re busy noisemakers, even when we forget that it is there.

It is the silence that carries me when I walk and helps me to keep going when the going gets tough.

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Ending this fall of silence

Ending this fall of silence
"Silence is a source of great strength." — Lao Tzu

As we transition seasons from Autumn to Winter here in Melbourne, the remainder of the deciduous trees are in the final stages of surrendering their autumn dresses of lemon and lime, and tangerine, wine red and paper-bag brown. And I feel ready to surrender the silence that unexpectedly enveloped me after I fell.

I spent 1.5 weeks on crutches and 3 weeks applying ice for two hours every night to reduce the enormous swelling. An x-ray confirmed it wasn’t broken. However, I tore the anterior talofibular ligament in my ankle almost entirely apart. As you can imagine, this isn’t ideal for someone planning on walking thousands of kilometres. The healing has been steady but slow. And the fall triggered realisations that caused me to surrender plans made:

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A story about falling and its lessons

A story about falling and its lessons
"What you can plan is too small for you to live." — David Whyte

For the last six weeks I have danced with an illness that has required me to pull back from boxing, social activities and even walking. I have walked only 10 to 12 kilometres once each when I planned to be walking significantly more by now. Sometimes even this was too far and I had to pull back into rest and stillness. It felt like one step forward, one step back.

Then on Sunday, in one single moment, every thing changed. Unexpectedly, I took a giant step back into a stepless place.

I just finished writing my newsletter, put my computer aside then stood to walk upstairs to fetch my sheets to launder when disaster stuck. The toes of my sleepy left foot curled under and the full weight of my body came down hard on the top of my foot that was touching the ground where the sole should have been. Pain roared instantly and I knew that my foot was badly injured — that it could even be broken.

Standing on my right leg only, I pulled off my ugg boot, looked at my left foot and gasped in horror. On top of my foot was a huge, dark lump, the size of a small chicken egg getting larger by the second. I needed to ice it and elevate it immediately.

I managed to hop to the freezer to grab an ice pack, hop to the bench to grab the phone then hop over to the couch and raise my foot up above my heart. Then the shock kicked in. I phoned friends for help, sobbing that I’d done something really bad to my foot, rang the after hours medical clinic for an appointment so I could avoid spending hours waiting in emergency at a hospital, then lay on the couch shivering from the shock as I waited for my friend Tracy to arrive.

As I waited, I wondered how this would impact my pilgrimage: would it be better if it were broken or just soft tissue damage i.e. which would heal more quickly? Will it heal in time to walk in September? What if it doesn’t heal in time? How would I feel if I had to postpone the pilgrimage?

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The truth about boots and life

The truth about boots and life
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." — Marcus Aurelius

After almost three months of researching and trying on many different boots, and after purchasing then returning three pairs of boots that I thought were "the ones" only to discover they weren’t, my boot hunt has finally come to an end.

I have spent hours online searching for boots, reading reviews by experts and recommendations by pilgrims and hikers in various forums. Some people swear that leather boots are the only ones to buy. Some say forget boots and wear runners. Others suggest sports sandals are just fine. One person claims that boot X is "the best" while another says boot Y is.

I have spent many hours in different shops trying on boots, stomping down ramps and steps to see if my toes touch the ends; walking around with a weighted pack on my back to test the sole's thickness and shock absorption. At first boot X seems like the perfect boot until its heaviness and rigidity makes my feet ache and throb so I move on to boot Y but it is too thickly padded around the top and rubs and irritates my ankles. I’ve also spent hours at home wearing newly purchased boots as I cook dinner or do washing or walk laps of the dining room to see how they feel on my feet for an extended period of time. 

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The happiness of boot hunting

The happiness of boot hunting
When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It's a whole different way of thinking. — Elayne Boosler

Once upon a time in what seems another lifetime ago, I used to spend almost every weekend at Melbourne's fashion capital — Chadstone shopping centre, spending a lot of money buying lots of clothes and shoes. Almost every weekend. Seriously. I didn’t even really like shopping but still I went every weekend and spent a lot of money that I often felt guilty about. 

What I didn’t consciously understand at the time was that I was trying to fix everything that was wrong in my inner world by making it look all shiny and perfect on the outside.

The truth was that I was desperately unhappy – in my relationship with my long-term boyfriend, in my career and within myself. And instead of facing what was really going on, I distracted myself by shopping for clothes to mask my loneliness, depression and misery with all things shiny and new.

In the middle of my spiritual crisis/awakening, I found the courage to walk away from what was no longer serving me – my relationship, my career and even my shopping – to follow my heart out into the world on a twelve month adventure that became a way of life.

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