I am amazed at the resilience of the human body.
I had concerns about the physical demands of walking a week on the Camino de Santiago. I had never done anything quite like this before. I had taken long hikes but how would my body respond to the repetition of walking 10-20 miles every day? Grateful for the training I had done at home before heading to Spain, my body still had its share of challenges on the 100 mile journey – a flare-up in my plantar fasciitis, steel cables in my shoulders, and an aching back from the weight of my pack. Yet in the midst of soreness and discomfort what struck me most about my body was how it adjusted to meet the demands placed on it and how essential listening to my body was in that process.
My mind may have had certain ideas about how my hike should look but when I allowed my body to take the lead it rewarded me with greater capacity and ease. My mind would say “walk faster so you can arrive earlier today;” my feet and hips responding with immediate objection. If I let my body dictate the pace, I could stay in for the long haul more sustainably. I learned to slow down, to take in the feast of the environment, and to listen to my body’s needs.
Tired? Stop and rest. Better yet, take breaks proactively, before hitting a state of complete exhaustion. When it hurt to go downhill, I would walk in zig-zags, walk backwards or pause for a few moments admiring the view. I tried to be more curious about my body. Can I move differently? Notice how my foot lands? Swing my arms more? Explore the somatic landscape in new ways? Can I find a way to stay in….in spite of difficulty and struggle?
It seems a metaphor for life – Don’t quit when it gets hard; change your strategy, shift your focus. This served me well on the trail and has informed my way of being since I’ve returned home. I am re-examining my self-care practices, listening more closely to my somatic wisdom. I pace myself differently, take deeper breaths and rest before I’ve reached my limit.
My body and I are on much friendlier terms.