As we walk to breakfast I get a tinge in my left knee and I know that I’m about to have a bad day.
I’ve got a 22 km walk ahead of me from Roncesvalles to Zubiri and if yesterday was anything to go by it will be no walk in the park…
5 km in and I was right. My knee hurt every time I put my left foot down.
I’m in no mood to chat to a pilgrim who approaches me from behind and starts to talk to me. (Perhaps because I could smell her before I could hear her although I know I stink too)
“Your knee wouldn’t hurt so much if you used your sticks properly,” she said.
I was immediately humbled and reminded that I can learn something from everyone I meet. I let her show me how to use the sticks and took everything she said on-board immediately.
While my knee still hurt like hell, it hurt a little less. I saw her three more times that day and every time asked her to comment on and correct my form and technique.
I was listening to my favourite podcast as I hobbled along in pain when I remembered a meditation technique that might help.
I put my headphones away and started thinking about things my meditation teacher SN Goenka taught when he was alive.
He taught morality, mastery of the mind and purification of the mind. I realised that was exactly what I needed.
“Don’t make a physical pain a mental pain” he would say.
So, I concentrated on my breath. A technique called Anapana. As I did so I looked around at the beautiful Spanish forest all around me. My pace picked up and every now and then I realised I couldn’t feel my knee at all.
For 10 km I kept focussing on my breath. The pain didn’t go away completely but every now and then my personalisation of the pain did and I couldn’t feel it.
When things got really bad I remembered back to the breathing techniques our midwife showed me when I gave birth to my son Tyler. Breathe in for four sharp breaths, breathe out for four sharp breaths (I think Kundalini Yoga calls this “breath of fire”).
The terrain was beautiful but rocky and mostly downhill which is not good for knees. I kept saying to myself:
“This pain isn’t personal”
“This too will change”
“This pain is what I came to Spain for- I love my pain”
I’m not sure the signs along the way were accurate. The last sign I saw told me I had 2.6 km to go but it felt more like 4 kms of downhill torture.
Michael took good care of me- walking ahead and telling me the best way to approach different challenging slopes.
More downhill rocky slopes after more downhill rocky slopes.
Throwing everything I had at it I finally resorted to a little chanting.
And then I turned the chant to “Bed…Shower….Bed….Shower”
We finally arrived at Zubiri, ordered a beer and dinner and sat with an Italian couple who couldn’t speak English (and we don’t speak Italian). We managed to communicate with them though through sign language (and Michael used the iTranslate ap) We learned they were doing the Camino backwards…they had just come from Pamplona where we were heading the next day.
We high fived them when we left. “Buen Camino!”
Michael got us a cab to the hotel (which is slightly cheating but there was no more walking for me!)
We checked in to a beautiful hotel- such a contrast to the hostel we stayed in the night before. Had a shower that felt like heaven and collapsed. (Hotel Akerreta if you’re interested. It featured in the Way)
Next stop: Pamplona.
Lessons learned today:
- You can learn something from everyone you meet if you’re open to it
- Separate pain from suffering. Don’t make a physical pain a mental pain.
- Pain isn’t permanent
- When you ask for Vegetarian food, you’ll still get fish and chicken. You need to ask for no meat (sin Carne), no chicken (sin Pollo), no fish (sin Pescado)