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Archive for the ‘Camino, Northern Spain’ Category

I live with pain. In many ways I have always done so, especially throughout my adult life. Back pain has been constant since early adulthood, but over the last 5 years, pain has really moved in and become a close partner. The pain is in my legs and reminds me of it’s presence from the moment I place my feet on the floor at the bedside. It is with my until I retire at night.
Every step I take is painful and you might wonder why I am walking 100 miles on the Camino? Good question. Yes I have been to 5 West London hospitals for different investigations – all negative which is good. But still the pain and it sometimes affects the way I walk, with people occasionally asking why I am mildly limping.
A Pain Free Life is a book that has been recommended to me. The theory proposes that muscular and joint pain is due to body imbalance. Exercises are suggested which promote skeletal balance and thus reduce pain. I have been trying these and some improvement is being made, but still the pain.
Maybe pain is there for a reason? Facing my mortality is important, although not easy to do – I am getting older and cannot hide that truth. With a consultant we did talk about pain management and he offered all kinds of pain killing tablets. I rejected these because it is an important way the body speaks to me about what is going on. There is a need to be exposed to life as it comes, and that includes pain. We do make vain attempts to avoid it, by deadening ourselves – perhaps that is where addiction comes from, the desire to numb the pain,but it only makes it worse when it returns. Ask any former addict. Pain is there to remind me, lest I forget, of the importance of balance in my life. Not just physical, but in every area of life. I try to give attention to the work/life balance, but need regular reminder to make space for my personal life. It is tempting to focus on those things that are easy and comfortable to do or what we are driven towards.
For example, I exercise most days and if I am honest have to discipline myself to engage in a wide range of exercises. I will enjoy resistance training, but avoid cardiovuscular work if possible. There are other areas of my life where imbalance exists too and needs attention. Maintaining balance is vital to healthy living – that reminds me, it includes my spirituality as well!

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Nothing animates perigrino’s (pilgrims) more than a good blister! When walking on pilgrimmage covering anywhere between 12-20 miles a day, feet are a primary concern. Back home I rarely give my feet any attention, only when hurredly cutting toe nails.However, for the pilgrim feet are centre stage. Hardly a step is taken without some instant assessment about the health ofmy feet. Sensitivity to, and awareness of, feet, is important.
When reaching the ‘refugio’ (a pilgrims refuge where we stay) feet are inspected with extreme care and if a blister is discovered, others will rush to look, compare and share medical aids. “Are you going to leave it or drain the blister?” might be some of the dialogue that ensues, together with strategies for ongoing maintenence. I will spare you the rest of how this conversation might develop! It is amazing though, how lovingly the care can be offered from people you don’t know, who come from anywhere in the world, who might be sleeping next to me tonight in the dormitory, but may not see again in the morning. The comeradery of pilgrims has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Feet are considered extremities of the body but are obviously crucial to a healthy life. They are often ignored or even neglected, even though Reflexologists highlight the intimate relatedness of feet to vital organs of the body.
So far, I have not had any blisters so I must be doing something right!
I have often wondered about Jesus and the Maundy Thursday activity of washing the feet of his friends. Why did he do that? Yes it was a social custom and yes I realise he was demonstrating sacrificial love and what needed to be central to his future community. Maybe it is also about extending love to the extremities of our lives, nothing is beyond the reach of love. Is he wanting us to know that all of life is touched. And if so,maybe I can give my feet more attention on a regular basis! It would be a helpful reminder.

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