The Mystery of Sleep

The third day was a shorter stage of just 15 km according to my guide book. I estimated that would take me about five hours, walking an average pace of 3km an hour. There were a few ascents, only 300 metres or so, which seemed like a breeze after day one.

I’d gone to bed the night before about 9:15pm and hours later lay awake wondering, ‘What on earth is the secret to falling asleep?’ After so much physical exertion I thought I’d fall asleep easily. Instead I lay wide awake, reassuring myself, ‘OK, I may not be asleep but I’m still resting my body’ as I listened to the sound of snoring in the mixed dorm shared with five other pilgrims.

I thought the best thing I could do was make the most of the healing time and let the air dry the broken skin on my heels. It was too hot to be inside the silk sheet and I just had the sleeping bag wrapped around me a little. I appreciated the fresh sheets and pillowcase on the bed, the last few nights it had just been a row of plain mattresses in the dorms.

The simple things in life became more noticeable when much had been stripped away to leave the bare essentials. I felt happy with a refreshing shower at the end of the day, (preferably warm otherwise it was very quick), something to eat and a safe place to rest.

Milo, the polish pilgrim in the room, slept in the top bunk of the bed positioned at a right angle to mine. Sometimes our feet touched accidentally during the night and I woke up after finally falling asleep!

Early Mornings

The night before, Gaetano, the lovely Italian gentleman, had looked at my feet and shook his head before going to bed at 7pm. It had been a long day and I hadn’t even gone out for dinner by then. I found it amazing that he could go to sleep so early. He said he was an early bird and I guessed he’d be up at first light. The next morning I awoke to the sounds of him rustling around in the bunk below me.

I checked my feet when I got up and counted four blisters, the two on my heels of more concern than the others. I placed the second skin plasters carefully over the raw skin and then Gaetano came back into the room and said, “Ah finally, you’re up!” even though it was only 7am, early for me!

A Little Help From My Friends

Gaetano held something aloft that looked like the long hair from the tail of a horse and I looked at it, a little confused. “I’ve heard it helps blisters,” he explained, “I’m glad I’m not the one that needs to try it!” He pulled it apart, handed me half and said, “Just place it inside your shoes and around your heels.” I felt touched by his kindness, delaying his own start to the day to make sure I was ok.

Milo had something else that seemed to be a liquid version of a second skin and had a gel like consistency. All these new things I hadn’t heard about and I thought I was well prepared! We both rubbed gel around our feet before tying up our laces. With the horsehair in my boots I had padding for protection around the tender areas of my feet and the gel provided lubrication to avoid further friction that could lead to more blisters.

It took me a while to get ready with all the extra foot care required. Finally I was ready for the walk, it was 8am and the hospitalero looking after the hostel encouraged us to the door. I realised we were the last to leave and that departure times were quite strict! Milo, soon walking at a faster pace, went on ahead of me.

My Own Pace

I’d set aside five weeks to reach Santiago de Compostella and had a clear intention to walk the whole way and go at my own pace. Before the trip it was hard to estimate how long the walk would take and from research five weeks seemed feasible. I planned to take the walk day by day and knew I could book a later flight back to Australia if necessary. I was grateful that I had a flexible schedule with my freelance work. I could extend by a few more weeks and still be back in time for my commitment at the yoga school, to coordinate their next yoga and meditation retreat in Byron Bay.

The Wisdom of Listening

I’d heard stories of pilgrims pushing themselves and crying when they needed to pull out of the walk because of pain or injury. I felt that a ‘true’ pilgrimage was to walk every step of the way to Santiago de Compostella, without using any form of transport and knew I needed to look after myself to get there. I had to listen to my body and respond wisely, to practice ahimsa, the yogic concept of non-violence. I’d got myself into emotionally painful situations in the past by not listening and paying attention. How many times in life have I heard the inner voice and yet overlooked the message?

During the Camino I needed to listen to and trust my intuitive wisdom, my inner compass. Here in the Findhorn Foundation, inner listening is a fundamental aspect of living a spiritual life and every day before every task or meeting there is the practice of attunement, to connect with ourselves, to each other, to the spirit of the universe. The simple practice of becoming present and listening to the still small voice within helps create a greater flow in life and my lessons from the Camino continue in everyday life here.

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