I sat on a rock and dipped one ankle at a time into a swiftly flowing stream in the woods of Scotland. Ice cold water rushed over my feet. It was our fourth day of hiking the West Highland Way. The sun would journey with us for a couple of days, but most days it rained. Not that it dampened our spirits much, but we spent most of the week-long trek feeling wet despite the rain-gear we brought with us and the ponchos we purchased along the way.
The rain wasn't the biggest challenge for me. My ankles were. My body was rebelling against the long distance walking, 'scolding' me for the lack of physical conditioning in the weeks leading up to our trip. Splotchy red patches of heat rash made my skin burn and my lower legs swell. At the end of each day, I rinsed down with cool water, elevated my ankles, and cursed myself for not walking more throughout the month of June. The only other time I'd had exercise-induced vasculitis last year after walking 26.2 miles in the Santa Barbara sunshine (AVON Walk for Breast Cancer). I knew it wasn't a threat to my health, but it was uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. I felt 'old' and 'out of shape. I'm neither.
I'm young and strong and capable. I'm not easily daunted or discouraged. I came halfway across the world to walk 95 miles through the Highlands. Discomfort was not going to stop me from strapping on my boots each morning to scramble over rocks and tree roots along the banks of Loch Lomond, summit the Devil's Staircase on the way to Kinlochleven, and find rainbows shining over the Rannoch Moor. A little rain (OK - a lot of rain some days...) was not going to do anything other than make me wet (and sexy!) and obscure the view of a few mountaintops, which really only added to the romanticism of it all! Honestly, my ability to go the distance wasn't as much about perseverance as it was about trust. To begin with, my body had always been stronger than my mind would have me believe. I also do my best to take care of myself on a consistent basis, so that my body supports me when I decide to walk or climb or dance or make love. However, what's probably most important is having the self-awareness to balance determination with self-compassion. I'm always listening to my body - listening deeply so that I know the difference between allowing myself to feel uncomfortable versus pushing myself to the point of injury.
My Tantra practice has given me the opportunity to experience fatigue, fear, and pain in my body without needing to change it or run from it. Allowing myself to feel it all has guided me to a deeper understanding of myself - my limits and my capacity to move beyond imagined limits.
My legs are no longer swollen or discolored, and there are new memories stored in this body of mine. Memories of Scotland. Memories of wonder shared with my Beloved as we found our way from Milngavie to Fort William together. Memories of my own capacity to wake up each morning and step out into life with open eyes and an open heart. My body is still integrating all that I saw and discovered on my recent trip; my heart is already writing the next blog as I complete this one.
Do you take time to connect to the wisdom of your body? What would it tell you if you took time to listen? What adventures might it take you on in the months and years ahead?