You’re up. Your body is sore. Your legs hurt. Your feet hurt. Your back hurts. It all hurts. You muster the energy to arrange your kit and stuff your backpack. You bend over, sitting on the edge of the lower bunk, and lace up your boots. You sit back up. You’re asking yourself, “Why? Why did I decide to do this?”
It’s the second day of your journey and everything feels.
The first few steps, the first few moves will be difficult. Your body will talk to you in unkind terms. Listen to it. Hear what it says to you. Reflect on the language your body is using. Reflect on the discomfort.
Now is the time to move. Now is the time to continue.
After a few minutes movement become smoother. After a while the body finds equanimity. After a few miles your footfalls become more rhythmic and you’ll find your pace. Take it easy at first, but keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Pilgrimage is a three-act narrative that starts with pain.
Act one finds the body in revolt. Legs refuse to move properly. Arms – for some reason – are sore. The back, unused to movement, is telling you to stop. But each day the discomfort subsides a little earlier.
You’re walking now, slightly downhill, through a quilted wonderland of trees and fields. There’s the farm track between staked-stone walls, out of town, through fields, over a creek. The stone bridge, the huge slabs of stone that have stood for centuries, takes you deeper into the countryside. The sun is up and dappled light falls across your face.
You haven’t noticed your legs for a while now. Your pack rides comfortably on your hips, weight distributed evenly. You take in a long gulp of cold water and a you look up – possibly for the first time today – to take in the snow capped peaks to your left. Basque country, with its sheep and terra cotta roofed villages, unfurls before you.
As you approach the next village, you smell coffee. You walk into the local bar and there’s a crusty Basque barkeep pulling perfectly crafted cortados from an ancient Lav Azza machine. He’s efficient and terse, but manages a smile as he slides a cup and saucer with a cube of sugar across the bar.
You sit at an Estrella Galicia café table on the sidewalk and sip hot coffee. You notice the hunched over old man walking his Great Pyrenees. The man has on wool trousers, a white shirt, wool coat, red scarf, and he’s got the coolest black beret on his head. The beret is cocked at an angle that seems unstable, but it stays put, as it has for the past 50 years.
Your day is well under way. You’ve moved through the initial discomfort and your consumed with a sense of wonder and pride and life.
Act one will continue for a few days yet. You’ve made it to your mat today. You’ve moved through the poses. You journey is just beginning.
Your body will complain for the next several days, but you’ll stick with it. You’ve made a commitment.
As your body grows stronger, you’ll look forward – more and more – to these daily rituals. You’ll find more energy. You’ll find yourself writing in your journal. You’ll find yourself.
Weight starts to drop. Muscles start to tone. Mind starts to focus. All of these things will become part of your normal day.