Magic on the Camino….

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The wonderful comraderie of sharing a meal with fellow pilgrims.

The “magic of the Camino” is alive and present and was witnessed 3 times last night during dinner at our posada.  There were 13 of us, all seated at the same table, and about 15 minutes into the meal, the woman across from me, originally from Honduras but now living in Texas, made the connection with the woman seated right next to her, who was from England.  They both realized that they had spent a lot of time walking together on the Camino 3 years ago.  The British woman was walking with her husband during their walks the last time, but this year, was walking it alone as she said the walk was too strenuous for her husband.  The woman seated next to Susan, who was traveling with the Honduran woman, was also a part of that group from 3 years ago.  Of course once they made the connection, there was all sorts of remember whens and affection shown between them.  It truly was touching to watch the reunion and hard not to see it as magic on the Camino.

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imageEarlier in the day, Peter, from Austrailia (of course, where else?), who Susan and I had seen day 2 of the Camino but not since, had arrived and we were all thrilled to see each other again as we had often wondered what had happened to him.  I was seated next to him at dinner and after the surprise of the 3 women re-uniting, he told me that he also had some Camino magic to share.  He asked me if I had seen the rock sign a few days ago that said “Aussie Peter.”  I had, and happened to be walking with another Austrailian, who has also weaved her way in and out of our days.  Sharon and I saw the large arrow made of rocks that pointed to “Aussie Peter.”  Next to that was a big rock with a note underneath it.  We both stopped and commented on it, wondering if that “Aussie Peter” would ever actually see his name and retrieve the message that was next to his name and under the rock.  Well, he did because he was sitting right next to me and showed it to me!  He had met a mother/daughter from Scotland who had written the note and wished him well on his Camino as well as sharing their contact info with him.

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Arrow to the message…

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Aussie Peter!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many messages on the Camino for people and I have always wondered if they really are ever seen.  I got my answer tonite.

The 3rd bit of Camino magic that happened around the dinner table last night was when Susan and I recognized the couple on the opposite end of the table as the couple who was seated right next to us in a small Italian restaurant where we ate in Burgos, over a week ago.  I thought it was a huge coincidence, but when I said something about sitting next to them at the Italian place, the wife simply said, “Yes, I remember…”  Obviously, she didn’t see the magic that I did, so I let it go.

If your eyes and heart are even a little bit open on this journey, there is truly magic to be seen.  It’s hard to describe, but easy to feel.  As I was beginning to head to our room after dinner, the Honduran woman approached me and gave me a big hug and told me that she was sure our paths would cross again.  I’ve got to think she was probably right on that.

All systems working… well ALMOST all…

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image imageWell go figure… all that sneaking around and hoping the mind wouldn’t tell the body that it is time to be tired, didn’t exactly work but now a new theory has come into play….

It seems that no matter the distance, it is ALWAYS 6 1/2 hours of walking.  Maybe subconsciously, on shorter days, when we make our mid-morning stop for breakfast, we relax just a wee bit more and that’s how the times always work out to be the same.  6 1/2 hours of walking, no matter how you pace it out.  It is what it is.  Another observation along the same lines is that whenever one of us is checking time or distance remaining, it is ALWAYS 10 kilometers, or 2 1/2 hours.  No matter what.  So, even if the town we are headed to is in plain sight (which means being able to see more than the cathedral tower), we’ve learned to still call it 10 kilometers.  Granted, when on the meseta, and a town pops up on the horizon, we used to get so excited, but have learned over time that those horizon towns can be hours away.  Not exactly a mirage as they do surface eventually, but a lot farther off than we originally thought.  Even if we’re only walking 10 kilometers (which isn’t going to happen once, but for example’s sake…) and we’re 1/2 way there, we’re still 10 kilometers away.  No. Matter. What.  Seems to be another pattern running here…

Then my train of thought shifted from time to the physicality of all of this.  I thought a lot about our bodies and how hard they are working, day in and day out.  The feet are the main prize winners on this, still remaining blister free (in part I think as the temps on the meseta have been “unseasonably” cool (75ish) which in turn keeps the feet a bit cooler.  And then there are the legs, certainly contenders for MVP’sas they are lifting the heavy boots (we’re guessing over a pound each…) with each step.  Included in that system of course would be the knees and the hips, who are working non-stop to keep all the all the folks below them running smoothly.  Then there’s the back…. one can’t discount the work of the back that has 20 plus pounds hoisted up onto it (yes, we’re no longer calling it 18, simply because we are carrying fruit and Mars bars daily, none of which are featherweight).  The back is the work table with all the goods piled on top of it.  Go back!  You’re working hard. As are the shoulders, who are kind of the assistant managers to the back, while helping to hold up said 20 pounds of loot.  The arms keep the pole (we each only use one) where it needs to be, while the other is at the ready to grab the camera if need be.  There’s a lot of teamwork going on here, with no slackers in the bunch.  Oh… well ALMOST no slackers. The breasts.  We’ve concluded that they are simply free-loading as they’re doing diddly squat and they even require their own outfits, which by the way don’t dry near as quickly as all the other clothes.

So head to toe scan, that’s what we’ve come up with today.  Lots and lots of work going on with all the body parts (except two), which of course includes the head, as it’s keeping me immersed in thought as I pace through the Camino.  We’re on the meseta for approximately 10 days and it is said that this is the part of the Camino that is mental, the miles preceding being the physical part of the journey.  The landscape is hauntingly beautiful (said from a gal who was raised in Kansas, who has its own share of the “meseta”) but in its vastness, there is little else to look at…no distractions of buildings, or lakes, or trees or  signage or really anything but the pilgrims in your line of sight and the fields that meet the sky.  A cloud is a welcome sight.  I’m finding a real connection to the meseta as I’m someone who likes to hang out in my head quite a bit, but I certainly understand the challenge.  At first I felt like plugging into my iPod would be cheating but we all make our own Camino, and the “rules” that go along and my rule is go to the music until the battery dies.  Besides a bit of a distracted of time, it adds a lot to the already beautiful landscape.  Daniella Romo, my favorite Mexican singer, got me across much of today’s meseta.  Gracias a Daniella and apologies to those walking behind me given what they had to hear and witness.  My hiking pole was swinging to the beat…a pole dance of sorts, I suppose.  This is not an all day thing for me though as I find the quiet to be quite inspiring,especially in the early morning hours.

The monotonous days are teaching me patience and living in the moment, while the moments or hours or days of breathtaking beauty are teaching me the importance of gratitude.  The amazing pilgrims I’ve met along the way are reminding me that kindness, compassion and caring for others are thankfully still very much alive and well.  All you have to see is a fellow pilgrim limping along and each and every person who passes him, stops to ask if he’s OK.  I witnessed this today while on the final stretch into our town.  I’m continually touched by such acts of kindness and compassion.

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A “hospital of the heart” that we walked past early this morning while on our way out of town…a place to go for quiet thought. I wish we had discovered it sooner…What a beautiful idea.

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The mind and the body are in cahoots and we’re paying.

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Walking, walking, walking…
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Man wears spaghetti ascot… oh wait… that doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but funny, huh?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve had a lot of time to think… about 6 to 7 hours a day for the past week.  The Camino is the perfect time to think, until it’s not, and honestly, that’s when you’re in trouble.  Trouble,  because you can’t escape yourself, or your thoughts no matter how much you try.  So here’s the thought process that I couldn’t escape today…

Without exception, it is ALWAYS the last hour that seems to be the problem for both Susan and I while walking the Camino.  The last hour is when the feet start crying out and the body is simply tired.  That would make sense if every day we walked the same amount of time and it was the same degree of difficulty, but that’s simply not the case.  The times vary and some days have been shorter and much easier than others, yet it is still that last hour that brings the trouble to the forefront.

So, this is what I’ve come up with while pacing myself through 7 hours on the open, exposed, unchanging views of the meseta today…

The body and the mind are in sink, something that I know from yoga and try to achieve, yet right now, at this very moment, I feel like the two of them need to be separated because they are simply causing trouble by working together.  The mind, at some point during the day, says to the body, “OK, I heard Laurie talk and looks like she’ll be walking for 7 hours today.  So, you know what to do around 6 hours.  Oh and she’s on a sister trip, so this is going to go on for a while. Those two push limits when together….”

To that, the body responds, “OK, got it.  I’ll start the feet in complaint mode, at about an hour before their destination, then will target the more sensitive areas, such as Susan’s knee and Laurie’s shoulder, if need be.  It will insure that they both will continue to do the right thing… legs up the wall, lots of water, yoga poses, etc.”

Those two.  Their scheming is hurting the last hour of our game.  When the mind seems to know when the body is going to hit the wall, so to speak, and once that power has shifted, there’s no going back and it is ALWAYS one hour before quitting time.  I think it’s time to trick the mind and buy ourselves some time…. an hour precisely.

And then there’s the whole leaving early thing…. I truly believe that the body doesn’t start keeping track until it’s light out.  I know.  Weird.  But it does seem to hold true for us.  We’ve got a pretty hard day ahead of us tomorrow and with my concepts of darkness being a free spot on energy expension, we’ve decided to leave 2 hours before sunrise just so we can log those two hours of physical difficulty without the body really knowing about it.  You know… sneak it past it, in the dark of the night.  The stuff my mind goes to sounds kind of crazy as I’m typing this but I have to think it’s the case of pushing both physically and mentally father than usual that has brought me here.

So…. back to that last hour that hands down is hard, regardless of what preceded it or for how long….

If the head would just leave the body alone this wouldn’t happen.  The two need to be separated.  That’s all there is to that.  Susan thought a time out for the mind could be a plan.  Now, just to incorporate that idea….

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Daily routine and we’re not the only ones… all of the walls from where we’ve stayed have spots on the walls right where the feet hit.

6 or 7 hours a day is a long time to spend wandering in and out of your thoughts.  Hopefully tomorrow something a tad more brilliant will surface, but for now, I’m just trying to keep the mind from over communicating with the body and starting to spread rumors that the body is tired, an hour before I THINK it is.  For the record, our 7 hour day tomorrow is now being called 8 hours.  Shifty.

 

From country to city (San Juan de Ortega to Burgos)…I prefer the country…

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Silhouetted pilgrim in the morning sunrise…

Today started out with an hour of walking under the faint light of a full moon (with headlamps to help).   I’m not sure there is a more peaceful and inspiring way to begin a day.  It was so quiet that all I could hear was my own breathing and the sound of my boots hitting the dirt and stone pathway.  There was a couple ahead of us, which did give us a sense of comfort as the yellow arrows that give us our direction, were hard to spot.  The guy ahead of us stopped to warn us of a cattle grate, which had some pretty big gaps.  Given that it was dark out, it could have been a disaster, or a sprained ankle, had we not been wearing the headlamps or had he not given us warning.  He was a good pilgrim.

We meandered through small, charming towns stopping at the first one for a coffee because our hotel had nothing but a coffee vending machine, which we were forewarned about from the Austrailians…. all cold and not drinkable.  It was a charming little restaurant that was quite busy with only a woman and her husband working there.  Still, the cafe con leche was made one cup at a time and the orange juice hand squeezed.  I admire the work and dedication they put forth in eating good food.  Nothing seems rushed.

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We meandered through the beautiful landscape that we’ve become quite spoiled with, stopping along the way for a fruit and cheese lunch.  Every day seems to be prettier than the last… but today didn’t end that way… things turned south for the last 4 plus hours of our walk to Burgos. There was more than one route to take today and although we never saw a sign that gave options, we also didn’t pay much heed to the guide book’s warning of of various paths to take. Needless to say, the route we chose, or that chose us I suppose, as neither of us remember a choice, wasn’t the best.  It took us past the airport, alongside a highway and down a busy street filled with factories. I felt like we had walked along side I-35 to the downtown airport then hit the industrial section of town.  The scenery was not what we have grown accustomed to and having cars honking while we dashed across highways, didn’t feel good at all.  The shift change at the Bridgestone Tire facory on the outskirts of Burgos was the most interesting thing we saw… all the guys headed to their cars with their lunch boxes while the new shift of workers came in.  I swear, it had to of taken 10 minutes to walk past the factory… it was that big.  We both wondered several times if we were even still ON the Camino but eventually passed a German man we had met earlier who said,
“The Camino is a metaphor for life, isn’t it? And this would be the not so good part.”

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Good grief, did we walk ourselves all the way to Las Vegas???
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This was not a pretty part of our journey….

Well said, German friend.

Burgos is a big city. We should eat well tonite.

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True confession… once to Burgos, this is how we got to our hotel… via cab.  It was a 15 minute ride, so no telling how much longer we would have been walking.  We had already walked 27 km and were beat.  I think we both were initially reluctant as it seemed like “cheating,” but we chose right.

A whole lotta better today….

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What a difference a good night’s sleep makes… the day before, in Najera, there was a religious celebration of sorts taking place with a lot of music, dancing and revelry in the main square until nearly 5 am.  It was so loud, that there were times I thought they had entered our room.  They didn’t, but much of the celebrating was right below our room.  Spaniards have a different clock than we do and Susan and I still don’t feel like we’ve cracked the code on it.  They eat late, at least 10:00 or later, kids and all,  and seem to get up at the “normal” time.  The towns shut down in the afternoon (shops anywhere from 2 or 3 in the afternoon until 7 or 8 at night, when they open again until 10 then close for dinner and the night.  I’m intrigued, but kind of exhausted just thinking about it.  Towns literally feel like ghost towns when we’re walking through them… still asleep?  Just quiet?  Or afternoon siestas?  They do take their siestas seriously and given that their nights last so long, I’d guess it is a necessity.  Last night in Santo Domingo, there was no celebration, no music, no fireworks, no cathedral bells and so a very good night’s sleep was had by all.  Or at least by Susan and I.  Thank you, España.

We are finding our routine… our rhythm, our pace, our schedule and our favorite snacks to get us through it all.  I’m concluding that it takes 4 days for the body to say, “OK, I get it.  I see the pattern and know the routine.”  I feel stronger, have no blisters, feel like I’m in overall pretty good shape and am not really sore, but it seems that no matter the distance, one hour before arrival, my feet begin to protest, and I can hardly blame them.  Boots off is a highlight of the day, followed of course by legs up the wall and a manic devouring of whatever snacks we collected throughout the day.  We’ve been leaving early, on the Camino by 7, which of course has us wanting dinner at 4, which in this crazy, late night of eating country, simply isn’t going to happen.  Thank goodness for snacks and the pilgrim dinners that we can usually find by 6 or 7.

The people we’ve met, the stories we’ve heard and the incredible scenery we’ve paced our way though – THIS is the beauty of the Camino.  From the rainbow that presented itself yesterday, right when I seemed to need a push, to the man who poured some peanuts in my hand as he passed me today, just when I was realizing how hungry I was (peanuts in Spain are far better than any I’ve ever had before…) to the encouragement felt simply from hearing the words, “Buen Camino,” it’s all magic of the Camino.  Today, for the first time, I listened to my iPod.  Watching the long road ahead of me, sprinkled with pilgrims, most walking alone, while listening to Spanish guitar music, brought tears to my eyes.  Everyone here is here for a reason, some probably won’t realize that reason until long off of the Camino.  It touches me deeply and inspires me profoundly.

I’m blessed beyond words, to be able to take this journey both with Susan, and alone.

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We’ve got a ways to go….
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Our digs in Belorado

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Pack envy.

While seated on the floor in the Atlanta airport (to access the outlet for charging), I noticed the woman seated nearby’s backpack, which had a Camino patch on it.  I asked her if she was walking the Camino.  She is.  All of a sudden we had so much to talk about and she’s my new best friend in the Atlanta airport.  This quick and instant connection was one of my favorite parts of walking the Camino and it made me happy to see it return before even getting to Spain.  Another woman, also with a pack with a Camino patch, joined us, and asked if we’d watch her pack while she went to fill her water bottle.  Her pack was small.  I mean really small.   Woman #1 looked at the pack, then looked at her pack then asked me, “Is there such a thing as pack envy?”  I then asked her how much her pack weighed, a pretty standard conversation opener on the Camino, and she said, with a somewhat discouraging tone,  “16 pounds.”.

“Oh yeah….there is definitely such a thing,” said the girl whose pack was now tipping in at 18 ish pounds.  The ish covers the hair conditioner and the extra scarf I added this morning on a crazy whim.

She then said,  “I added my hair conditioner last minute…. oh and some mascara and some blush and I’m feeling kind of guilty about that.”

The Camino comraderie has already begun.  I didn’t feel so alone as I boarded my flight to Madrid, knowing that there were at least 3 of us headed to the Camino and I sure felt more justified in the last minute addition of the small bottle of conditioner to my pack.  It really did feel like I was home again.

Susan arrives in Madrid tonite then we take the bus to Logroño in the morning and will begin walking the next day.  I’m clean, my clothes are clean and my feet are blister free.  Time to get this party started.

Packing, unpacking and readying myself for the Camino.

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31 days worth of life.
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Looking much smaller now that it’s squished into stuff sacks. And lighter too, right?

Never before I have spent so much time packing such a small amount of stuff to be gone for such a long time.  In a few days, I’m headed back to walk the Camino in Spain with my sister, Susan, finishing what we started last year, with approximately 400 miles left.  The big changes we’re making this year is that we have decided to carry our gear rather than have it carried for us,  while we carried a small day pack to hold the day’s necessities.  Suffice to say, the packing, or more accurately, unpacking, has become quite a challenge.  What it boils down to is being forced to make the decision between want and need with each and every item before it is put into the pack.  The difference between want and need easily came into play when I took the pack (newly named armoire, or arm for short), for a spin.   That cute gray striped shirt?  Want.  The bottle of hair conditioner?  Again, want.  Who knew that I really needed so little?  (heads up, I’ll have variations of the same outfit in all photos for 30 days and my hair will be an unconditioned fright…).  And I’m not done with the thinning yet.  What I won’t be stingy with is the water, and at 4 pounds a gallon (the size of my hydration bladder), it will claim 1/5th of the weight.   I couldn’t help but think of Cheryl Strayed’s 50 pound pack in her book, “Wild” and how she had to back herself into as it was too heavy for her to pick up and put on her back.  My newly lightened pack  seems more like a small clutch bag in comparison.

Several people have asked me why we decided to carry our own stuff rather than have it schlepped for us daily,  and recently,  while on a local trail and 7 miles in, I wondered that very thing, but only for a split second. This is the right decision.  No looking back.  No regrets.  To me it represents getting a handle on what is really necessary and what isn’t – both in life and on the Camino.  One of my biggest takeaways after walking 100 miles on the Camino last year is what a metaphor for life it became.  So many of the words that apply to life in a rather fluid sense, such as, “One foot in front of the other,” “You have more in your reserve tank than you even begin to tap into,” or “Life gives you what you need, when you need it,” became daily, very practical mantras for the both of us.  I remember one day Susan pointing out where we were going to end up that day and seeing the barely visible wind turbine on the top of what I’d call a small mountain was a very daunting site, especially knowing that we’d be walking our way there.  One foot in front of the other became my mantra that day.  It was also what kept me in the moment, rather than than in the head game of:  I want to be there NOW, it’s far, I’m bored, I’m not sure I can do it and why don’t we do beach vacations???  Carrying all of the “stuff” we will need for the next month figures into this for me.  It feels simple, utilitarian and efficient.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to want to do a major closet clean out when I get home, especially after having lived with so little.  Just a hunch.

I’ve read a lot of Camino posts on various forums and have come to the conclusion that there appears to be a lot of lying going on out there regarding pre-Camino packing and weights.  One woman said her pack weighed in at just under 12 pounds.  This same woman’s packing list included a sarong and a merino wool sweater for “evening wear.”  Good grief.  I won’t even add in my tinted Burt’s Bees for my “evening wear” simply because of the weight!  There is NO way her pack could have weighed 12 pounds if she brought other clothes, even if the sarong was made out of net.  The numbers simply don’t work, unless maybe she doesn’t drink water or wear socks.  I’m feeling pretty darn proud of my pack, tipping in at 19.6 pounds with a full bladder of water.

That weight just happens to be what my middle child, Grant, weighed when he was almost a year old.  All of my family know that I spent most of his first year with him in a front pack or perched on my hip.  My kids truly believe that that is where the saying “Carry Grant” comes from.  He was fussy.  He wanted to be carried and so we did, or more accurately, I did.  Hey, I’ve got this!  I’ve done this before only this time my pack won’t be crying AND I won’t have to feed it!  Who knew what preparation I was giving myself for 28 years in the future?

I’ve gone out for the past 5 days, on a local bike trail, to test the pack, but more importantly test my body carrying the pack.  I really do believe that after taking out a couple of things, on the next walk I’m going to have a “holy cow, now that feels great!” kind of reaction.  That’s not exactly happened, but the carrying has gotten easier, and probably not because I took out the night shirt and hair conditioner, but because bit by bit by tiny bit, I’m getting stronger.

I look a little over-exuberant on my local bike path decked out in hiking boots and a frame pack and the expressions on the faces of people I pass reinforce that.  OK, not really, no one bats an eye, but that’s how I feel.  I did have a little girl ask me yesterday where I was going and not wanting to bore her or the woman who was with her (her grandmother?) with the whole pilgrimage or the Camino or even the Spain thing, I answered her, “To the parking lot.”  She looked confused.  Poor tyke.  I should have said something a little  bit more exotic, like Montana… or Nebraska…anything but the parking lot.

I’ve probably got a couple more rounds of taking everything out of the pack, removing a few things, then hesitating and adding at least one back in then re-stuffing it all back into the pack. It seems to be my hobby these days and a necessary part of the process, not just in the weight control department, but in mentally preparing and processing exactly what it is that I’ve got ahead of me.  That being said, I’ve heard countless times that the Camino will provide you with what you need, when you need it.  I think I’ll take out more stuff…

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Does all that stuff make my pack look big?

 

Yoga teacher training, 3rd module. It’s a wrap.

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With Max Strom, my yoga teacher training teacher.
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Home sweet home for 28 days total..

A few weeks ago I completed the final module of my yoga teacher training, 200 hour certification. I’m feeling pretty darn proud of myself for getting to this point as I came very close to not finishing it at all.   I thought seriously about not returning for the final module and had come up with a gamut of excuses to justify what amounted to quitting, although I never could quite use that word.  It wasn’t easy for me to face the truth as to the real reason that I debated “quitting” and that was fear.  I was afraid.  Plain and simple.  I had a pretty good idea that during the 3rd and final module we would have to teach the other 24 students in the class, whether just a few postures or the worst case scenario,  an entire class.  We hadn’t been told what to expect specifically, so my mind took the worst case scenario and began to run a marathon with it.  That’s when the small seed of stage fright developed into a full-sized,  still growing, demon, who clearly thought I would have been better off just cutting my loses and quitting.

As the days passed, Max, our teacher, began to ask for volunteers to teach various postures to the class.  Looking back, my best move would have been to be the one to go first simply to get it over with, but I couldn’t quite get that hand of mine up to volunteer, so instead, I began the process of making myself “invisible” by hunkering down over my notebook with the pretense that I was taking very important and time sensitive notes.  Of course in reality I was working diligently at avoiding any kind of eye contact which could send the false signal of being volunteer ready.  This is an old trick that I learned in junior high algebra, where I seldom had the right answer, or any answer at all,  so would bury my head in my book with hopes of not being noticed.  The system must have had some success as it traveled with me to high school (history class) then onto college (anything related to math).  It’s not all that different from the child who closes his eyes to become invisible, only now I know.  I still show.  Seriously?  I’m still doing that?  What are you, nine???  Those old defense mechanisms that come into play when pushing against doing something that makes you uncomfortable, are pretty darn strong and have a good memory to boot.

Deep down, I knew full well that I could teach a posture or a series of postures after years of practicing yoga and two modules of taking that learning to a far deeper level,  but there was a whisper that kept looping through my mind that said, “Yea, you can, but do you want to??”  Again, my stage fright fears had taken control of the wheel and I just seemed to be along for the ride.

Walking seemed to be a great compliment to the long days on my yoga mat, with both note taking and practicing, and so I began the habit of an early morning walk at dawn,  then again in the evening after class.  It felt good to let go of everything, especially the yoga, and let my mind wander.  I was pretty deep into that wandering one evening when I almost stepped on a small field mouse that had come onto the sidewalk and decided to stop dead center in front of me.  Now for those of you who don’t know me well enough to know some of my personal “quirks,” I must confess…. I am afraid of mice.  Very afraid.  I’d be much happier (maybe “happy” is not the right word…) to find a snake in my basement, rather than a mouse.  That kind of afraid.  So, to see a mouse just inches from my feet was enough to get my heart beating faster! I started to slowly and most cautiously walk around him, but then hesitated and decided that that it was so odd that the lil’ fella had stopped right in front of me, that maybe he had something to teach me and so I stopped.  Seriously?  I was afraid of this tiny fella?  If it came down to fist on fist, I’d win hands down…his 1 1/2 inches of height maybe to my 65 inches, for sure.   IF he could have talked, I’m just sure he would have said, “You’ve got to be kidding…you’re afraid of ME???  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”  OK, I’m giving this mouse a lot of credit and probably far more brain cells than he actually had, but somehow, there was a message I was supposed to get that evening and the mouse seemed to be the delivery boy.  I also recognized that this was all very timely given what I was facing during the yoga and that there was a lot more going on here than my encounter with a little mouse.

The rest of my walk home I thought about the mouse and although I didn’t magically get over my whopping fear of mice, it did make me realize that so much of what I have come to fear is nothing more than a huge creation of something that may or may not exist….all taking place in my mind.  Kudos for the creativity, mind, but come on… could you slow it down just a little bit?  The fear of my getting up in front of 24 people, who I now call my friends, is the equivalent of my seeing a pack of rats wielding weapons rather than the reality of the little 1 1/2 inch tall field mouse.  My brain had become a fear-growing petri dish and I had given it just the right conditions to flourish – a constant flow of irrational thoughts.  The mouse was simply the metaphor for me to understand that.  Now, I’m still not going to say I like mice or think they’re cute or want anything to do with them, but having one stop in my path and show me his littleness to my bigness had given me a dose of reality.  Maybe the fear is not of the creature itself, but rather its method of a startling  introduction to me while dashing across the floor of a dimly lit kitchen.  Maybe my whole mouse/rodent fear needed to be re-evaluated.

And that’s when it hit me.   What was I really afraid of when it came to putting myself in front of a group of people and teaching them yoga?  I had no idea except to say that I was afraid of the unknown and until I knew what it felt like while in the throes of it, I really didn’t know.  Having made that declaration to myself, the next morning I proudly raised my hand when Max began to solicit  volunteers, and taught not only one posture, but a short series.  I needed to look that fear in the eye, embrace it, and move on.  Better yet, I needed to see that it was small, maybe 1 1/2 inches tall, just like the mouse.

I’ve been honest with my reporting thus far, so need to add that what I so quickly volunteered for was a series of postures that began while on the back, meaning that my audience was on their backs and were staring up at the ceiling rather than at me.  A whole lot easier, but I’ll take it as it still “counted.”  And surprise, surprise, it wasn’t bad at all.  In fact, it was kind of fun.

If I can tell an audience of even one reader at this point that I had a pretend conversation with a mouse while walking down a busy sidewalk then really, standing in front of 24 new friends and teaching a few postures, doesn’t seem the least bit scary or even vulnerable in comparison.  I’ve already covered my bases on that simply by sharing the absurdity of all of this.

Now that the 3rd and final training module is over, I’m feeling very grateful that I didn’t quit and decided to stick it out.  I completed the 200 hours and in the process of learning a lot about alignment, postures,  breath work and spine lengthening,  I learned a heck of a lot about myself, namely that stage fright is alive and well and is more than happy to do the steering, if allowed.  I jokingly told Max one day that yoga teacher training was making me taller, (after taking a long-shadowed photo of myself during one of my evening walks).  I’m beginning to think that there may have been a thread of truth to my joke and that maybe, just maybe,  I grew a little taller during the whole process of this training – one posture at a time.

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Getting tall…