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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Step back to step forward

Being in Ireland again – something I was hardly able to foresee, think about or contemplate when I was walking the Camino – has gently eased (or subtly forced) me back into a slower pace of life. It’s been quite a shock to the system to suddenly not be moving so constantly. 

Physically, the walking itself as well as slowing down and stepping away from it, have done me the world of good. I notice how my stamina has increased, how much more grounded and strong I feel when I’m out walking (I’ve even started jogging again, after YEARS of thinking it was bad for me… The Camino experience has made me realize how good it feels to do strenuous exercise, pushing the physical boundaries a little). Mentally, slowing down, has been tough. I’ve had a few days when my head has been screaming at me to get moving again. There’s been panic when I’d realize a move isn’t literally happening at this very instant. Of course, frustration follows suit. Mental turmoil, if we can’t find our centre, will lead to emotional earthquakes and inner explosions…

Needless to say, as the hills I’ve walked, go up and down, I too have been taking that same course since stepping away from the Camino. 

I never realized when I was walking just how much was being mentally sparked-off. A certain old way of perceiving life: going, going, going… without daring to STOP and witness the journey. Literally, when I was walking, I recall having stretches of let’s say 20 or 30km where I experienced EXACTLY that! I’d be walking so intensely, the mind would be racing, the legs would be on auto-pilot, I’d be dealing with whatever ache or pain that would show up on the body, I’d be fixated on finding the yellow arrows (which would guide me to that days destination), I’d be concerned about eating enough and finding the next meal and often fail to actually STOP in my tracks. The faster the mind goes, the harder it is to slow it down. And my mind hardly stopped, throughout the whole experience – whether I was moving to the next place throughout the mornings and early afternoons or lying down and refuelling in the evenings and nights. The speedy took over… and many times I felt I was walking away from myself.

If we never manage to slow down the constantly racing thoughts, of course stress and pressure accumulates. And for me it triggered my old need to RACE through life without consciously taking space to breathe.

When walking any camino it’s necessary to have a certain amount of stress. But it’s positive stress we need; this is what activates us to do certain things. It’s probably better to call this an energy that awakens due to being inspired and passionate to do something. Without it we’d become passive and lack the drive to actually get up and going. A person can’t pursue something that pushes the boundaries (on whatever level) without having a certain amount of positive stress produced by a drive and passion to pursue (and hopefully succeed at) something that’s so challenging. However, when that energy shifts and is no longer sourced from a deeper space of inspiration, it becomes something sourced from a superficial place – a place that’s never satisfied, that’s clouded, blind and only wishing to achieve for the sake of face, regardless of what the feelings are telling us to do – then the stress becomes a negative form and a person starts losing themselves in what they’re doing.

There’s a fine line between positive focus and negative force. The first we can sustain, the latter we can’t. The first empowers, the latter drains. Positive focus enables us to enjoy what we’re doing. It permits us to feel our limits, to accept those limits and to be real about how we’re experiencing our experience. Negative force doesn’t care one way or the other; it will push the individual to do, achieve and reach whatever it’s aiming for, even if the eyes are closed to the surroundings and the body isn’t strengthening but only weakening as a result of the challenge.

Looking back, I can see how I had times of positive focus but also of negative force. And I know that was all part of the learning experience. I could hardly see any of this – at least not as clearly as I can see it now – when it was happening. Only by stepping away, I’ve come to see it as such. And I’m delighted I stopped when I did; I’m certain I gave power my positive side and NOT my negative side, by doing so.  

Now that I’m slowing down and the racing mind is changing its focus, I sometimes feel I’ve lost something, that I’m falling and there’s nothing to catch me. But I know this is just an illusion – of course as it always is. The mind will do its best in convincing us that where we presently are, is the wrong place and what we’re doing isn’t enough. This is only logical reaction, taking into consideration the extreme differences in reality that have been encountered; so close in space and time, yet worlds apart in experience.

So, I’ll sit through this strange period of transition. I let panic and frustration fly away. I breathe, I breathe and I breathe. I focus on where I want to head, trusting that it will work out in due time, in whatever way it’s meant.


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  3. Dear Niamh,

    Apologies for not responding to your Twitter requests, but I am not on any of the social networks. Just the email that you have.

    How are your daily Vipassana sittings going? Any recent courses?

    Now that you are back in Ireland, you could keep in touch with the local centre there:

    Irish Vipassana Trust
    Mail Address:
    C/O Clifton Lodge,
    Corbawn Lane,
    Co. Dublin,
    E-mail info@ie.dhamma.org
    Site www.ie.dhamma.org

    There is also a centre in England:

    Vipassana Trust, Dhamma Dipa, Pencoyd, St Owens Cross, Hereford HR2 8NG
    Tel: 01989 730234 Fax: 01989 730450

    General Info: info@dipa.dhamma.org

    Do keep in touch if you need help with the technique.

    Warm regards and much Metta.

    Mario Mascarenhas,
    Goa. India.

  4. Cara Niamh,
    spero che tu stia bene!

    Riconosco di non essere un esperto d'informatica e per questo motivo soltanto ora riesco a leggere il contenuto di questo post dal titolo "Passo indietro per andare avanti" molto significativo e intenso che bene esprime la metafora del "cammino della vita" con il "cammino della Plata" che ho avuto il grande piacere di percorrere,anche se soltanto per qualche tratto, insieme a persone meravigliose come una ragazza dal nome, nuovo per me, Niamh.

    Trovo molto interessante il tuo scritto anche se viziato dalla traduzione,non conoscendo l'inglese o l'irlandese; cercherò di rileggerlo con più attenzione!

    Ho pure visitato il tuo profilo dove ho piacevolmente rivisto tanti amici e luoghi del cammino ritratti nelle tue meravigliose foto.

    Colgo l'occasione per rinnovare il piacere di averti conosciuta e ti abbraccio!

    Auguri per il tuo libro Digesting Wisdom e i successivi!

    P.S. (Mi piace lo foto di copertina del presente scritto)