My plan was to walk about twenty-five kilometers today but when I stop in Najera for a cup coffee, I have my doubts. After setting my pack down, it’s obvious that I’m feeling more than the usual soreness and my knees aren’t the only thing hurting today. The whole body is starting to ache and the fever is rising quickly. The older Spanish men sitting on bar stools watch as I struggle to go up the three stairs and out the Café. Once I’m back on the street, it’s obvious even to me that I simply won't be able to walk the thirteen kilometers to Santo Domingo, where there’s a place to stay. It’s time to surrender to this moment. Painstakingly, I walk about a kilometer to the Refugio in Najera, feeling fortunate that there’s a place to stay nearby. All I want to do is to find a bed and slip into my warm sleeping bag.
At the door of the Refugio, however, there’s a schedule that shows that it opens at 3pm, and it is now 10:30am. My options for the next four and a half hours seem pretty grim. I can lie on the bench outside, but it’s really cold outside. Or I can walk thirteen kilometers to the next Refugio and keep the body warm. Given that my body can barely move, I decide on the only thing I’m capable of doing -- stay. There are two others in a similar predicament waiting for the doors to open: a man with a cast on his foot who only speaks Spanish and a lady with bad blisters from the last Refugio who only speaks German. She recognizes me and we exchange sympathetic glances. Feeling the chills, I slowly walk over to a bench. Using my backpack as a pillow, I lie down and try to rest my eyes.
People come and go as I lay there, almost motionless. My body is completely drained, but the mind is surprisingly more alert than ever. There’s something about suffering that jolts us into the present moment. What part of me is suffering? I wonder. The high fever is warming the entire body, the aching pains are mostly in my back but when I try to watch it – it’s all just a physical sensation. The body is hurting, but there’s no suffering in the mind. For a change, there’s no story, no narrative for my mind to grab onto. Ego is subdued, creating total acceptance of the moment. Mental noise is replaced with clarity.
Physically unable to smile or say hello to the people passing by, my mind wanders to a metal Cross I saw this morning in a field. It was different than all other Crosses I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it was my own physical circumstances that made me relate to it more. What state of mind must Jesus Christ have been in to wish forgiveness for those that were physically hurting him? You have to be drowning in compassion for others. I’m not a religious person per se but every time I think of that cross, I get all choked up. When I’m not feeling well, I just want to find a bed, much less think about blessing those who are creating suffering for me. How far am I from having even a pinch of that compassion for the world? It's a humbling thought, as my heart overflows with gratitude for all the people in the world that have served humanity so selflessly.
As I lie bundled up in a scarf, gloves, and a hat, it starts to drizzle. Not exactly the best timing for my situation but I accept the water drops without cursing it. Most of the last two weeks have been very cloudy. Across the park, birds fly in circles across the clear blue sky. As soon as it starts to rain, though, I look up and the Sun comes out and warms my body. It happens several times and I get a strong feeling that nature is keeping a close eye on me. Ultimately, Nature is constantly eavesdropping on all of us -- and if we tune into it, perhaps we can co-create the reality in far greater capacities than we might've imagined. Without a doubt, I feel the connection with Nature. In this moment, when my body is in deep pain, I feel a lot of joy and beauty.
What part of me suffers? I wonder again. The part that suffers is the part that is disconnected from life. When we are connected, the body is merely an instrument to compassionately express Nature's interconnected-ness.