A few days later we left for Kastraki… a village below a range of very unique mountains with isolated monolithic outcrops of solid rock towering into the sky. Perched on top of some of them, like fairytale castles are historic living monasteries (eight in active use). They are partially open to the public and are a massive tourist attraction for people from all over the world. We wanted to visit them.
We had unknowingly arrived during a Greek public holiday and accommodation was at a premium. Our first night was spent in a small room behind the kitchen of a popular central restaurant. Ambient temperatures were high and even higher behind the kitchen. Business was good into the early hours, people happy and voices loud. However, for us, sleep and rest passed us by.
The next day bleary eyed and zombie like, limbs and joints still not sure how they should feel; we went searching for something with a bit more quiet. We found it, on the outskirts of the village at the foot of the road to the monasteries and with fabulous views over the village to the mountains – our haven for the next six days.
We explored the local villages, visited three of the monasteries, (walking up from our hotel to two of them). Found and took footpaths through the mountains from the monasteries to the villages. We did a lot of strenuous walking and it was easy.
It was exhilarating. All stiffness aches and pains, having to make a forceful effort, had disappeared. Our successful canyon challenge seemed to have rejuvenated our body systems and made the last six days of our holiday a special pleasure.
I remember reading that when we push ourselves sufficiently the mitochondria (the energy converter particles in each cell in our bodies) start to reproduce more of themselves so that each cell can have more energy to do what we demand of it. But of course: if we don’t use it we lose it.
So create them and use them – rejuvenate and exhilarate.
We didn’t stop except to drink water or take a quick photo. After about five hours of solid walking the gorge basin opened out. Our path moved into an open plain with small trees, shrubs, almost no shade and constant exposure to the searing sun now at its highest point above us. Within minutes our clothes were drenched in sweat and clinging to our bodies. The path started to climb gently at first and then more acutely to the base of the canyon wall where the steep climb to the top started. A meandering, relatively well maintained stone path hugging the canyon sides with the occasional rocky over hang to snatch a few brief moments of respite from the glaring sun. The heat and the steep constant incline rapidly sapped the strength from our legs and the moisture from our bodies. It became a major exercise to put one foot in front of the other, a constant mental/ physical battle played, “stop, go”, “I can’t go on”, “yes you can”, “just a bit more” etc. etc. And so the battle raged getting more and more desperate as our pace slowed to little more than a snail crawl. Finally we reached the top, crying with exhausted relief. We had made it!!! We stumbled onto and over the narrow tar road and collapsed onto the bench in the strategically placed open shelter (clearly placed there for the likes of us).
When normal body sensations and mental clarity returned I slipped off my wet clammy saturated shirt and duly wrung it out leaving pools of liquid on the floor. Water from the tap in the shelter ran until our thirsts were slated. Some more minutes of idle recuperation and then we walked the last hundred metres or so around a bend in the road to Vikos’s centre; two restaurant/cafes some bungalows and a look-out point. We flopped into a seat outside the nearest restaurant, ordered a large beer and another bottle of water, placed my shirt on some hot sun baked boulders to dry, phoned for our host to come and collect us, relaxed, and waited for our lift – content with our day’s accomplishment.
Our host, Dimitris, told us that six hours and a quarter (which we had taken) to complete the 13 km gorge walk was considered a good average time for fit young people, so we were well satisfied. Back in our lodgings in Monodendri we showered and changed and let the experience sink in. The first physical reactions were felt that evening when walking down the cobbled road to dinner. The uneven surface of the road seemed to accentuate the stiffness that was setting in from our physical exertions of the day and little twinges of just acceptable pain were being felt in all joints from the feet up and into the hips and trunk.
That night we slept solidly and soundly no doubt giving us strength for the day to come. We woke up with intense stiffness all over, no joint or muscle escaping. A hot power shower eased the bulk of the pain and stiffness. Then to breakfast, ”Oh My God”, a short flight of stairs down to the dinning room, pain and suffering, on the first step down both calf muscles seized up with cramp, up or down whichever calf took the weight the cramp intensified along with the pain and suffering. Standing still on tiptoe for an interminable length of time eased the pain enough to gently and very slowly with gritted teeth move down to the next step, wait, get my breath back and repeat the procedure one by one to the bottom.
On even ground the after glow of the cramp seizures were still very painfully but at least I could move without gritting my teeth. Throughout that day any small downward step triggered the cramp reaction in the calf muscles. For the next two days we rested and walked slowly around the village on the most level roads and paths we could find. It helped work out some of the stiffness and pain in the muscles. *****************
From time to time in our lives if we want to do anything of real self value we have to move out of our comfort zone.
This year we took our holidays in June and decided to go to Greece. One of our objectives and a challenge out of our normal comfort zone was to go and walk the length of the Vikos canyon (some 900 metres high – the deepest in the world for its width). We like to walk but when we arrived at Monodendri (where we were staying) a small town near the canyon, we realised we weren’t as fully prepared as we thought we were for our self imposed challenge.
We were advised to do at least two shorter preparatory walks, which we did, before actually attempting the canyon. These walks made us realise that it was probably going to take a bit more effort than we had originally thought.
We set off at about 9:00 a.m. with mountain walking sticks provided by our host. The descent into the gorge canyon was steep on a very winding and uneven path with a lot of loose stones and in places sheer drops into the undergrowth, producing unpleasant but thankfully only brief bouts of vertigo. The 900 metres high gorge needed at least a 2 kilometre descent. Our calf muscles felt very relieved when we reached the bottom of the gorge basin and the path evened out somewhat.
We walked along the overgrown tree shaded sides of the gorge and regularly over loose scree and fallen trees and shrubs (from frequent rock falls) covering the path. On occasions we detoured over the smooth loose stones in the rocky river bed, all, severely challenging our ankle joints and sense of balance.
The path meandered up and down with frequent steep rocky ascents and descents, some slipping and sliding, dislodging of small and large stones, grabbing and part stripping of branches in our endeavours to keep upright.
At one point while scrabbling over some scree a snake slithered rapidly across the path in front of us and launched itself directly into a tree whose upper branches were level with our path, causing a quick shot of additional adrenaline to surge into our systems.
However, it wasn’t all hard going, our route had its special moments; little wild strawberries growing right next to the path provided us with a surprise breakfast snack. A delightful variety of many different shapes, types and colours of wild flowers and plants lined our route, when there were breaks in the tree cover we could see the magnificent sides of the
gorge with their blended shades towering around us. We passed through several fairy like grottos with moss covered trees and thick leaf covered floors which enveloped us in peaceful quiet and cooled us down from our exertions and the high temperatures (mid 30’s) of the day.
Frequently one hears people in all age groups (with the possible exception of the very young) attribute their aches and pains, their lack of energy, lack of enthusiasm, their scepticism, hopelessness, apprehension etc., etc., solely to their age.
These physical / psychic changes do more than just disarm us; they are often the result of continued stress and a continuing state of discontent. When someone I know blames their ills on age I try to encourage them to reflect and find the real reasons behind their negative mind state. They are the only ones that can alter it to recover their wellbeing and / or to feel more optimistic about life.
At the start of Plato’s Republic, Socrates asks the ancient Céfalo if he considers old age to be the cruelest period of life. And he replies, certainly not, and that those who lament and cry that the cause of their ills is their age, need to be told that on the contrary, the cause is their own character, and that a bitter character and the inability to accept the conditions of life in each period are the causes of unhappiness, not only in the old but also in the young.
The novelist Almudena Grandes, being interviewed by a journalist on the question of age, smilingly replied that, apart from a few extra kilos and wrinkles, the years have brought her, power, knowledge, and a major sense of control. The journalist then commented that now at 60 she was starting a new creative stage.
As living beings it is natural for us to be healthy. Sickness or dis-ease is a sign that we have or are, moving away from our natural state.
Our bodies have been identifying, changing, converting, destroying and preventing invading substances and organisms inside us since before we were born.
In Chinese Medicine it is recognised that the majority of illnesses are emotional in origin. Although we cannot always control events in our lives it is our beliefs about these events which bring on emotional distress. Constant negative beliefs / emotions change our internal environment via the hormonal endocrine system and in turn, affect our natural state to be healthy.
We can change our beliefs. Our emotions are related to our beliefs, not to the events in our lives. Changing our beliefs changes our emotions which in turn can change our internal environment.
Event – diagnosed with a potential serious disease.
Belief – I’m going to be bedridden, a burden to myself, dependant on others.
Emotions – fear, worry, depression.
If we change the Belief to – I may or may not be ill with this disease, but what I do with my life now will make a huge difference. I can get well.
If we constantly remind our self of this new belief so that it becomes true for us we will begin to note the difference in our emotions – more confident, calm, inspired etc. Positive emotions influence our internal energies and help us return to our natural state of health.
So if you are concerned about a health problem look at the belief behind the emotions it generates – If the emotions it brings up are negative and the belief behind them is not changed your health condition may fluctuate from half empty to empty. Change the belief to change the feelings and give yourself the opportunity to go from health half full to full health.
Our life or desire to live, energy is always increased when we are doing activities / work which make us feel joy and deep fulfilment. Strive towards this ideal,
This last weekend we were out for our customary walk in the countryside by some neighbouring mountains. We had cloud, sunshine, wind and cold. The remains of snow were thawing and melting into water which was flowing down the path we were following. The combination of weather conditions along with the body heat generated by our brisk walking was invigorating. It provided both a mental and a physical stimulation and a profound sense of connection with nature.
A feeling of wholeness / completeness prevailed.
Watching the manifestations of nature along our walk was fascinating:- a partial blanket of snow in places suspended over plants and bushes dripping and infusing into the ground with the excess liquid running onto the exposed earth and being carried down the sloping terrain into pools which in turn overflowed to levels further down. The wind rippling on the crystal clear rivulets of water, rocking and swaying the leaves, fresh buds and jewel like water drops on the newly exposed plants.
Everything was fresh and clean, standing upright, strong and proud – rejuvenated!!! Spring has arrived, a new cycle starts, Nature has prepared and is ready to go.
The vast majority of adults have suffered back pain at some point in their lives, acute or chronic or just the stiff soreness resulting from strenuous exercise or work.
Degenerated or herniated spinal discs were thought to be the main causes of back pain but studies in recent years have shown that most middle aged adults have some degree of disc degeneration and a large proportion of these have herniated discs but have no back pain symptoms.
It is obviously necessary if one has a problem to ensure that no structural obstructions, growths, illnesses or infections are the cause of the back pain and this should be checked out by a competent doctor, particularly if it is acute and constant or if one has lose of function or numbness.
There can be many reasons for back pain but by far the majority of cases according to many doctors are caused by muscle strain, medically defined as:- a partial rupture (“causing pain on muscle stretch but no loss of strength”) or total rupture (“causing pain, loss of function and bruising”). However “muscle strain” seems to be used as a general term when no obvious cause for the pain can be found.
Interestingly there is a growing body of medical experts who now believe there is strong evidence that most cases of back pain are caused by a deprivation of oxygen to the muscles with a resulting build up of waste products in the cells, tendons and ligaments. This apparently aggravates and interferes with the normal functioning and conduction of nerve impulses in the muscles and related structures.
In the majority of back pain cases there seems to be a clear and important psychological component to the pain. It is thought that mentally repressed emotions (anger, fear etc.) build up over time and appear to find some physical release through the autonomic nervous system by constricting the small blood vessels in the main structural muscles of the back and over time this triggers the pain.
A sudden movement or something as simple as bending suddenly can bring on the onset of muscle back spasm and/or pain. It can be severe and acute, of short duration or build up gradually into a chronic back ache. There appear to be many ways in which it can manifest.
For anyone who suffers from periodic or constant back pain where no clear cause for it has been found you may find the cure to your back pain simply by reading the book (“Healing Back Pain” The Mind – Body Connection by John E. Sarno, M.D.)
Here is a medical specialist with many years of experience in treating Back Pain problems who now treats his patients, very successfully, by just talking to them. Check him out.
Factors which may cause or contribute to back pain are:- bad posture or postural deformities, sitting slouched, ill fitting footwear or high heels, lifting and straining without bending the knees, sleeping on too soft a mattress. A number of medical conditions may also be responsible including calcium deficiency.
We often hear that Holistic relates to the whole person:- physically, mentally and spiritually. How can we explain this so that we can understand how all these concepts work together in us as human beings?
Recently I came across an explanation of Holistic (in a little book entitled “Making Joint Decisions” by Anne Hunt). I found it gave me a much clearer appreciation of the term Holistic.
If we imagine our life as a movie played by an old time projector:- The light that shines from the projector through the film is the spiritual or life force which is always constant and available, each frame of the film that passes through the projector is a mental thought and what we see on the screen is the physical result. What kind of life we have is a result of all our thoughts. We always have the option to change our thoughts if we don’t like what’s happening in our lives. The light or life force is constant but our connection with it depends on the type and clarity of each thought (or frame) we have at any moment. A clear purpose and direction in life is essential so that we are not constantly changing our minds sabotaging our life, our health, achieving little and going nowhere.
Our mental faculties are the mediator between our physical and spiritual selves. We can take care of our mental state with meditation, mindfulness, relaxation, sufficient sleep and rest, reading inspiring literature, appreciating nature… this will allow a strong life force to filter through the mental and project into the physical.
Several weeks of autumn have just slipped by and all around us we can start to see nature preparing for the winter months ahead, changing colours, shedding leaves, energy going inwards and conserving and renovating her reserves.
On our regular walks into the countryside we notice, the air is now cooler, fresher and also clearer and more invigorating. We see the leaves of bright yellows and orange and rustic reds on some of the trees among the robust dark green encinas and other evergreens. In the autumn air breezes and flurries the leaves like fiesta confetti dance and swirl around us laying mottled coloured carpets to walk on and appreciate and reflect on. All these bright colours are given back to the earth to recycle again into the plants and trees.
We see all these chakra colours (reds, oranges, yellows and greens) as a delightful reminder for us to prepare ourselves to keep warm and hearty and to nourish ourselves with similar coloured foods (like carrots, oranges, lemons, edible red berries, cabbages etc.)
It seems like the colours of the three lower chakras are being temporarily put aside to be nourished and recharged ready for the next year’s cycle. Green the colour of our middle chakra (heart), is the constant link to our three higher chakras which now need to be focused on, with reflexion and meditation:-
Our Communication (blue) – both with ourselves and with others.
Our Intuition (indigo) – to expand our consciousness and gain insights into our life’s purpose.
Our Spirituality (violet) – to help us find our connection with nature and the universal energy.
Start now to slow down and give yourself time for more reflexion and meditation. Get out in the autumn air, let go of the old in this autumn seasons breezes and start to recycle and rejuvenate ready for the start of the next seasonal New Year.
Very often we can help ourselves with simple remedies that can ease common aches and pains. One of the most useful we have found to be: – soaking in a hot bath (with about 2 kgs of coarse natural sea salt dissolved in the water) for 20 minutes or more. This can often thoroughly relax mind and body and take away aches and pains from stressed muscles and joints. It cost little and can have great results.
Always try to use natural sea salt which does not have any additives put in to stop the salt clogging. About 2kgs to an average bath full of water gives a sufficient concentration to draw out toxins from our skin. The water should be hot enough so that you can comfortable get in and the water should cover your body when you lie down in it. Try to maintain the water temperature for the time you are in the bath to allow toxins causing pain to be drawn out.
This simple inexpensive remedy has helped many people and is one that we often recommend to our friends and clients. I remember an ex student of ours who phoned one day and asked if we could suggest any thing that she could do that may help her brother who had been suffering for some time from sciatica and lower back pain. He had apparently been receiving physiotherapy without much result. We suggested she advise her brother to try salt baths to see if they would help. A few months later she was in touch and was delighted to be able to tell us that her brother had been using the salt baths regularly and no longer had sciatica or lower back problems.
Aah! So much from simple things.