At 30+ km (18+ miles), the walk from Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo was slated to be our longest day on the Camino. According to travel blogs, it’s not the loveliest day of the walk—it’s mostly on a gravel path through industrial areas. The big draw is the 12th century Castillo de los Templarios in Ponferrada, and of course, wine.
Not every day of the walk is supposed to be lovely or exciting.
Some days, the walk just is.
One of the things I appreciate most about yoga—along with the fact that this old body is slowly, slowly, growing more firm and flexible—is the way it embraces the moment. Yoga makes you think about the moment you are in, the way your breath goes in and out, how every part of your body is connected. The moment itself is important, not something to be rushed through, not something to take for granted.
Unfortunately, it’s also the hardest part of the practice for me.
When I sit on my yoga mat, I remember Elizabeth Gilbert in the ashram during the “pray” portion of Eat, Pray, Love, where she’s learning to meditate and for a long time, she literally can’t do it. She can’t stop her mind from wandering or her body from giving up; she can’t reach Zen.
I sit on the yoga mat and remember the email I need to reply to, the letter of recommendation I promised to write, the laundry that needs to be transferred to the dryer. Stop, I order my mind, but ten seconds later, I’m back there: take out the trash, text Mom, read to chapter 5.
Then my knee starts to complain, and I have to shift positions.
Sometimes the moment is elusive.
Sometimes the moment is painful.
I’m not good at living in the now.
I’m a planner, so I’m always looking ahead—or rather, worrying ahead, at what’s coming just around the corner. (You may not know that I’m an anxious person. I once wrote a book about this, but most of my friends thought the character with all the fears was quirky and not based on a real person: me.)
Yesterday I went to the DMV to renew my license that had expired in the midst of the pandemic, and I worried about this for days ahead of time. Would I have the right documents, would I know where to go, what if I didn’t pass the written test, what if people weren’t wearing masks? Reader, it turned out to be fine. And it wasn’t even a written test, but a VISION test— which I passed. The whole process took twenty minutes and afterward I sat in my car, mask off, laughing, and decided to treat myself to a giant Diet Coke.
So yes, that moment.
The pandemic shifted how I think about time, how I prioritize, how I plan. I’ve developed some new routines—I now write from about 5:30 to 7:30 a.m., before dog walks and before the day really gets going. Then yoga or yard work, depending; shower and an hour of reading, working my way through possible texts for my fall syllabus. And then—it goes off the rails for a bit, and I really couldn’t tell you what I do during the afternoon.
I’m trying to honor the moment, what I need at that particular place and time. If I need a nap, I take one, and be grateful for the extra hour. If I end up watching an hour of TV and if that turns into two—okay. Maybe I needed that mental break, the chance to not be in my own head.
Maybe the connection between yoga practice and watching an extra episode of America’s Next Top Model (season 21, y’all) needs closer examination.
Tomorrow we’re taking Bax to the vet to have the end of life conversation—just a conversation, but that end is coming and already I’m waking up at night in a sweat, sick about it. I’m trying not to let my mind go there, to trust that I’ll be ready for it when it comes. Better to be in this moment, with my lovely, dependable old boy circling in the hallway, trying to find the right spot for his morning pre-walk nap.
There’s an Annie Dillard quote that I love: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
It may not look beautiful, this walk on the gravel path, this daily to-do list being slowly whittled down over the hours, this stolen cuddle with a faithful beagle.
Sometimes it just is.
Paula Treick DeBoard