Beingness of Being
“ I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown. For going out, I found, I was really going in.”
I’ve always enjoyed the pursuit of walking, from my first tentative steps as a baby to now, my retirement years. Walking, for me, is a deeply satisfying pleasure that contributes so much to my physical not to mention mental health.
And in my experience, what the Scottish naturalist, John Muir said holds true for when we venture out on a pleasurable walk. On a leisurely stroll, especially in the countryside, we cannot help but sink into deep reflective thought – an inner journey that is made possible because our walking takes us there.
Over the years I have experimented with different types of walking practices, enjoying each one for its intrinsic tempo, rhythm and implicit aim.
First there is my normal walking, the everyday functional pursuit of going to the shops, visiting the library, seeing friends, etc. which is routinely carried out often with no thought of real pleasure. It’s only purpose is to arrive at a pre-set endpoint in the quickest of time.
Often I have little regard for the surroundings I pass through because I’m lacking full awareness and attention, I’m destination focused, preparing myself for the task soon to be actioned. This walking practice is of benefit but there are other forms that serve a different goal.
Secondly, there is speed/power walking. This one is new to me and was recommended to help the cardiovascular process. Often I forget to utilize this mode, as it doesn’t come naturally to me but there have been occasions when I have embraced it during my normal walking.
Thirdly, there is simple strolling often in rural areas and open countryside where part of the process is exploration. I’ve spent many a pleasurable hour meandering down country lanes, across fields and meadows enjoying the full splendors of what nature as to offer. Often pursued in quiet presence this type of walking has helped me, in the past, to deepen my thought processes. When mindfully engaged I have slipped, often unknowingly, into a mediation.
Fourthly, there is what I call ‘mooching around’ – the leisurely stroll I often undertake in a major city. The French poet Baudelaire was one of the first to write about this practice. He regularly wandered the streets of 19th Century Paris as a city stroller, a flaneur, watching and observing all the manifestations of Parisian street life. I have spent time in Paris myself, walking around this fine city thinking, at times, that perhaps I was following in the footsteps of Baudelaire.
Finally, there is mindfulness walking which I have kept here separately although it can be incorporated in most of the above practices. My experience of this deep and relaxing mode has always been based in the context of a Buddhist practice. On various retreats and in weekly Pujas I have undertaken this slow, attentive, step by step awareness activity and have benefited enormously from it. I always think of it as a form of contemplation, a meditation.
Regardless of whatever walking we are doing it will undoubtedly contribute to our well-being. It’s a form of medicine that helps to heal our wounds; that opens us up to a better, more expansive internal space. When challenged by problems, when confused about issues, walking is always available to clarify and cleanse our thoughts, offering up insights into the best way forward. I have never taken a good walk without learning something, without furthering, in some way, however small, the health of my body and mind.
And with that said, I’m now going for a walk…