“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” Morpheus
When I was a little girl, whenever someone usually another child was crying or upset my Aunt would say “Walk it off.” Her words resonated with me then and I took them into my heart and started walking. If I was upset I would walk. If the weather was not permitting I would walk around the dining room or kitchen table. I think my mother thought I was a little weird. Walking has and still does make me feel better and on most days it makes me feel good.
The word walking implies moving forward. Walking in many ways is the perfect exercise. We virtually all learn to do it as little children. It is our first ticket to freedom, our initial experience of moving forward in life without obstacles or the help of another. It is widely known that walking is natural and that it is beneficial to our health and fitness, but I get so much more from the experience. I walk in the mornings and it is such a great way start to my day. I have been walking on a regular basis for about 30 years. I walk a minimum of 3 times a week, for a minimum of two miles each time.
I have walked to work out problems, to morn the loss of loved ones. Sometimes I sobbed as I walked. Sometimes unexpected ideas have popped into my head for things I want to do. My husband and I used to take long, five mile walks on the weekend. We would talk about anything and everything. It was our time. When he passed I walked and cried. Eventually, I bcame tired of crying and I would make myself walk faster, until I got to the point where I was going so fast I could not walk and cry at the same time. Gradually, my grief began to lift as my walks gradually worked their magic. At that point I knew I would be alright again. Now I walk to keep feeling good.
In our modern stress-filled lives, where we seem to be moving faster and faster with more to do and less time to do it, walking allows you the opportunity to slow down and be aligned, a chance to breathe and relax. Walking from a place of relaxed intention is a freeing practice. It is a way to bring your mind, body and spirit into balance.
Did you know that walking is the nearest activity to perfect exercise, because it is a low impact cardiovascular exercise that works the whole body? A brisk walk can go a long ways towards releasing tension, and doctors report that virtually every muscle in the body is utilized, except the jaw. Proven benefits of walking include: Weight loss; increase in metabolism; healthier heart; increase in self-esteem; tones muscles, increase in energy; strong bones and joints; relieves stress and strengthens our immune system; improves your mood; relieves back and hip pain; lowers risk of blood closts; lowers blood pressure and risk of heart attack; tightens abdominal muscles and keeps knee joints healthy.
Through walking, I take control from my mind. “Wouldn’t you rather stay at home?” “You could be doing something else.” “Who do you think you are?” Ah, the mind. On the mornings I walk, I can guarantee thoughts like these will surface, luring me to stay in my comfort zone so they can try and shame me later on for not running. Our minds will always try to hold us back, but we do not have to act on every thought. We can become more aware of when our mind is attempting to limit us, and, if we want to, dig deep and keep moving forward.
Walking reminds me that the hardest part of any worthy pursuit is just starting. Once I am outside and walking, the initial resistance disappears, and I just get on with it. I have never, after two minutes of walking, turned around and headed home. This speaks to an interesting truth—so often in life, the hardest part of any worthy pursuit is just starting.
Walking helps me appreciate my body. Sadly, the media pushes down our throats what a “perfect” body looks like, and most of us do not have it. As a result, many people view exercise as a punishment. A punishment for being out of shape or for eating overeating the day before. Exercise of any form need not be a punishment. In fact, we can view it as a celebration of our body as it is. When I finish a walk, I thank my body for a job well done. I am fortunate enough to have good health and a functional body, a blessing not everyone has.
Walking has taught me that what I consume makes a difference. Since I have gotten older, I am far more aware of what I am consuming, both physically and mentally. I feel the difference when I have been eating well and am hydrated versus when I walk on mornings after a day of junk food and being dehydrated. What we put into our mouth really matters. I believe it also matters what we put into our heads—I.e. the types of media we consume. On the hand, when I read something inspiring or watch an inspiring story before leaving home, I notice a spring in my step and I feel empowered as I walk. If the media I consume affects my life (either positively or negatively) in the short-term, just imagine the affect is has in the long-term. What we consume matters.
Let’s get started. One of the greatest things about walking is the only equipment you really need are a good pair of walking shoes. I would also recommend doing a few minutes of streching before or after your walk. I personally like walking solo, as I can set my pace and spend time with myself. As I watch other people in groups or walking their dogs, I acknowledge the social aspect of walking as well I personally like walking solo, as I can set my pace and spend time with myself. As I watch other people in groups or walking their dogs, I acknowledge the social aspect of walking as well.
I highly recommend no electronics. Yes, I have my phone with me for emergencies but I do not look at it. You loose the mental and spiritual benefits when your mind is occupied with their use.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” Friedrich Nietzche
I have discovered that walking, in a purposeful and conscious way, is the walking that has the most magical of all benefits, because it connects you to a higher spiritual place, a source of unlimited possibilities. I use this time to say my affirmations and visualizations.
“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles.” Mary Davis
I know people choose to walk indoors, whether on gym tracks or on mall floors, but I highly recommend getting outside, where the opportunity to reconnect with nature abounds. It offers a totally different experience. No matter where you live, there is some small space, a park, a trail or a route you can find.
“If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” Dollly parton
Throughout time, walking has played an enormous role in the devotional life of people from all the world’s religions: prayers and mantra practice while walking, pilgrimage to sacred sites, walking the labyrinth, walking meditation, and informal spiritual practices that make the most of walking.
“I don’t walk to add days to my life; I walk to add life to my days.”
Walking as a spiritual practice can yield so many dividends: replenishment of the soul, connection with the natural world, problem-solving, self-esteem, health and healing, and heightened attention. Movement seems to encourage dialogue and conviviality, leading to richer conversations with soul mates, friends, and even strangers. Artists report that walking activates the imagination and opens up the creative process. It is deeply restorative.
Walking as a practice does require commitment with a clear sense of intention, consistency, focus and awareness. There are many books and articles on walking and “how to” do it in a mindful or meditative way. But as everything in life, it is ultimately about the doing. Engaging in the activity and being committed to it regardless of the reasons that invite you not to.
So now I walk. I breathe in and take in the world. I exhale and let go of any stress I might be carrying.
“Walking is the answer. Who cares what the question is.”
…… This is a reprint of my Capital City Hues article of July 2019