I want to write about the power of walking.
I used to think, if I was going to go for a walk, I needed to go somewhere special. Somewhere with lots of greenery, or by a river, or through a forest. The problem was, I never lived in the countryside or in a place where I could so easily get to a conventionally “beautiful” place. I mostly lived in suburbs of cities.
Because I love going for walks, this perceived inability to regularly do so made me bitter. I was jealous of people I know who live in such nicer areas than I do. Who have conventional beautiful scenery at their doorstep. That (amongst other disadvantages that I put emphasis on) made me dislike my own living situation, and made me question whether it was possible to enjoy the power of mindful walking regularly when I didn’t have anywhere beautiful to go with ease, by foot.
But then, I realised this attitude was making me grumpy.
I truly believe that being at one in your area and comfortable in your surroundings is such an important part of achieving a calm mental state. And even if you don’t have a incredible view right outside your home, you should be able to get out and simply enjoy what small beauties you do have around you. Because, as I have learnt, there is beauty all around us.
Even a 10 minute walk, down your road and the next one, can clear your mind and cleanse your thoughts.
The power of mindful walking lies in the fact that it has two sides. The first side is the physical aspect – just putting some gentle movement into our mostly sedentary lives, gives us a boost. Gets the blood flowing, helps with digestion, stretches our muscles.
The second side is mental. If you walk without any distractions, just your feet on the ground and your eyes wide open, you start to notice little things around you. Little moments which make you smile.
For example, in the spring the trees (although there are not so many) near me start to blossom in pinks and purples. It’s beautiful. And by summer the leaves are bright green. Then, autumn brings a whole new range of colours – warm reds and yellows, and the leaves are all over the ground.
Or I notice a parent with their child, and the child says something funny and I smile. And I hear it because I’m walking mindfully. Or I see squirrels looking inquisitively for nuts, or a dog who’s been let off his leash panting in excitement. Or the sun is just poking its way through the clouds as I look up, or maybe the sun is starting to set.
Maybe someone’s front garden is particularly well groomed, or they have some lovely flowers lining their fence, or there’s a funny bumper sticker on a car parked down the road. Maybe that graffiti actually says something interesting, or maybe it’s just the sound of my own two feet strolling down the street that warms me.
Whatever it is, observing it, and being focused only on your current surroundings is a great way of staying present during a walk.
And so I’ve started incorporating a small walk into my daily mindfulness practice. Sometimes, if I’ve had a particularly busy day, then these are intentional walks. I specifically go outside in order to feel more at peace. Most days though, this is a coincidental practice. I have to walk to the underground station, the bus stop. Or I have to walk from the car to my destination. And these are mostly not the most exciting walks but I try and make them meaningful by the way I perceive the sights I see.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think the most wonderful walks are in nature. And I still make every effort to do such a walk when I have the chance. But, for the most part, if I’m walking, it’s in no place I haven’t been before.
My mindfulness goal that I think could also help a lot of people is: Instead of seeing it as a chore, use your daily walks, no matter how long or short they are, to be present. Observe what’s around you and enjoy it, bask in its beauty. Try and find its beauty, if you can’t at first perceive it.
And, if you don’t have any walking in your day-to-day routine, try putting some in. When you get home, or after your meal, do a quick 5-minute walk around the block.
Take it all in.
Find wonder in your surroundings and you’ll feel a lot more positive and present.