I’ve kept the same routine for many years and it works. It doesn’t matter where I wake— city, forest, beach—the day begins with a walk.
Climb a steep mountain. Look down at the sights below, the world in miniature, and your cares will shrink to minor nuisances. The cure for self-pity is within your grasp. The more you see and hear of the world around you, the easier it becomes to put it all in perspective. You are one of many in an infinite universe.
The man, guarding the two paper bags at his feet, waiting for the city bus to arrive and the couple taking long strides towards the nearest coffee shop are not so different from the herons in the sand dunes defending their eggs or the red cardinal seizing a cicada or two for breakfast . Around us many creatures teeming across the earth are struggling to find sustenance and shelter are oblivious to everyone except themselves. Empathy is what distinguishes us as enlightened humans. Pay attention. Walking is a time to use all your senses and be present.
Movement, any movement sets the world in motion. Calories are burned, muscles strengthened, and tendons stretched. Walk slow or walk fast. Spine straight. Feet pressing against the ground with each step. Walk to explore the world or walk for a specific purpose, an iced tea or a visit to the Post Office.
From my dining room table, I can look out my windows and see people in the neighborhood walking by; dog walkers, joggers, folks on their way to a restaurant on West Street or Main Street. We live on the corner. Walkers are a frequent sight.
At the seashore I relish the sensation of sinking my feet into sand. The cries of gulls, ducks, sandpipers, and herons are accompanied by the sighs of the wind and the tug of the sea thundering towards the sand and then retreating. The saddest thing I recently observed during my visit to the beach last week, were the people staring and speaking into their smartphones. They gazed at their phones as they walked along the shore seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. Didn’t they notice they were in a beautiful place? Who or what was so important to pre-empt their attention?
I can’t second guess what is inside their heads. I can only do my best with my own consciousness. I keep walking. Whenever possible, I walk instead of drive. According to health professionals, walking can help you keep your weight down and your bones strong. It can also help keep blood pressure in check and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as possibly improve memory and prevent memory loss. Certainly if you are feeling more serene and less pressured, it’s easier to think clearly. Walking can be a form of meditation.
I walk at least forty minutes a day. Twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the evening. Taking a walk with friends can be a great way to socialize and exercise at the same time. During the Pandemic, it was a safe way to visit. If you haven’t been walking, start with 10 minutes and build from there. If the day is hot, travel with a water bottle. Wear comfortable walking shoes. To get the maximum health benefits, check your posture before you start walking. You’ll want to keep you head up and your back lengthened with your shoulders loose and relaxed. Classes that include Pilates, yoga, modern dance or a session with a physical therapist can help improve your posture and walking technique. Swing your arms gently as you walk. Engage your core and step from heel to toe. Enjoy the journey.
If you are an artist, remember what you’ve observed and note it upon your return. Story ideas pop into my mind all the time during walks, particularly solitary ones. The world is alive with possibilities. Walk.