Walking can mean different things to different people. For some, the best walking is done in the mountains, away from busy streets.
While we can all relate to that, this series is looking at walking as an everyday practice, or sport, that we focus on and walking can mean different things to different people. For some, the best walking is done in the mountains, away from busy streets. It doesn’t have to be in some high or distant place; wherever you are – sprawling city, pasture lands, or seaside village – is perfectly fine. Just get out there and walk!
The walking dead?
It’s become a pop culture meme; people lost in their smartphones while they’re walking and ultimately colliding with a lamppost. It’s got so bad some countries have created walking lanes for smartphone zombies! Others have put street signs warning motorists that “smombies” are on the loose. This is not living the way of the walker.
Walking is an opportunity to wake up, become more aware, tune into our senses, how we’re feeling, and the beautiful world around us. It comes back to appreciation. In this post we will look at ways to start making your walking more rewarding.
Doing mode vs. being mode
In the mindfulness tradition, we talk about doing and being mode. The former is the mindset when we are trying to achieve something, get something done, or to get somewhere. It’s outcome orientated. The latter is the mindset when we are not trying to achieve or get anything; we’re just enjoying the moment. Reading a book while at the beach or having a coffee at a cafe is an example of being mode.
Most of us spend way too much time in doing mode. We are constantly busy, connected, trying to do something. Many of us have trouble turning off our smartphones for fear of missing something. Constant doing mode is exhausting, and is what ultimately leads to stress and burnout.
Walking is an incredible way to cultivate being mode, which activates the part of the nervous system that helps us relax and restore. However, to benefit from walking in this way we have to approach it in the right way.
“If we’re not careful, it is all too easy to fall into becoming more of a human doing than a human being, and forget who is doing all the doing, and why.” – Jon Kabat Zinn
Back to basics
To help yourself benefit the most from walking there are a few things you can do, or rather not do:
Put aside the technology: While it’s fun to take a phone with you to track your walks with Sports Tracker app, try putting it on silent for the entirety of your walk. Try to use it only at the start and end of your walk.
Drop any objectives: Don’t worry about how far you’re going to walk. Let go of goals or objectives around distance. Instead, use the time you have to walk at a natural pace and see how far that takes you.
Open your senses: When you’re walking it’s easy and natural to start thinking about things. However, to cultivate being mode on your walks, spend time connecting to your senses. Notice what you see, smell, hear, feel and taste.
Relax step by step: As you walk, notice how your body is feeling, and consciously try to relax your muscles. Let your shoulders drop, your jaw and the muscles around your eyes relax.
Breathe well: As you’re walking, observe your breath. Don’t try to change or manipulate it. Just by observing and feeling your breath, it will deepen by itself.
Task: Find a green, natural area to go walking in this week, and practice the above “back to basics” steps above.
This week walk 30 km. That’s five kilometers a day over six days, and equates to just under 40,000 steps.