W is for Walking

| May 4, 2014

Now that the weather’s finally warmer and it’s light out for longer, I’ve been taking more walks in the local parks, most commonly Riverside, Morningside, or Central. After a long day, it’s a nice way to decompress. It’s also a great means of mind-body connection; if I have a big issue to mull over, I’ll often have a walk and a “think,” sorting things out in my head while wandering. The change of scenery and the calm but active motion gives me a sense of balance and makes any potentially panicked or racing thoughts slow to a more manageable pace. During finals time, it’s an even more essential coping mechanism: I may have to cloister myself indoors at a computer more often than I’d like, but I can at least step away from the work and enjoy the sun and blooming trees a bit.

Several Buddhist schools of thought employ a “walking meditation” practice for the various reasons at which I’ve hinted. Like seated meditation, these practices use the physical experience as a vehicle for mental presence and clarity, but in addition to tuning into the breath, they include paying attention to the process by which one’s limbs move (hi, preacceleration!), the transference of weight involved in taking a step, etc. In our increasingly sedentary, stressed, focused-from-the-neck up culture, I think it’s imperative to cultivate habits such as these to reintegrate our somatic and intellectual selves.

Step away from the screen for a bit and go take a stroll. It’ll do ya good.