Walking as an exercise, a meditation or merely a means of enjoying fresh air is something most of us can do and something most of us have been encouraged to do throughout the lockdowns of the year.
It doesn’t need any special equipment, training or skills once you have learned to put one foot in front of the other and best of all you can do it anywhere – parks, streets, shopping malls or as Captain Tom Moore showed us during the summer of 2020…even in our own gardens. For that was where Captain Tom – or to give him his full title, Captain Sir Thomas Moore – with the help of his walking frame raised over £32 million for the NHS in the months leading up to his 100th birthday.
Sponsored walks have, over the years, been one of the most popular ways to raise money for charity…I have friends who have hiked up the Himalayas, schlepped across the Sinai and trudged through the Atlas, all in the name of charity. Not only is it a holiday, it does good and is also good for you. However if your aspirations are not so high, charity walks have been organised along riverbanks, through botanical gardens or through the streets of your home town.
The majority however, just take a walk either for the good of our health, to get to the shops or simply to get some time and space for thinking and reflecting. Some go it alone while others like company and it is this latter ,that has brought about, over the last few decades a new concept in organised travel – walking holidays. Most have a leader while some just supply a map, a place to stay for the night and will, should you desire, organise your luggage to be taken ahead.
Walking has proved a particularly useful tool for those of who find meditation or even mindfulness difficult. Hard as I try (and that in itself is a problem) some days it seems as if World War Three is going on in my head, but then once I put on the trainers and head for the hills, or in my case the local park, everything seems to calm down and stuff begins to fall into place. This is how I, along with so many, discovered walking meditation, long before I knew it was a recognised practice. Little wonder that we were all encouraged during the early days of the pandemic shutdown to get some fresh air, or simply go for a walk. And if you thought it simply as an exercise see what Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says:
“Walking meditation is really to enjoy the walking – walking not in order to arrive, just for walking. We walk all the time, but usually it is more like running. Our hurried steps print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. If we can take one step in peace, we can take two, three, four and then five steps for the peace and happiness of humankind.”
Something to bear in mind when we next head out for yet another round of the park or a keep-our-sanity-stroll during Covid.