This week I refer to an article I read recently in a Blue Zones newsletter. Those who have been following me for some time will know that I draw much inspiration from this movement that studies the lifestyle of centenarians. Before Lockdown I was convinced I will live to around 95, but now I have to confess my conviction is no longer that steady. Times are a-changing, so they say.
But let me get to the topic of this blog – the Art of Walking. My dogs are responsible for ensuring that I do more than simply walking between my computer and the kitchen every day. I am forced out into Nature daily by two 4-legged creatures whose day is not complete without getting their 200 smells a day (I believe that is what they need) and going for a walk is a great way to reach the quota.
But there is walking and there is the art of walking without a purpose. The latter does not include our very directed walking with the specific purpose of getting from A to B or more fashionably reaching our 10,000 steps. We are talking about walking simply for the enjoyment, which is a very important interlude in our current screen-driven days, clouded in all the negativity generated by the media hype.
To quote Blue Zones:
“Walking, simply for the sake of a walk, can be a brief respite in our otherwise frenetic lives, allowing us to detach so we might see life for ourselves again, not unlike a child does. This, according to Kant, is the freedom of any form of art. But we don’t need to visit a museum in order to be absorbed in artful perception and contemplation. We can just step out the front door, pay attention, and perceive and feel for ourselves.”
I am aware of the health aspects of a good, brisk walk, but, when last did you wander through the countryside admiring the view? I went walking with a new acquaintance this week, and when I admired the views or the evening colours, he said: “it is so nice to have someone to share this with, it is not the same if you describe it to someone when you get home”. This led me to think about how I am now living in the most beautiful countryside with sweeping vistas, ending in ever higher mountain ranges, and I am filled with gratitude that I can walk here.
Gratitude causes the release of our feel-good neurotransmitters called dopamine and serotonin, which help us to feel more content, which is a bonus. But so many of us are caught up in rushing from A to B, some even blocking the world out with headphones or distracted by smartphones, and not connecting with the beauty of Nature. To quote Blue Zones, the art of walking is not walking with intention, but rather, attention, which is to say mindfully, in the present.
My point here is to emphasize here the benefits of simply walking without a specific purpose, mindfully in the present. Those who are not yet retired and are still working and pushing the boundaries with screen time and feeling zoomed-out, remember it is very important to break your day with a walk, breathe in the fresh air, admire the beauty of nature, be grateful that you can still do this, and release your feel-good neurotransmitters. But for me, one of the biggest advantages of retiring is being able to walk every day and to plan my day around my walk, rather than having to cram it in after a heavy day at the office. In retirement, I have time for the art of walking, but it is a pity I did not appreciate the benefits and make the time before.
Enjoy the Walking