I recently finished reading a book called A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros. It was such a beautiful read. It was a peaceful feeling walking to the rose gardens the other day, knowing I’d read a book about walking! If you have ever read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or watched Keira Knightley in the film adaptation, then you may appreciate her love of walking. There’s such a sense of pure satisfaction of soaking in the morning sunlight, cool air and nature around oneself. The feeling of being another stranger in the crowd, going on an adventure or getting lost and discovering a new place.
The beauty of growing up in the country side is that walking is a daily joy. Your senses thank you for the breath of fresh air, birds singing, rolling green hills and the feeling of gravel and grass under your soles. If there are any places within walking distance of half an hour in the city, I prefer to walk instead of taking the bus or train. I was walking in the art gallery the other day, and it was one of the most therapeutic and simple things that brought so much enjoyment. The feeling of being surrounded by nature, art and books is some of the little joys in life.
Have you ever noticed if you’ve ever had a terrible day, walking seems to allow your mind to think with more clarity or just let the stress lessen even just a little? In that moment, you don’t feel completely stuck in your mind enclosed in your room, but the world around you reminds you that you’re not completely alone. Walking is good for your body, soul and your existence. It gives a sense of purpose, meaning and peace in ones life. The simple act of moving one foot in front of the other, sets our mind free. It opens us to see the world. Many writers venture out into the world to experience, before being fully absorbed into writing parts of a novel.
There is time for reflections, thoughts, ideas and imagination to run wild. Walking relieves the heavy weight of anxiety or emotional pain. Gros talks about how there are those who walk for a short period of time during the day as a boost, while others walk for hours and hours. The feeling of walking to a destination, such as the library, art gallery or park always fills me with a sense of small purpose. It may sound unimportant to another, but as I set out on the journey to the place, it makes me feel rewarded once I arrive. When we walk, we are just another being walking on this Earth. It’s a gentle reminder of the importance of solitude.
I remember as a child, walking was like play in the way that you’d feel excited when you arrive somewhere, see something new or meet someone. The curiosity, adventure and journey was rewarding. In a world where there is a fixation on fitness, walking is often overlooked, when it has endless benefits for our overall well being. Taking the action to walk out the door for a walk is necessary in a life where we create complexities. The simplicity of walking reminds us that it’s always the little things. It makes one not become so attached to their own troubles in life. It lets us observe the strangers walking past us, and remind ourselves that everyone’s lives are on a different path.
We have a wider perspective, a sense of renewed energy and a calmer self when we go outdoors for a walk. When we walk, we are reminded to take it easy and enjoy life at a steady pace, rather than rushing through it. In the words of Shakespeare, All the World’s a Stage, we can be anyone when we walk. There isn’t an attachment to identity, and therefore we ignore any titles or labels of ourselves. It’s one of the most natural things we can possibly do, starting from the moment we learn to walk as a baby.
We have all the space, time and possibilities. You are the only one who can take those steps to where ever you’re headed to. No one else can walk them for you. There’s awareness, presence and discovery into the unknown or a familiar environment. Repetition in walking can be a comforting motion. It can be a way of escaping or a way of understanding. That is why walking is such an essential part of our lives. We are blessed to have these two legs that can take us around the world, and even just in the streets of our hometown where it all began.