Walking. A Wonderful Practice for Change.

Walking…is how the body measures itself against the earth”
— — Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

After a day of working in the outskirts of a city I don’t know, I asked the hotel desk attendant if there was a park nearby to walk in. The day was warm and I was craving fresh air and a walk. She asked if we knew the area and I said, “No.” And then she printed out directions to a food store. If we went past the food store and turned right, the park would be on our left. So my colleague and I headed out.

Apparently we weren’t the only people who felt the warmth  in the air and headed to the park. The place was packed!  With old people using walkers, with people walking dogs –very large and very small. There were lots of parents and children. All the children were running. All the parents were trying to keep up and saying all sorts of things to get them to walk instead. As one child responded, “I’m trying to walk, but I just keep running” as she hurtled herself downhill.

I laughed when I heard her say that thinking that running usually requires more effort for me and I wished I could easily say, “I’m trying to walk, but I just keep breaking in to a run.”

And then I got to thinking about change and growth and healing and realized how familiar that feeling really is. How you start something moving. You start changing and the momentum can pick up. And you feel yourself moving faster than you thought. And it is exhilarating, but also scary. You are new to this change, this growth, and your ‘new change legs’ feel wobbly. But you can’t stop, even as as some ‘inner scared parent’ is running behind you exalting you to slow down.

My need to walk today felt like a need for any other food or nutrient I have ever craved. In previous blogs I have talked about the need for routines as part of healing. And for me walking can be such a routine. In some ways it functions as such a source of organization or grounding, literally, feet connecting with the ground. And especially in times of change, or growth or healing, walking feels like a requirement. When I am away from home, or having a hard time connecting with myself—walking becomes my connection. There is something so reassuring about the fact that one foot follows the other. You keep putting one foot out, and the other follows. You feel the earth beneath your feet. You feel your arms swing. You feel the air in your lungs. You feel the air on your face.

One foot in front of the other. The rhythm and repetition are soothing. One foot in front of the other. It is the body’s perfect mantra. A way of practicing change. I can go from here to there. I only have to put one foot in front of the other. I can change where I am and how I feel. I only have to put one foot in front of the other. It’s not a matter of doing something huge. It’s just one foot in front of the other. And yet, if you keep doing it. If you keep walking, the steps add up. I know how to do this. I can speed up. I can slow down. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  And you will see, you try to walk, but you may just find yourself running.

And if you can't get out for a walk yourself today. You can follow Libby Delana on Instagram. She regularly posts photos of her #morningwalk and you can either let that image inspire you to head out on your own, or you can just rest in the image for the day.

© 2015 Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD