If you’re like most people, you’ve taken up walking to improve yourself physically, perhaps by slimming down or getting fitter. But there’s another side to walking—one that supports your mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing—that lets you escape some of the craziness of 21st-century living. These days, our lives are constantly moving at an incredibly frantic pace. We often have so much piled on our plates that we fear we’ll never get everything done. And we wonder when we’ll find time for the things that bring us pleasure and calm our overworked and overwhelmed selves. When the world around you seems to be spinning out of control, walking can restore your sense of inner peace. It gives you a chance to slow down, to relax, and to appreciate yourself and your life. When you’re walking, time seems to expand, creating a sense of spaciousness in the present moment.
Even if your job is secure, your family is healthy and happy, and your future seems stable, you can lose touch with the deepest part of yourself unless you slow down and breathe deeply, still your thoughts, and observe the natural world with a sense of wonder. Walking can help you reset your internal clock and dispel your sense of urgency. After all, it isn’t intended to get you somewhere in a hurry, unless you’re an elite racewalker. Walking encourages you to breathe deeply, draining away tension, and instilling a sense of calm and contentment.
Plan a Walking Retreat
You can use a walk as a sort of mini-mental retreat. This doesn’t necessarily mean going away for a week, or even a weekend, of walking. Instead, set aside a day for a 3- to 8-hour exploration on foot, far from the demands of work, home, and family. First, pick out your retreat day. Then discuss your plans with anyone who might need to reach you during that time. You want this day to be yours, for your personal walking adventure. (You can invite a friend or family member to join, but we suggest that you do all the planning. This ensures the day is still all about you.)
Next, identify a place you want to explore on foot.
If you enjoy being in nature, call your local parks department or go online to find maps of your area. If you love looking at homes and gardens, pick a neighborhood you’d like to see up close. Choose a location that’s no more than 15 minutes from home. You want to spend your time walking, not driving. If you never get in the car, all the better.
Tailor your route to your personal limits.
You’ll be walking at a leisurely pace, so you can go longer and farther than if you were walking for a workout. If you normally walk 3kms a day, go for 6 to 9kms. If you’re a beginner, we recommend staying under 6kms. The night before your retreat, pack a lunch, water, and snacks. Bring along a notepad and pencil in case you want to do some journaling. Other items you may want to carry along: maps, guides for identifying plants and animals, a magnifying glass for checking out the intricacies of plants, pre-moistened hand wipes, and plastic bags for garbage.
Charge your phone and bring it with you on your walk—for safety, not for chatting.
Make sure your favourite walking socks are clean. Pick out shorts or pants that you can comfortably walk in for hours, as well as a cosy jacket or items that you can layer if the weather is cool. If it’s warm, wear a hat or visor and sunscreen. And don’t forget your sunglasses—not only to shade your eyes but also to provide privacy.
Explore the World. . . and Your Soul
On the day of your journey, get up early so you can stretch before heading out on your walk. Stretching will make your walking retreat more refreshing since you’ll work out some of the kinks before you hit the road. Warm-up with 5 to 10 minutes of walking, and then indulge in a long, soothing stretching session. If you have a yoga video that you like, turn that on and follow along.
Before leaving home, read a selection from a favourite book of poetry (or any book that inspires you). The rhythms of a poem put you in a completely different frame of mind than the morning paper. Afterward, eat a healthy breakfast and drink plenty of water. Then pick up your backpack and head out.
Remember, this is a retreat, not a race. This is to refresh your spirit, to get in sync with your soul and your surroundings. Stand tall while you walk; it makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Stop when you want to eat or rest.
Soak up the sun. Stretch again. Savour the moment.
Walking encourages you to breathe deeply, draining away tension, and instilling a sense of calm and contentment.
Original source: Big Book of Walking for Weight Loss.