Three Forms of Walking
Let’s talk about walking.
It’s one of the first milestones of early childhood development and most of us do it until we are on our death bed. We usually do it without a second thought but it turns out that walking is an art that can be developed.
Let me propose there are 3 types of walking:
The first type is Strolling, otherwise known as “going for a walk.” The purpose of these walks is often exercise or socializing. You enjoy the scenery, raise your heart rate a bit, get some fresh air. Often you can do this with a friend or coworker and it’s a wonderful thing. There’s something satisfyingly primal about a daily walk. One warning though: the wrong way to walk is to look at your phone - this is not “strolling” - it’s looking at your phone. You think you’re walking but you’re losing most of the benefits. I see people doing this all the time and they are missing the forest for the pixels. Don’t skimp - unplug and walk. It’s good for you.
The second type of walking is for rumination - let’s call it a “Thinking Walk.” Thinking walks are ones where you have something you are mulling over and you go for a walk in order to think it through. It turns out that there is science behind this being an effective way of problem solving: if you have the components of the problem in your head, when you walk and think through it, you let your “default mode network” (DMN) do the work in the background - basically your brain keeps thinking about the problem while you’re walking and it can generate insights you wouldn’t have had at your desk. It turns out there are lots of stories about great scientific and artistic breakthrough that happen this way laid out in the book “Rest”. I find this type of walk a category of its own - you “load up the problem” and then spend time thinking of it while walking and letting your senses enjoy the sights. Whenever your mind wanders to something else, try to bring it back to that problem and then unfocus. Try this whenever there is something that is bugging you and you need a breakthrough.
The third type of walking is “Walking Meditation.” This walking is not for exercise, socializing or problem solving. This walking is to become more mindful and centered. I’ve learned it from Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s really simple: breathe in, step, breath out, and step. And repeat. Focus on the step and on the breath. Be in the present moment. And anytime your mind strays, bring it back. You’ll feel very odd doing it at first since you’re moving really slowly. But stick with it. It’s an amazing tool you can do anywhere: an airport, a small room, a giant forest. You can do it for a few breaths or for hours. It’s also a great form of meditation when you can’t focus on sitting meditation.
And that’s it - 3 types of walking.
Decide what you need and take a step at a time.