That’s often all I want to do.
I went out of my house to run today and I found myself doing just that, unknowingly walking. Well, maybe not unknowingly, but it wasn’t what I had stepped outside to do.
I was supposed to be running.
After all, that’s apparently what you’re supposed to do when training for your first marathon. Go figure. But apparently
my body my soul wanted to just walk. I mean aside from thinking, it’s probably about the simplest thing we can do and something we are fairly well designed to do, so I can’t really blame myself for doing it. It’s just that I didn’t have the time to do it. I had only a couple hours left before work, and I needed to get that run in to feel better about my preparations for the marathon. So I turned off autopilot, switched back over to manual, and began to run.
But even if I didn’t have to run today, or go to work, do we ever really have the time to just walk? To do what our nomadic ancestors did for thousands of years and roam this earth?
I mean what about our modern lives and neighborhoods are designed for us to be free range human beings?
In fact, if you think about it, we only have two places in the entire United States designed for extensive walking. The Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The rest of America is full of disconnected towns and cities that have way too many roads and walls and fences (and gun toting Americans behind them all if you stray too far) to be able to walk freely without worry. There’s simply no room anymore to just walk. And the few walks we do get in each day are totally conditional. They’re to walk the dog, or to get the mail, or to push the kids in the stroller, or to go to the store, or to get exercise, etc. It’s never to just walk. To wander with no destination in mind; with no time constraint set in place (aside from the light of day); to just put one foot in front of the other and take it all in.
What I wouldn’t give for just a second of that freedom my ancestors had. Sure, I might have had to fend off a sabertooth tiger or Genghis Khan or something, and I’d likely have to get better at making fires and learning what plants to eat, but I’m 32; and honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever just walked. Have you?
Something about that disturbs my soul, and when I feel it – when I feel impulses like I did today – I can’t help but feel like I’d be so much happier and more at peace if I had just walked. I can’t help but feel like we’re doing it all wrong. I mean hell, we walk so little in our society today that we even have technology on our wrists to remind us that we aren’t doing enough walking so as to not die from a heart attack. Fuck.
So I guess it’s no wonder
my body my soul wanted to walk today. It’s something that it’s quite possibly never done, and what it was quite possibly primarily designed to do – to explore, to roam, to be free.
I was reminded of this even more today (which is not the same today as the earlier today because I write slow) when I watched Colin Arisman’s documentary on the Pacific Crest Trail Only the Essential. In it he said (in reflection of his 2,000+ mile journey), “I’m coming to understand what it means to travel at the speed of a human being.” Yeah, that sounds like something my body wanted to feel
today every day.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the fruits of our modern world. I do like being able to drive to work sometimes, converse with you all over the interweb, fly planes to places I’ve never seen, and have neck surgery in order to use the muscles in my left arm again, etc. But I think something’s got to give. We’ve gone way too far with our comfort and our lifestyles, to the point that it’s becoming very uncomfortable.
I’m just not designed for cars, or cubicles, or fluorescent lights, or couches, or concrete. And I’m only beginning to understand that.
Maybe that’s why vacations are so great. Not necessarily because we’re not working, but because we are so void of our everyday lifestyles and responsibilities that we have the freedom to do whatever. To just walk. To be free. To unplug. To roam. And yet, that too is something not seen by our society as necessary – vacation. Instead we’re required to work 40+ hours a week in order to barely pay off bills. And yet, we call that living.
I want to expand on this point for a second if I may, and elaborate on why just walking may be one of the sole keys to happiness. And why I think all of our bodies/souls yearn to do it.
Take a moment to think about all the people that come to your city, your town, or your home every year on vacation. Who seems to be enjoying your surroundings more? Who seems to find everything in it more interesting? Yet, if they are the same surroundings, why does one find the experience more exciting than the other? Could it be just because they have the time to walk around and appreciate everything more? Could it be that simple? What if you had the time to do so too? Would you enjoy your surrounding more? Are we all just doing human incorrectly?
In my book I wrote something similar to this, and that I think collaborates with what Colin was trying to say in his movie, just in a different way.
“Have you ever walked by something on a street near your house – maybe another house or a store in your neighborhood – and you were like, “Wow I never noticed that before?”. Looking at it as if you can’t believe you’re actually ‘seeing’ it for the very first time? I put seeing in quotations here because you’ve probably driven by it a hundred times, you’ve just never really noticed, noticed it before now.
That was kinda like my ability to appreciate and feel things before now in my life. I experienced all the same things I do now, but much like when driving, I was way too distracted and narrowly focused in my life to be able to give anything in it the attention it deserved.
It wasn’t until I simplified things, and eliminated all the noise and distractions in my life that I was able to finally see what I had been missing out on that whole time. That I had been surrounded by so many beautiful and amazing things, but that I was too misguided and out of focus to notice any of them. That I’d always had everything I needed in my life to be content and happy, I just needed to slow down enough to ‘see it’.”
This excerpt serves as a metaphor for my life before now, but I think it’s also pretty appropriate to show the err in how we go about our lives currently too, and how walking, or meditating, or just doing anything to slow down and JUST BE is often what’s missing in our practice. How doing something so simple can be so nourishing for our minds, our bodies, and our souls. And how maybe, just maybe we were only built to see the world at one speed.
With that, I think I’m going to…
Well, walk my dog to get the mail at least. Baby steps.