We’re faced with hundreds of choices every day. And bigger choices in seasons or stages of our life. One of these choices is whether to walk or run – physically and metaphorically…
Both current family circumstances and continuing to think about the slow movement draws my attention to this particular choice.
Sometimes there’s no option but to run. This may be OK for a season, but like an elastic band stretched for too long, it will pull us out of shape. But the same is true in reverse. We need spurts of running to keep our hearts and minds healthy.
Just now I’ve been doing both, including learning how to just walk in a different way.
Out in the valley, I know that if I do the animal rounds at a pace I miss so much of being here. Likewise being in a hurry to get wherever we are going loses the view along the way. We miss smelling the roses!
But this also applies to how we choose to be present. This is very difficult if we are constantly in a hurry inside.
Approaching the holiday season, this celebration of Christ’s birth, we have the opportunity to consciously choose to walk and not run. To be present to the wonder of it all. But it does take a deliberate choice. We have to change gear, the season doesn’t do it for us.
I wonder what is most important for each of us. The people and places we really want to be present for at this time.
For anyone who has done long distance walking – or even spent days without vehicle travel – you’ll know what I mean when I say that ‘time changes’. To walk, rather than run or drive, alters our perspective.
Progress is measured on a different scale. Horizons take on a changed significance. We value things differently and allow the chaos of our minds to settle. Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking.
To walk is to engage with our environment. Walking around the valley I see and hear more, sometimes catching unusual birdsong and rustling in the undergrowth. I pick up scents, feel the direction of the breeze and notice what is happening on the water.
Running, I’m much more inside my own head. Aware of my racing thoughts and the movement of my body.
For a beautiful virtual walk through parts of the valley do see our artist friend Alastair Duncan’s StillWalks post from The Waterside. Savour the experience…
Recently though, I have been in situations where I don’t have a choice about whether to walk or run. Circumstances haven’t given me clear enough sight ahead to go fast. So I walk. And I’ve been learning the value of this pace, appreciating its wisdom. Though usually only once I have given in… and I’m a slow learner!
Also to walk is inherently social. We more easily settle into a natural companionable rhythm.
When did you last have a really good conversation whilst hurrying? Anywhere…
When we moved into our Welsh speaking village we were conscious of our relative social isolation. So we chose to walk to village events rather than drive. Neighbours do find this surprising – our private lane is half a mile long. But this expresses our commitment to be part of the community, more than words could ever do.
The incidental human connections, even across a language divide, are made as we meet on the same level.
Walking invites exchange, a shared experience, whether or not words are used. We inhabit the same space, however briefly.
To walk together also enables things to be shared, including silence, that emerge at a natural pace. It can be a safe environment. In walking together side-by-side there is no threat, no exposure.
When did you last take a walk with someone you value? Instead of meeting for coffee, how about a stroll? In my experience, this isn’t only restricted to friends!
Given my background, you’d expect me to talk about the value of walking for wellbeing.
When we started healthy walks in General Practice twenty years ago it was novel. Now there is a wealth of research and data behind it. I don’t need to argue the case!
However, we can talk about wellbeing in general terms and still act as though it doesn’t apply to us.
The act of taking a walk. A choice to spend our valuable time doing this rather than something else. We are choosing ourselves. Our “one wild and precious life” as the poet Mary Oliver pens.
We are also choosing to slow down, not spend all of our time in haste. Choosing to inhabit the world of the truly human scale and find amazing treasures there.
During this holiday period, we have this opportunity. Let’s use it well.