On the Value of Walking
By: Janine Steytler
Walking has many references to the overall wellbeing of humanity. Our journey as humans began when we started walking upright and wandering on foot. We often hear about the metaphors of walking and how we can integrate the act of walking into our mental and spiritual explorations. We use walking to describe acts of escape such as “walking” away from something that is no longer good for your spirit; or to describe endurance in the way that we “walk” through trying times and continue in bravery.
Walking is also used in concepts that revolve around death to explain the movement from life to death - and back toward life by “walking towards the light”. Metaphors of walking were even used in the context of technological evolution when Neil Armstrong took the first step on the moon which was quoted as being “one giant step for mankind".
It is no secret that walking is healing for our bodies as well as for our spirits. But what is it about venturing into new places by foot that makes us return home feeling comforted, clear-headed, calmer, more courageous and grounded? I asked myself a few weeks ago: “why do I walk?”.
Walking has become so much more than a hobby. I have always been someone who makes connections between things that, seem at first, to have no relation to one another. When I thought about why I walk into mountains I began to make associations with how physical events affected my emotional body too.
“A walk in nature walks the soul back home” - Mary Davis
Views within forests and atop mountains have changed my actual worldview. I learned that sometimes walking on the path is necessary when I needed a clear direction on where to go. Sometimes, walking off the path was liberating and led me to see what was hidden from me. This applies to non-tangible lessons in my life too. When I expose my eyes to a broader landscape and all the different ecosystems I walk through, I become more aware of how diverse the world is in general and how many parts there are to our minds that we are only just beginning to understand. The more space I have around me the more space I have to sieve through my thoughts.
As graceful as the butterfly that just flew past me, I am able to compassionately tend to thoughts of anxiousness and discomfort I carry with me. As bold as the river I walk along, I am able to follow through with my journey and continue the flow of my creativity. As dynamic and ever-changing as the weather cycles, I encounter on my endeavours, I am able to adapt to the variability of my life.
To walk is to understand the intricacies that are involved in our emotional wellness and our mindsets about who we are to ourselves, the people and ecosystems around us. We can use the same principles about walking outdoors to the way we look at the world and how we face our challenges.
Something that jumps out at me often when I am on an adventure, apart from the occasional frog and locust, is the realisation of how connected I am to everything in the same way that everything in the ecosystem is connected to one another.
This is quite a common concept that I hear about often but I truly realise the significance of this when I am actually outdoors witnessing the interconnected dance of all living and none living things in my surroundings. Walking in the expanse of the outdoors helps me understand how to walk in the landscapes of my mind. For me, this is how the mountains, forests, ponds, rivers, oceans and trails are a reflection of us as human beings. I peer into a whole different world when I crouch over a pond, and that world is more about how I see than what I see.
When my brother was younger, he painted a phrase onto his wall and it has always stuck with me.
“Walk as far as you can see, and when you get there-you will see further”
Isn’t this the most comforting thought to keep close when you begin a new adventure? We do not always need to know every step of our journey. We walk until the next step is revealed to us.
I walk because I have realised that one step after the other is more than fitness or health. It is about opening up my mind to connections and understanding. It is about changing my worldview by doing what we as humans do without having to be experts or educated in. I walk because it so naturally assists in my existence as a human being before I label myself as anything else. I walk because to saunter through miscellaneous topography is to have something in common with every human being.
I walk because I am free.