Since 2011, when Melissa and I moved into our micro-apartment in Greenwich Village, we have not owned a car. Since moving permanently here to Bolivia, I have not driven a car either. I travel most places by foot now, occasionally by bicycle, and sometimes by public transportation – microbuses and trufis. In small places, like the town we lived in, in Bolivia, you can biped, or walk, almost everywhere.
Many cultures around the world view walking as a spiritual practice. Certain religious traditions, such as the Zen Buddhist tradition, use walking as a form of spiritual practice, as walking can form a unique bridge between every day, ordinary life and the extraordinary experience of meditation. Mindful walking can be meditation in action.
Mindful walking has taught me to stay present in the present moment and fully experience my life as it unfolds – to hear the sounds of the creek rushing by our Casa Guaparu, to see the changes in my orchard, to feel the shifts in the seasons, and taste the tropical Amazonian-Bolivian air. Some of my best ideas come to me as I walk; I often carry a little voice recorder with me during my early morning, mid-afternoon, or evening strolls to record these ideas, so they can later be transcribed and used in my future work.
In her blog, GoodLife Zen, Mary Jaksch discusses some of the benefits of walking, including the obvious better health, but also some of the less discussed such as a clearer and more focused mind and a deep, spiritual experience. Her tips for starting a mindful walking practice include:
- Walk at a medium pace
- Keep you head up and look around
- Focus on sights, body sensations, and sounds
- Touch fore-finger and thumb together to remind you to be mindful
- Coordinate breath and steps
- Let the earth carry you