Something I’ve known for a very long time is that I need to spend more time being still. Time doing nothing but pausing to think.
There are plenty of great examples (not least among which Stefan Sagmeister’s superb TED talk) of the times when we’re able to stop and think becoming launchpads for the successful directions we take in the future. It’s important. Like most people though, I live a busy life and so moments of peace to actually stop, re-centre myself and think have been pretty rare. Then, even when I do manage to press pause for a while, although my body is still, my mind spins on overdrive. Lists of things to do, plans to make, conversations to mull over. We’re geared to be active aren’t we? To be productive and doing something “useful” all the time. I’m sure you know the sort of thing.
During the last few months of being on lockdown and working from home, I’ve tried to start each day with a quiet time of prayer and reflection. But my busy, busy mind has made it hard to really connect with anything other than my “to do” list for the remainder of the day. I find it hard not to think and then eventually begin to fidget, before finally giving up and going to DO something. A couple of weeks ago I tried a new approach. Walking.
First thing every morning, come rain or shine (and they both have), I have got out of bed, dressed and had a glass of water then gone out and just walked. No destination, no purpose, just time outdoors, moving along for half an hour or so. I have a few routes around the village that I live in and just go where my nose takes me to be honest. Though I may start with some peaceful or uplifting music on my headphones, most of the time I end up unplugging them and just listening to the birds as I walk.
I have to say that the effect has been amazing. The movement itself, the act of walking seems to occupy enough of my mind and body that the rest of it can quieten down and simply be there. I think, without realising it, this walking time is something that I have missed from my previous daily commute. Time in my own head as I walked to and from the train station each day. I’ve prayed a lot, had some great thoughts and insights bubble up, dealt with a few things and drafted the outlines of blog posts as I walked. The only way I can describe it is as a form of “moving meditation”.
Maybe there’s something I’m still missing by not actually sitting still to meditate. I know this has been a staple practice of contemplatives from many faith traditions for generations, so there must be something in it. But for me, for now, my morning walk is serving well the purpose of starting the day right, connecting with God and allowing my mind to find some of the stillness that it needs.