‘I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend a day at least —and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absolutely free from all worldly engagements,’ Henry David Thoreau
What began as an idle thought of escaping cabin fever in the middle of a long and cold Melbourne winter, gradually evolved into a walking lifestyle that continually captures my imagination, inspires me to do and see more, stretches the boundaries of mind and body, induces a healthy, strong body, and teaches more about myself, nature, and the place I call home.
After years of combining a writing-life with facilitating writing and health and wellbeing retreats, I’ve come to believe that Thoreau stumbled on the secret to a happy, healthy and productive creative life – the need to preserve your health and spirits.
Not just now and again. Everyday.
Being creative is good for your health. But the creative process can also throw your health and wellbeing off balance. Sitting hunched over a computer for long periods at a time does not serve the human form well.
Mind-body connection is a dance that is constantly changing. Each supports and influences the other. Both are designed to move. To stretch and strengthen.
Cultivate the ‘Small Steps’ Response
The world walked by Thoreau was a very different one to today’s landscape, but the need for wellbeing is the same. You might not have the time or even want to spend days at a time ‘sauntering through the woods and over the hills’ in order to preserve your health and spirits.
But you do have five minutes a day. If you use those five minutes throughout the day with mindfulness and an open heart you can stay healthy and have a productive writing life.
Big, bold, dramatic changes are often hard to put into practice, and are rarely sustained.
Small steps lead to the same place, usually with greater ease and effect.
Like climbing a mountain, the effect of small steps is cumulative. The more often you participate and practice, the closer you get to your destination, and the more effective the transformation.
‘If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking…angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.’
There is a long tradition of writers who walked for pleasure and to enable their writing process. Henry Thoreau, William Wordsworth, and Charles Dickens are a few of many who documented their love and habit of daily walking.
At some point in the walk, body rhythm slows down and settles into a harmony that allows your mind to roam free in its creative landscape. Monkey chatter of the mind subsides. Like diving deep into the ocean, silence and stillness reigns. Creative ideas and images appear out of nowhere, out of seemingly nothingness. Creative juices flow.
Going walking isn’t about the need to do. It’s creating space in the day that allows you to be drawn to what attracts.
Whether you stroll or stride it out, walking gives you time and a sense of wonder that helps your writing flourish.
The act of taking a walk is being present with this footstep, this breath. And, if you listen carefully, you might hear the angels who are said to whisper to those who go for a walk.