For the past few months, I have been getting back into listening to audiobooks while I walk my dog. Sometimes, though, during the year, I feel that I could use the silence more than anything while I walk. There are times that I am continuously taking in information during the day so that the time spent walking is an opportunity to clear my head and have some peace.
Since the holidays, my consulting schedule has slowed down and I’ve felt fortunate to get into a few good books. Most recently, I finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed, which has been turned into a movie with Reese Witherspoon. It’s nominated for a few Oscars and I’m happy to say that I now know the plot. Cheryl is a talented writer and although it wasn’t what I thought it would be about, I still found it very insightful, entertaining, and very much worth the time.
I think that listening to books while I walk is greatly satisfying. Not only am I being opened up to new perspectives, but I’m able to move the body and still fully concentrate on the subject. Moving gives us a fresh outlook which I find is very powerful. Maggie and I walk on quiet trails by the beach or by the nearby marsh, trails which also allow for concentrated focus.
This being said, I’d like to share with you something that I’ve taken away from this book so far. It is a meditation technique that the main character uses in Wild when she is hiking the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT). She spends many days by herself and often on tough, rigorous hiking paths. To keep her mind focused, she starts counting her steps. When the trail is easy, she is able to count to 100. When it gets more difficult, she can only make it to 50. After some time, the uphill challenge only allows her mind to count to ten.
When we try and keep our mind still and count to ten, it’s almost impossible before the mind wanders. Although we are not being physically challenged, our busy minds are continuously on the go and/or something interrupts us. The character in Wild most often was uninterrupted when she was counting, but when the body was stressed, she could not count very far.
Our physical bodies are not often stressed, but our mental ones are. We often don’t realize how exhausting it is to have the mind jumping from topic to topic throughout the day. When we go on retreat or on vacation, it’s much easier to achieve these goals.
I liked this example because it shows us how the exhaustion stops us from moving forward. When you have some time, see if you can quiet the mind enough to get to a higher number.
Today I got a pair of SPF 50 sun-protection sleeves in the mail and I couldn’t be more excited. Despite my trying to avoid sun, wear sunscreen, and put on long-sleeved shirts, I still continue to get more color than I think is healthy. I know that Vitamin D is important, but here in California, the sun is so strong that even after fifteen minutes, I often get burnt.
Last week, I took Maggie for a walk and I discovered again how great it is to walk outdoors. She takes me on these adventures where we wander through our community, meet neighbors, and listen to books on tape (ok, just I listen while she walks).
When I return from our outings, I am always calmer, feeling physically better, and I always have a different perspective on things. When I sit at home, I circle around and around about decisions or projects that move through my brain, where often I end up at the same dead-end conclusions. When I move, however, new ideas consistently spring into my mind.
For example, today I had completely forgotten to email a friend with some information. Yesterday, I was so excited to connect with her and I told myself to write her as soon as I was back at my computer. With the Monday rush of things to do, it completely slipped my mind. Then, just as Maggie and I were walking back from our outing, I remembered. I quickly sat down and sent her the important note.
Contrarily, sometimes I feel reluctant to take her because it feels like so much effort, but it’s never as much as I think. As soon as we start walking, I quickly catch fresh energy and feel myself stepping with vigor more and more in each step. With my new sun-protection sleeves, I can’t wait to continue listening, to create clarity, and to live life to the fullest.