I’ve been back in Los Angeles for only a couple of days now and already can’t help but notice how much time I’m spending in my car and how much less I am walking. Granted Florence is much smaller than Los Angeles and is easily navigated by foot or bicycle. But I think that as a general rule many Americans take the benefits of walking for granted. Most of us limit the steps they take by driving for long periods of time. Walking, even just a few blocks a day, has unlimited benefits – not only for our health, but our spirit as well, because as we walk, we connect to the earth and our surroundings.
Even when walking on city concrete, the earth is still beneath us, supporting us. Walking lets our body remember simpler times, when life was less complicated. This helps us slow down to the speed of our body and take the time to integrate the natural flow of life into our cellular tissue. Instead of running from place to place or thinking about how much more we can fit into our day, walking allows us to exist in the moment.
Each step we take can lead us to becoming more mindful of ourselves and our feelings. Walking slows us down enough not only to pay attention to where we are in our body, but also to our breath. Taking time to simply notice our breath while we walk, through the length of our inhales and exhales, and becoming attuned to the way in which we breathe is taking a step towards mindfulness. When we become more mindful, we gradually increase our awareness of the environment around us and start to recognize that the normal flow of our thoughts and feelings are not always related to where we are in the present moment. Gradually we realize that the connection we have with the earth and the ground beneath our feet is all that is. By walking and practicing breathing mindfully we gain a sense of calm and tranquility — the problems and troubles of the day slowly fade away because we are in the ‘now’.
The simplicity and ease of a walking practice allows us to create time, space and awareness of our surroundings and of the wonders that lie within. Taking a few moments to walk each day and become more aware of our breath will in turn open the door for the beauty of the world around us to filter in.