When my day-to-day routine used to look like a sprint from point A to point B, walking was a routine: same bus stop, same route to work, same grocery store and so on. When quarantine started, I was happy that I could finally take all those leisure walks to Lakeshore Boulevard that I could usually do once a month, at best.
But after a few times, I got bored, and that was unusual, given how much I thought I loved walking. It made me think that maybe I do, in fact, need constant change and stimulation, which got me digging into Google Maps, searching for new routes I could take.
It also got me finding myself some errands to run—which are, well, not exactly errands, but I make them to be. Like, you know, going to the restaurant to pick up some food, which I could easily order if I wanted to. But doing that gave me a goal and some sense of direction that I could take my walk to.
David Deida, in his book Intimate Communion, refers to this one-pointed focus and a sense of direction as ‘masculine energy,’ which (in this situation) is something I was perfectly exhibiting. I couldn’t just go with the flow.
Even with my walks, which are, of course, taken for leisure, and with the amount of time I have these days, I still need to have a direction, a goal or some sense of purpose, whether that’s a place to go to or a number of kilometres to walk.
In the old ‘normal’ world, this would make sense to me, because I was always limited in the time that I had for such leisure, but today, it hardly does. Why can’t I just let go of this need to be going somewhere, and leave my house without any idea of where my legs are going to take me?
The here and now
If I were to think about this through a different modality—say, something more spiritual, like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now—this means I am not in the present, I am somewhere else in my head. I don’t let myself enter and be in the here and now.
By being in the present, I could actually be in touch with my feelings and the environment around me. I could come outside, feel the breeze and see the reflections of the sun on the buildings—and why not just follow that?
Instead, I am already in the future, I am in the rigidity of my own mental ideas of what I think I should be doing, instead of what my body feels like doing. If I were to think about this from a psychological point of view, I am holding onto some need for security and certainty through a sense of determination in my daily walks.
Perhaps this is true, to some extent. But what matters is which lens you choose to see the world through, which modality you use to explain your own behaviour.
Some imply that this is not the way things should be, and that you should work towards changing your state of being. Others, as with Deida and his sexual essences, see those differences of directionality and going with the flow as something natural, something we can just accept and make peace with.
Acceptance is important, since the idea of ‘this is not how it should be’ can easily turn into constant anxiety and an orientation towards the future. But even such an implication doesn’t have to translate into the denial of circumstances. It can also take a form of acceptance, yet with the desire for growth.
The way I see it is illustrated by the difference between fixed and growth mindsets. If you are committed to self-development and growth, you might not explain this away as, “Well, I am just the kind of person who likes to have a sense of purpose in everything I do,” but rather, notice when this shifts, how that makes you feel and what prevents you from being truly in touch with your environment on a day-to-day basis.
It would be too easy to blame capitalism, our culture and an overload of stimulation that leads to goal-orientation and desensitization about our environment—or, as sociologist Georg Simmel wrote in his book The Metropolis and Mental Life (over 100 years ago!) , the development of ‘blase outlook’ as an outcome of urban life.
Perhaps, we can’t and don’t have to figure out which lens it is, but it is important to be aware of which modality or pair of glasses we choose to use to explain our own behaviour.
Usually, we choose the one that fits the mindset that we already have. If we are used to seeing ourselves as a victim, then explaining our own behaviour by external circumstances is a particular go-to.
I was too ready to jump on Deida’s explanation of the masculine innate sexual essence, because it gave me an easy way out. I didn’t have to overthink it. I could just continue to take my walks, always with a sense of purpose.
The beauty of nature
I have almost forgotten how different walking can feel when I take my mind out of the driver’s seat and for once let my body give me directions.
How wonderful it feels to be immersed in the sensations of the wind and sun, or in the beauty of sunsets, nature and even the same concrete buildings that I see every day.
Last week, I went out of my house without any sense of purpose. I was in the elevator, and I still didn’t know whether I was going to take a left or right turn once I was out the door. I didn’t know where I would end up and what time I wanted to be back, or how far I wanted to walk.
I didn’t even know if the weather was good for walking. I just felt this strong desire to be outside, so I got out, and for the first time in forever, I let my body lead the way.
This was also the same day I wrote another piece, “Is Your Body a Slave to Your Mind?”. That was the realization I was having: my mind is the master, and the body is like a dog on a leash. The latter wants to be let out, it wants to explore, it wants to follow its senses, be taken away by a fragrance, be mesmerized by a view, be curious about what’s behind this rock and that corner.
The mind is very one-directional, it’s here for a purpose. It is going to point A and then to point B. It is the mechanism that thinks it needs to ensure that everything will run smoothly. And indeed it does, at times, but at other times it needs to take a step down from its own pedestal.
Wandering around on the streets like that also made me think back to my childhood and to the inner child work I did with my therapist.
Following your instincts and just letting yourself be helps you build self-trust and unleashes your inner child, even if this is done through a simple activity like walking. It is just a different way of working through it. Not in the conscious and purposeful way that I do with my therapist or in my meditations, but rather, in the intuitive and experiential way that goes beyond words and mental concepts, that can only be felt and experienced.
«RELATED READ» FROM DOING TO BEING: Do idle hands really make the devil’s work?»
image 1 photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels 2 image by John Hain from Pixabay 3 Photo of swan by author