Walking for Health – Walking for Change
“Walking is Man’s best medicine” ~ Hippocrates
Amidst the hurly-burly of life, we can often become detached – whether from our inner selves, from a clear perspective, or from our sense of wellbeing. In these times we can feel overwhelmed by circumstances or our environment, and what we need is to slow down our thinking, bring more clear light into our lives, get out of our heads and back in touch with nature in a complete change of surroundings.
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going – because you might not get there!” ~ Yogi Berra
Since I started walking seriously, in the autumn of 2016, I’ve fashioned some considerable changes in my life. These have been both at the physical as well as the mental level. But there has to be a Plan, a purposeful process to the journey. And it starts with the signpost or, as Yogi Berra puts it, have some idea of where to go and what you want to achieve.
Through regular walking I brought my understanding of those pillars of physical wellbeing, fitness and conditioning, to life. Normally this would be a pathway of understanding for the athletes I coach, but this time it was for Yours Truly.
Over that first autumn in 2016 the first gain was that I lost weight – and it was weight I had been trying to lose for a long time yet to no avail. The irony was that the weight loss just happened for me in an effortless, no-trying kind of way.
It was my wish, as I celebrated #Milestone70 last autumn, that I could reach the weight I was at the age of 20 – 10.5 stone. As 2018 unfolded I noticed movement in that direction. Then the moment came, earlier this year, when I reached 10.5 stone – whereupon I went out, celebrated with a slap-up meal and at once put a few pounds back on! I got it down again, I’m pleased to say, and have kept it “sensible” since then.
The second gain was my fitness, and conditioning. The fitness to walk and climb the distances and heights, and the conditioning to maintain the consistency and not break down. I learnt a lot from my climbing the two Yorkshire peaks Pen y Ghent in October 2017 and Ingleborough in September 2018. On each occasion I found myself in The Zone whilst tackling the climbs, and these two achievements have continued to sustain me through tough walks ever since. I am now fitter and in better “nick” than 5 years ago, and definitely 10 years ago.
Having alluded to The Zone I now find myself able to move more comfortably into that state of effortless action described in Taoism as Wu Wei.
In terms of any action – athletic or otherwise – there is always this idea in Western culture that we should try, try hard, try harder. If there’s an essential outcome in mind, then SHOULD quickly evolves into MUST. We must try as hard as we can, or else the consequences will be … ?
Wu Wei espouses taking action from a perspective at the other end of the scale to this.
The other thing I often notice about the effortless action of performing in The Zone is that well-known quote from Bruce Lee – “Be like water, my friend.”
There’s an effortlessness about water in that it goes as it is, where it is. It is both hard and soft, spectacular and serene, benign and fierce, still and rushing; it shapes the land and our perspectives. When we follow the pathway of “being like water” then we are more aligned with the cosmos. The universe facilitates our actions in an almost magical way – we, like water, are not trying.
Trying puts us in a physical and mental state of tension rather than ease. And part of trying is our ego’s way of proving to our Self and Others that this matters, that we care of its importance, and that in the event of failure we have a ready-made excuse for that failure. “We did our best.”
On the other hand, when the action comes from a perspective of being effortless, we find our body and mind working much more In-Sync, and things seem to go much smoother. It’s as if the plug in our “Bath of Thoughts” has been pulled at the same time as the taps have been turned off.
Understanding of the varying states of our Mental Focus also sustains me through both the regular and the challenging walks. When conditioned with Open Focus as a default state of mind, this enables us, on walks, to take control of our Attention which is enhanced by the whole idea of “Communion with Nature.” This is a communion that is a working model of alignment with WHAT IS.
While out walking in nature, and encountering some stunning backdrops, like me many people have experienced amazing shifts in perspectives, and for some these can be life-changing. As our minds settle down, insights and wisdom emerge from being hidden in the midst of all that noisy foreground of clamour, baggage and clutter. This sets the stage for us to get clear on those answers to important questions, problems and issues in our lives that have eluded us – in the daily pressure-cooker of our “real” world. And these answers, insights and moments of wisdom, all seem to arise effortlessly as if from Out Of The Blue.
Mind and Body are one system
Mind and Body are one system, and when they are working In Sync we are in a state of effortless wellbeing. When either part of that unified system is suffering ill health then we fall out of alignment with ourselves. Yet physical ill health and mental ill health are not mutually exclusive. Each one brings some action to bear upon the other; our neuro-physiological resource centres make adjustments to facilitate the unified system getting through the circumstances as best as possible. Sometimes, this brings about – for us – some symptoms that may alarm or concern!
After a punishing weekend of sporting action earlier this year in the summer heat wave, my body shut me down at the end of the following Monday. I was forced to move slowly, gingerly, sparingly – so I would not expend more energy than it was capable of delivering. By the Friday of that week I began to be able to climb up and down stairs more normally – so you can see how depleted my brain considered my physical resources to be. This began to have a significance upon my mental resilience – an area upon which I had and have a huge reliance.
Whilst my body recovered reasonably quickly, my mental health took a hit I hadn’t anticipated. Recovery from the mental health dip took well over ten weeks!
We may have experienced for ourselves, or know of others, who have psychosomatic symptoms of pain or discomfort, even though there is nothing physically wrong. This is where our mental wellbeing comes under threat from a lack of resources especially at those times when we pay more attention to the personal contents of our thinking.
We will have had experience of, and know of others who also experience, the emotional content of our memories of physical pain. The emotional content is a flag on the experience that we file away as a marker. “I don’t like going to the dentist,” is a comment built from memory, and the memory is built from what ACTUALLY happened + the emotion we added in.
I have worked with enough people on their emotional memory markers, to know that these play into BOTH their minds and their bodies. I’ve also enabled them to lose their access to these markers, so that the behavioural triggers they used to fire as a response no longer occur.
When I developed the idea of MIND RELAX sessions, I very soon reached the conclusion that in terms of the Mind-Body link, when one is functioning less well, why can I not use one to help the other? So that the Physical can help the Mental, and vice versa.
That was when I realised that Walking for Health is right up there with Walking for Change.
Merging my Passions – Old and New
Walking has become a new passion for me – and joins my other passions for coaching, for music, for sport, for performance. It started out as a desire, to get out and just do it and see if I liked it. When I put some action, some purpose into that desire, I realised that I was “catching the bug.” Once it became easier to say yes rather than no, I got the sense that I was spending a lot of time doing it, and a lot of time planning it as well. That’s how it grew into a passion.
Psychologist, Angela Lee Duckworth contends this, in terms of the contest between finding or developing our Passions – “Passions tend to be developed. It’s not just about being intense about what you’re doing but waking up week after week, month after month, year after year, wanting to think about the same thing.” It’s something fulfilling and enjoyable, but it’s not that easy; Duckworth calls it “hard fun.”
The next phase was to merge my passions for walking and coaching, to take my “office” out into those amazing places, and thus I developed the WALKING & COACHING programme now outlined on my website – here – https://thewrightwayltd.co.uk/mentoring/
If you are interested in joining with me on one of these journeys, setting up a healthy and purposeful dialogue for change with nature and with yourself, then get in touch and we can set the ball rolling.