Robert Poynton
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Walking is Working

December 14, 2017 – 2 min read


Yesterday, in the middle of the morning, I went out for a walk. Through the fruit orchard, down the hill under the oaks and pines to the stream, across the river by the waterfall, past the reservoir and back up the hill along the track. It was slippery underfoot, the carpet of leaves damp with melting frost.

It was  beautiful and energising, and, as if that weren’t enough, I had a hatful of ideas along the way. Forgotten projects came back to me in detail, the next steps as clear as my own tracks on the frosty grass. New ideas arose and my priorities for the week became as clear as the cold December sky under which I walked.  

Yet I nearly didn’t go.

This often happens. When I was writing ‘Do – Improvise’ I knew from experience that a walk would probably get me unstuck but even so, I would sit and struggle at my computer, resisting the urge to get out. It would take the patient and endless enthusiasm of my black labrador, Cosmo, to get me out on the path, where I would discover, yet again, that with movement, the blocks started to dissolve and the ideas to flow. I often joke that I should have dedicated the book to my dog.

This fascinates me. I know that walking works. I have read many wonderful books about its power from Robert Macfarlane’s ‘The Old Ways’ to the exquisite ‘Book of Mindful Walking’ by Adam Ford. In ‘The Philosophy of Walking’ Frederic Gros talks of the great thinkers who were also great walkers. And I understand enough of the science to know that this isn’t just a fanciful romantic notion, there is a biochemical reality underlying it. Move your body, move your mind. 

So why do I resist?

I think it’s a mixture of things. Being steeped in the protestant work ethic. A sense of unworthiness (‘Am I allowed to enjoy myself?’). A lack of imagination – I don’t think about what might change if I do something else. And a disregard of memory – I simply ignore past experience. A heady cocktail indeed.

How often do we do this I wonder? Not just with walking, but with anything. Blunder on in blind insistence, doing what we are doing, because we simply don’t pause to allow ourselves to consider doing something different that we know has worked before! 

So I am going to try something new. On the walk, one of the ideas I came up with was the title of this blog – ‘Walking is working’.

I am going to try using this as a heuristic or rule of thumb, to shortcut the mental sidetracking that stops me putting one foot in front of the other. ‘It’s ok, I will tell my guilty conscience… “walking IS working”…..’

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