I’m preparing for another long hike. Every now and then I just need to get away to spend an extended period of time in the woods. Lots of people wonder why I do it. There are various reasons, and it goes way beyond just going for a walk in the woods and camping, beyond getting “in touch with nature.”
“I walk chiefly to visit natural objects, but I sometimes go on foot to visit myself.” –Alfred Barron, Foot Notes, Or, Walking as a Fine Art,1875
The past three years have been hard on me. Several things came together at once and left me wondering who I am. My inner peace is gone, and I’ve been slowly sliding into depression. One thing I do know is that problems can’t be solved by continuing to do the same things. In order to heal my spirit, I must remove myself completely from my current flow of life and get into a different environment.
“Solvitur ambulando” — Latin, meaning “it is solved by walking.”
For several months now I haven’t even been able to think. My brain has been too full of “stuff.” I can’t follow a single thought through. For that I need solitude…and walking.
“I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.” –Jean-Jacque Rousseau, Confessions, 1782
Ever since my Appalachian Trail hike in 2001, I’ve recognized that I gain insights into problems and possibilities whenever I walk for a long time. Usually it doesn’t happen just walking around the block. I mean walking for hours, miles, days. Especially days. It can take a lot of miles just to shed the tension that’s keeping my mind tied up with issues. Only then can I relax into walking meditation. Only then do the solutions reveal themselves.
You can read more about the benefits of walking — even just short walks — at The Art of Manliness