woman walking in the woods

Walking is a good metaphor for our lives these days. One step at a time. 

Many of us who live in suburbs now in vibrant bloom or within walking distance of stands of trees, creeks, or the ocean, are finding a renewed appreciation for the beauties of the natural world. And on our walks, we are not going anywhere. We are just walking to experience walking, to exercise, to feel better. 

Another thing we notice on our walks is the quiet. Even the city has the volume down. This quiet can pull us back in time to when we were kids or teens. We notice the birds and insects singing–and isn’t the sky much bluer now like it was years ago? Walking is meditative. In fact, “walking meditation” is a Buddhist meditation tradition that is combined with seated meditation. 

The Kids are Walking

Teens and young adults stuck at home are discovering walking. Staying 6 feet apart, and masked, they can walk with a friend or two and talk. I have heard that, (gasp) they even leave their phones at home. Maybe there is so much screen time now that even they need a break. 

Maryland psychologist Mary Alvord, whose practice specializes in young people, says in the Washington Post that isolation due to COVID-19 has raised their risk for anxiety and depression. Teens and young adults rely heavily on peer interactions, friendships, and support for their well-being. We can only hope that this experience of exploring places they normally would not have, seeing nature close up, and moving their bodies daily will stick when the volume gets turned back up. 

“Forest Bathing” Anywhere

San Francisco Zen priest Shundo David Haye has for years led urban hikes to serene and hidden green spaces through his Meetup group Roaming Zen. Since the Stay at Home orders he has instead published guides for “social distancing roams” that show how to follow urban trails through Russian Hill, Mount Olympus, Ocean Beach and more. Wow, don’t you just love those names?

Forest bathing, “shinrin-yoku” in Japanese, can provide benefits even if your piece of nature and green is small. Studies have shown overall stress reduction and even an immune system boost from time spent weekly in nature. 

No Gym, No Treadmill, No Problem

Some people are turning their house or apartment into a workout room. It is reported that noise complaints are up in city apartments as people lift weights and do indoor wind sprints. But a walking workout at home is a good alternative to going out, and needn’t be too loud for the downstairs neighbors. Here are a couple of easy workouts based on the walking motion. You can walk in place, do your steps while watching TV, or walk around your block. Walking, for the sake of walking, not necessarily to get somewhere is also a way to stay in touch with your body.

Right now, it truly is one day and one step at a time. Maybe that’s part of the genesis of the British phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On” which sustained the British people during WW2, which lasted years.

Be well, stay safe and do wear a mask if you’re out and about. 

When I wear a mask, I’m protecting you.

When you wear a mask, you’re protecting me, thanks.

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