29th October 2021

Today when I went out into the fields just down the lane from where I live, I was immediately aware of the lively and incessant bird song that rebounded through the trees around me. I felt an instant thrill course through my whole body and I pondered whether the birds were sending me a direct message to realise just how wonderful life is and that I should be living with gratitude in every moment of every day. Whether there was in fact a message in the bird song or not didn’t matter to me. The utter exhilaration and connection I felt to the real, living world around me was enough to make my day. I felt glad to have been out there in that moment bearing witness to it; being part of it.


mountainsAnd quite sadly, it brought to mind something I heard yesterday from a lady who said: “Oh goodness when do you go out walking? Can I walk with you? I hate walking alone. I get so bored.” And I recall stopping in my tracks, rendered immobile with disbelief, because I couldn’t for the life of me fathom what must be going through this lady’s mind to say (and believe?) she was so bored when out walking alone. 

In the first instance, knowing this lady lived right on the doorstep of some very beautiful walks offering spectacular views of the Pyrenees, I was stunned and wondered whether her comments were no more than flippant throw-aways to disguise the fact that she just couldn’t be bothered to go out walking. Perhaps she was unaware or simply disinterested in the magnificent countryside that surrounded her. Perhaps she was simply too scared to step foot out of the door and go explore what was there right under her nose? 


I tried to evaluate her words and their implications from a different angle. Was she walking in a void, her senses cut off from everything around her? From everything around here? Could she not hear the birdsong or smell the sweet scent of the fir trees? Could she not smell or even begin to taste the slightly salty, misty rain blowing in from the east? Surely the crunch of crispy leaves underfoot would bring a smile to her lips? Or the gentlest of breezes tickling her face? Or the sheer contentedness of seeing no other person for miles, just an open space where the observer and the observed could commune in appreciative and respectful silence? Looking at the autumn blanket of two-toned red and orange or brown and yellow leaves running through the vineyards as far as the eye could see, did she not appreciate the beauty of nature’s seasonal handiwork that was unfolding before her very eyes? Standing there today, feeling my inner peace reflected in the peace of the countryside around me, I really tried hard to put my finger on just what it was that made this lady bored. 


vineyards“I get so bored walking alone”… the words ricocheted in my head. If her five physical senses couldn’t find anything to appreciate in the natural world, was she locked inside her own mind, playing out a key part of an inner drama perhaps, in which she talked to herself incessantly? How else could she be missing out on all the vibrancy and excitement of the earth’s vital lifeforce bustling all around her? And, if she was lost in her own inner play, was it in fact her own topic of conversation that was boring her to tears and not the countryside at all? Maybe that was it, maybe she wasn’t aware that she was simply boring herself….


It made me think of one of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer's quotes which I later dug out and couldn't resist slipping in here: "Most people who are lonely are lonely because they don't like the person they're alone with. If you like the person you're alone with, being alone is never a problem. It's just terrific. But if this person I'm alone with is really sort of contemptible and unacceptable to me, then I'm looking for somebody or something else to fill in the voids." (taken from: You Are What You Think). Now I know this quote refers specifically to people who are lonely, but I couldn't help questioning that surely this applies just as equally well to people bored with their own company?


I’m afraid I’m one of those people who still think, somewhat naively it would seem, that when people say something, they actually say what they mean. Why else say it? Why else speak? At the age of 53 I have to keep reminding myself through the sometimes-hard lessons of life that people rarely say what they really mean or think. It’s actually quite rare to find someone who says what they mean and are willing to share their true inner feelings. The vast majority of folks say all sorts of things most of which they don’t mean as they often rely on cheap talk and trivia, avoiding any deep thought and discussion about their true inner feelings lest they expose their vulnerability and unwittingly invoke ridicule or negative repercussion.


autumn watersI gave it another go, the contemplation of the real issue, I mean. Perhaps there was nothing more to it than this person couldn’t bear her own company and so she was afraid to walk alone in case her own incessant and nagging mind chatter started to drive her mad. Perhaps it was being alone that scared her and it was nothing to do with walking. Perhaps she was one of those people that needed to fill their heads constantly with noise from the TV or the radio, the phone or mindless chitchat or gossip in order to prevent the real meaningful issues lurking in the scary subconscious from surfacing and ruining her day. Maybe there were real things going on inside her head that she was avoiding dealing with, refusing to listen to, and so she needed to walk with someone to keep the outer chatter constant, thereby drowning out the quieter inner voice of the soul within that so wanted to speak up and be heard. 


La PeneMaybe going for a walk meant no more to this lady than getting some fresh air while fuelling the inane chatter so that any genuine and meaningful reflections which usually and quite naturally come while out walking in nature couldn’t surface. Whatever the reason was, it struck me that this lady had completely lost the art of listening to the music of nature and was, I felt, therefore in danger of losing herself. Most people can usually still respond to the sweet sound of birdsong. Most people can still respond, in one way or another, to the sound of the wind blowing, the rustle of falling leaves or the sound of rain beating down on the ground. For many people, these perfectly normal acts of nature provide a calming and loving connection to and with nature that we get in no other way; they strike us deep on the inside, touching the core of our being, giving us comforting feelings like no other. For me and many others, going out for a walk alone gives an opportunity to reflect on life, nature, beauty, love, the movement of the sun and the stars, relationships, solutions, spirituality, and myriad other topics which all need deeper reflection to grow in life. Walking alone in nature has proven to be a way – indeed the way - to be inspired, uplifted, enlightened, and energised for millions of walkers, thinkers, lovers, fighters, saviours and life-livers. Walking alone gives us the opportunity to grow in so many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually as we pace out our measured steps, periodically stopping to reflect, consider, meditate and resolve our life matters, all in well-balanced mind-body communion with nature. Walking alone in nature is what feeds our better nature.


birds in formationI came to the following conclusion. People who need to walk with others because walking alone is boring, do so to distract themselves from the act of walking and enjoying time in their own company. They don’t really want to be there, out in nature, relishing all that they may discover out there about the world and same time about themselves. They may think they need physical exercise (or their doctor has told them so) and so begrudgingly they choose walking as the lesser of many evils as far as different forms of exercise are concerned. They don’t want to be present in the moment, savouring the reconnection with the natural world. For many, they actually want to try and forget what they are doing, wishing they were someplace else, enduring the moment the best they can without wanting to be part of it. I would say then that the exercise would have no benefit since we have to commit and believe for there to be a positive outcome wouldn’t you say? For these people, there is no real presence of mind, no enjoyment of the moment since it is an obligation and, as such, is resented. What a waste of time. What a waste in life.

Sounds harsh? Perhaps it is.



The other side of the coin is more optimistic in nature and more to my liking. People who are willing and motivated to adopt good habits are seeking to do something to better themselves physically and energetically. If we start to eat healthy food, for example, within a short period of time we can develop a taste for the healthier options and, as our bodies acclimatise (perhaps from a lifetime of poor eating habits?) they will even start to feel the benefits of the healthier food and respond more positively to it and begin to crave more. Eventually, our bodies may not even want any of the bad stuff anymore. My point is that, the more we do the good stuff, the better it is for us and the more our bodies want it. And it’s the same with walking. It has been scientifically proven that walking does a similar thing for us improving us beyond the mere physical body to help us also benefit mentally, emotionally and spiritually in myriad ways such as:

catkin


 

  • Increased happiness, self-worth and self-esteem;
  • Reduced negatives such as: stress, anger and depression.
  • Greater acceptance: nature is impartial and doesn’t judge;
  • Greater socialisation: individuals share, chatter, learn to cooperate, accept and tolerate others;
  • Increased mobility: you have to move to get out there and participate in nature and so physical exertion is required which improves health;
  • Increased mental stimulation:  nature often invokes memories and helps spark ideas and new thoughts, helping with clarity of thinking leading to goal-setting;
  • Necessary physical contact: whether we walk in a wood, touch a leaf or feel the sun and wind on our skin, nature is a sensory experience and as such we easily develop empathy with it;
  • Greater physiological benefits: regular gentle exercise helps reduce blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health;
  • Greater psychological benefits: through increased acceptance, nature helps to similarly engender greater levels of trust, respect, love, worth to name but a few;
  • Self-actualisation: experiences in nature offer many the opportunity to enjoy a peak experience, feel connected to something bigger, the universe and even the divine.

But if you don’t get out there regularly, you risk not developing a habit which can help you reconnect with the natural world and benefit from any of the above.ladybird


In a nutshell, if you want to walk and enjoy the walking experience, you need to open your heart and mind as well as your eyes when you go out and do it. It doesn’t matter whether you go walking for four hours or 30 minutes but the built-in intention to appreciate and enjoy the experience no matter what needs to be there. Try and see things as a child does and re-discover the wonder in all things living! Go with the intention of exploring the local pond or a nearby hillock. Go follow the fox tracks or listen to the sound of the woodpecker. Whatever you do, go to enjoy it and be a part of it. It is, after all, our natural habitat and we would all do well to not forget our roots, our origins, and spend more time reconnecting with it to improve our physical and mental health and inner peace.


At the end of the day, it’s up to every one of us to choose whether we like to walk or not. We all have the freedom to choose and to say so. But please don’t say walking is boring if what you really mean to say is that you don’t want to go walking alone.