The Spiritual and Physical
Walking (and exercise) has benefits beyond the merely physical. Many people walk as much for mental and spiritual well-being as for fitness. Can walking make you happy?
Can it help you deal with life stress? Can it help you work through relationship problems? Can it lead to a deeper spiritual and religious life? For many, the answer is Yes!
Walking outside has an enormous impact on mood, creativity, and mental clarity. Because of this, it can get you through failure and loss, get you past rejection, and help you reverse setbacks. Studies have shown that exercise-induced brain chemicals help people think more clearly. In addition to helping you think, taking a walk outside elevates your thought to a higher creative plane. Somehow, getting moving in the fresh air (or even in city air) gets you out of the box. Your mind can more easily find new perspectives when you’re in motion out in the world.
Walking reminds you of your connection to all that is. All energy is connected, but when we get wrapped up in the daily intricacies of our “what is” life, we often forget that. A walk outside can remind you of the vastness to which you’re connected. Knowing you have all that energy flowing to you, through you, and from you, can give you the sense of power you need to come back from any disappointment. Of course you’ve heard of endorphins. Walking creates them. Which means that walking boosts your mood?
When your mood is depressed, it’s tough to find the positive aspects that can lead you to solutions and better and better experiences. Studies have shown that regular walking can relieve depression, and that has certainly been my experience.
Walking opens possibilities. When you walk outside, you see so many different things. You see movement, color and shapes. You see people and events. All of this constantly moving sensory input (and even a static setting has this constant movement … think of the ocean waves or blowing leaves), taps into your ability to see possibility. Setback can feel like a static experience, an ending. Walking can show you just how open the world is. If you’re moving, your energy is flowing. Your energy is flowing even if you’re not moving, but you’re more aware of it when you’re moving.
Walking gives you time to go deeper and consider fundamental questions: What is the purpose of life? Am I fulfilling my purpose in life? What have I done that has made the world a better place? What ought I do? Have I caused hurt that I should now mend? What comes after life? What is the best way to live the rest of my life? These are questions for believers and nonbelievers alike. The time away from other cares and pressures gives you time to dwell on these fundamentals.
The spiritual benefits of walking address issues such as sense of connectedness, and ability to contemplate deeper values. They are not related to any specific belief system. At the most obvious level, walking gives us time to contemplate and also can be used as a meditation, connecting mind and body.
When we are out walking and see beautiful scenery, we get that sense of wonderment of being alive, especially with the increased vibrancy that comes from being physically fit. Because walking is slower paced than driving or even bicycling, when we see people in our walks, there tends to be a sense of belonging and community which contributes to our spiritual well-being.
Our lives are very busy and it’s often hard to find the time to take care of ourselves in this fast-moving world. Small walks are a great way to receive the benefits of walking. If time allows, walk your kids to school. Instead of taking your car to run a short errand, take a walk if the place you are going to is close enough. When it comes to exercise, nothing can really beat walking. After all, it’s something we already do every day. It doesn’t require any special equipment, and it’s something that will benefit the body, and the mind.