Sometimes when I walk – often really – my mind tunes out of its tumult and I go into a sort of trance. I’m not consciously thinking of anything, it’s more like my mind becomes a blank slate and impressions occur as I walk. “That tree is leaning awfully close to that house”; “who paints their car that colour?”; “was that a hawk or a falcon’s cry?”
My word for this is immersion – the act of allowing yourself to merge into your surroundings and letting that melding mould your thoughts. It’s not mindfulness in the meditation sense, and it’s not meditation. Rather it feels like bathing in a stream, where you lie still and the water plays on you, except when walking you are the stream, the current.
I love that feeling. You are alive and aware yet reactive rather than proactive. In my working life as a project manager, I have to be proactive, to think forward and sideways and anticipate and plan and organize. There is no space for immersion because I’ll get run over by events – one can’t stand still in the middle of the road.
Walking is the opposite of work for me because of that sense of immersing myself in my surroundings. There is no plan, there is just “be”.
It’s why I like to walk alone – it’s harder to immerse in the walk when in company because I’m conscious of the other person even if we aren’t chatting. Walking in company can be contemplative and certainly can be exercise, but it can’t be immersive. There is only one path at a time and it’s the one I’m on at that moment in that place, and I want to get everything out of that I can by immersing myself into that walk.