A call for safe footpaths between all Tasmanian cities and towns—starting with a path between Hobart and Launceston.

13 April 2015

The Tao of Walking

Prof. Gregory Baſsham’s article on walking at Scientia Salon:
Walkers are a motley tribe.  People walk for all sorts of reasons.  Sociable walkers walk for the pleasures of good talk.  Fitneſs walkers walk to stay in shape.  Nature walkers walk to enjoy nature.  Dog walkers walk to enjoy the company of a companionable dog.  Beach walkers (a tribe of their own) walk to enjoy sun and sand and a glittering shoreline,

where a confident sea
is ever breaking, never spent.

As G. M. Trevelyan says:  “There is no orthodoxy in walking.  It is a land of many paths and no-paths, where everyone goes his own way and is right.”
I wish to say a word about the special pleasures of long-distance walking.  I am thinking about two kinds of walks in particular: the all-day “tramp” and the multi-day walking holiday.  Although the notion of “the Tao [or Zen] of X” is greatly overworked, there are interesting tie-ins between Taoism and long-distance walking.  […]
Walking, for humans, is as natural as breathing.  Walking also comports with the Taoist ideal of simplicity.  In going for a long-distance walk, we free ourselves from the clutters and meſsineſs of modern life.  We say goodbye to the world of traffic, deadlines, meetings, and e-mails, and enter a stripped down, spare world of natural fundamentals:  walking, communing with nature, eating, drinking, eliminating, and sleeping.  There is freedom in this trade-off.  As William Hazlitt said, “We go a journey chiefly to be free of all impediments and of all inconveniences; to leave ourselves behind, much more to get rid of others.”
Do read the whole thing.

UPDATE I:  do also read (or listen to) “Walking Alone” by David Bouchier:
Walking is deeply is deeply unfashionable these days.  It’s not unusual to see apparently fit people manœvring aggreſsively for the parking spot closest to the supermarket door as if their lives depended on saving half a dozen steps.
But deliberate walking for exercise has not yet died out and the habit may even be on the increase as health-conscious baby-boomers reach an age when they have to give up jogging.  Some people like to walk in the suburbs where they can study the three varieties of suburban architecture and enjoy the thrill of danger that comes from having no sidewalks.  Some prefer to walk in the city so they can get their minimum daily dose of air pollutants and carbon monoxide.  Some prefer the torture machine called a treadmill, so they don’t have to go anywhere.  For myself I prefer the country, or any place where no buildings are visible in any direction.  Human habitations distract the mind, in a way that nature does not.
Distraction can ruin a good walk.  That’s why it’s important to walk alone sometimes, because the whole walking experience is about being with yourself and paying attention to the world around you.

UPDATE II:  see also How Walking in Nature Prevents Depreſsion” by Olga Khazan: 
A study [from Stanford University] finds that wild environments boost well-being by reducing obseſsive, negative thoughts.