Go for a walk & mean it!

even if we have to say to ourselves, I'm going for a walk now, then so be it.

Have you ever tried to walk and not think? I've actually been able to accomplish that a lot lately thanks to Taylor Swift. My girls love her and listen to her songs constantly. But damn if T Swift doesn’t get really stuck in my head. So there I am walking the dog, walking the beach, walking to work, singing Tay, not thinking. I like T, don't get me wrong, but everyone needs a little peace and quiet sometimes, right?

I love to go for a walk and get lost in thought and wind up somewhere new. But with Tay stuck in my head or with some other nagging stress stuck on repeat bouncing around the brain, I can't get lost.

“We think that with all our technological devices we can connect, but this is an illusion. In daily life we’re disconnected from ourselves. We walk, but we don’t know that we’re walking. We’re here, but we don’t know that we’re here. We’re alive, but we don’t know that we’re alive. Throughout the day, we lose ourselves.”

  • Thich Nhat Hahn

So there's two ways (likely more) for us to lose ourselves. We can be present within the loss or we can remain unaware. As Hahn says, if we walk without understanding why, without purpose, then we've lost ourselves, we are not connected, we are closed off to discovery, we will not wind up someplace new.

But if we are trying to lose ourselves, if we are deliberate, if we set out on a walk with a purpose—unlocking some problem or simply to clear our minds—we will find ourselves, we will wind up someplace new.

The problem is attention. We are easily duped into giving our attention away. So many devices, so many strategies, so many secret psychological passageways into our unconscious minds that are used against us. Before we know it, we've been locked in a death scroll on social for 15 minutes, or humming a song for half of our walk, or watching some new show thanks to autoplay. 

Attention is a weak and fickle little shitbag sometimes. So what are we to do? “Go for a goddamn walk! And mean it!” says the cantankerous old writer. I am being especially ornery today, no?

Even if we have to say to ourselves, out loud, “I'm going for a walk now and I'm going to clear my head and I'm going to get lost and I'm going to come back a new person,” then so be it.

Tell attention what to do. It's the only way.

If intrusive thoughts disrupt our reading or pop into a conversation or interrupt some deep work, tell those thoughts to get lost. Say it out loud if need be. Similar to seeing thoughts on paper as we journal, sometimes we need to hear ourselves say something to pay attention to it.