This week, the evening drop of hope is dedicated to the biology and spirituality of walking. Why does walking make us feel good? For me, walking is habit. When I show up in a new city the SECOND thing I do is figure out where I can walk for exercise and what site seeing I can do on foot. (The first thing I do is figure out where I can get coffee.) During quarantine, I appreciate the gift of walking more than ever. I’ve been reading how walking elevates our mood. As we walk, we place our heart muscle under positive stress, and molecules are produced that assist with the growth of cells, regulation of metabolism and reducing inflammation. Walking is also essential to our nature and sets us apart as humans. No other animal does it. Have you ever watched a child learn to walk? One day they make this unique transition from crawling on all fours to toddling around on two feet. When my daughters were toddlers we sang a song: Walking, walking, walking, walking / seems so easy now / but I remember when I was small / and I did not know how! (On the most genius album of baby songs ever, by Hap Palmer.) And we do NOT walk by sight. Dr. Shane O’Mara observes that walking is how we begin to find our way around in the world and develop an internal GPS and sense of direction. People who are visually impaired from birth still navigate with purpose and direction, because the experience of walking around in three-dimensional space creates cognitive maps. Close your eyes, and point to the door. That is your cognitive map at work, and it was built by moving around—not by looking around. Movement through the world changes the dynamics of the brain itself, boosting creativity. Have you ever been out walking and had a hopeful time of prayer or an inspired idea for solving a relationship problem? Me too! “A walking brain is a more active brain,” writes Dr. Mara.
Spiritual PracticeSo, in this time of “stay at home” and “safer at home” limitations, let’s indulge the joy of walking. Take a walk and say, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!” I love what you do for my lungs; I love how you reduce my anxiety; I love how you help me stay connected with neighbors; I love all the birds and bees and flowers and trees that I walk with every day. The rest of this week, I will get spiritual and talk about walking as a metaphor for the faith journey: living faithfully, running risks and the art of pilgrimage. The biggest joy of the quarantine walks? Seeing Dave’s mom, who is 92, walking up my driveway for a little (socially distant) visit. Grandma lives two blocks away, and she walks every day. She is also an artist and a lover of international travel. My own mother lives four blocks away, and also walks by my house every morning. I learned the habit of daily walks from her. Sleep well and start your day tomorrow with a long walk in the neighborhood, Katie
You can find this post and posts like this on Katie’s blog: katiemartinezawake.com.