A Spirituality of Walking

by Tim Lietzke

Why do I walk? 

First, walking is just one of those things I do every day, like eating, sleeping, reading, and practicing yoga. A day without walking would be as incomplete as a day without thinking. So, there’s an inner necessity to walk. I could buy a vehicle of some sort, a bicycle say, if I had no more need than simply to get around. But I don’t want a vehicle. The inner sense of spiritual freedom in being vehicle-less is great. I’m not against vehicles per say. I do take advantage of them, but I like to do so only when it’s especially necessary.

At times when I don’t need to walk very fast, I do walking meditation. I put breath and footsteps in sync, say four steps for every in-breath and four for every out-breath. That centers the mind and body.

Walking provides me the opportunity to reflect.

In the late ‘70s, I went to Heidelberg to visit a friend, who was studying philosophy there. We walked along the Philosopher’s Way on the ridge overlooking the town. I have the feeling, partly inspired by that experience, that philosophers throughout the ages have tended to be walkers. Most philosophically-minded people agree that living the good life entails balance, one element of which is moving the body.

When walking, I tend to notice things around me more.

My feeling of oneness with the life around me is deeper than when riding in a car. In a car, I feel more like an alien – and thus alienated. By contrast, on the sidewalks and pathways I meet people; sometimes we stop to chat. With some there is no verbal connection beyond “hello, how are you?”, but our frequent passing has created a bond. If and when the conversation does happen to come, it comes easily because we already have an incipient, unspoken friendship.

Great masses of the world’s people are walkers.

That’s how the poor tend to get around–to fetch water or firewood, to go to the fields to grow food, to travel to the next village. I walk in solidarity with them. The poor who walk have small environmental footprints. They’re not the ones causing global warming though unjustly they’re generally the first to suffer from it. I don’t want to increase their suffering if I can help it, and so I walk.

Why don’t we walk more?

Is it injury? Being out of shape? Still tied to old habits? Thinking we’re too busy? Injuries can be a serious problem. It was rough going for 6 or 8 months after tearing my Achilles tendon, and months more to overcome the habit of limping. Being out of shape can usually be reversed, little by little, if there’s the will, as can old habits. Is everything we do so important to make us too busy to walk?

Paul’s electric golf cart makes me smile.

But what makes me smile even more is the thought of people walking together while discussing vital life questions.

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