Are you a fast walker? A slow walker?
What does this tell you about your mind?
I was working with a client the other day when the conversation turned to his gate. He has been tracking down the source of his knee pain for quite some time. Recently, through work with a chiropractor and a structural integrationist he has been made aware of some basic distortions in his posture and the way that he walks that are contributing to his pain. Let’s call him Carl.
Carl is a fast walker. Carl lives in NYC and is well aware of the crowd. Carl charges forward and walks right past most others on the sidewalk. I am a lot like Carl. Occasionally I stroll, leisurely taking in the sites, but most of the time I am a man on a mission. I have somewhere to be and it is not here.
This is where consciousness comes into the equation. This is why the mind has a lot to do with how you walk.
Years ago I read the book “Slowness” by Milan Kundera. I love Milan Kundera. His insights into the inner workings of the human experience help him to create the most illuminating characters. I often put down his novels with a beautiful new appreciation for a subconscious process or previously unexplored habit. There is a scene in slowness, perhaps right at the beginning (it has been many years) that describes one of the characters walking away from something that just happened. Kundera focuses on the speed at which this character is walking. He points out that a key to understanding a persons relationship to what just happened is the speed at which they are walking.
Imagine yourself in the middle of giving a really embarrassing speech in front of a crowd of people. Pretend that for whatever reason this talk is just not going well. Your confidence is sapped. Feel the embarrassment in your body as you struggle to wrap up and get off stage. Do you want to hang out and mingle with the audience or do you want to leave quickly? Now walk away from that place and head somewhere completely different. Head to the comfort of your home. How are you walking?
I’ll bet you are walking fast. You want a distance between you and that place. More importantly, you want to move away from the feeling of being in that place. Kundera suggests that we walk quickly when we want to forget. It is as if moving faster might not only move us farther away physically, it might also speed up our metabolism and help clear these negative feelings from our system.
Now imagine the opposite. You have spent the night in your new lovers arms. Most likely in their bed. This night was bliss. You felt full, you felt seen, you felt respected and desired, you felt satisfied. You and your lover get up in the morning, kiss goodbye and you walk out the door. How are you walking now?
I’ll bet you are barely moving. You want to linger. You want this experience to last. Savoring a moment will cause one to walk slowly. The last thing you want is to have another experience too soon, to shake these feelings from your body. Letting too much in too quickly might just crowd out the sweetness that you just tasted.
The speed at which we walk is not only tied to the past. It is also tied to the future. Excited to get somewhere? You are walking quickly of course. Dreading a meeting? I’ll bet you are a bit slower.
But what does a nice, moderate pace communicate? What consciousness, what mood, is cultivated by walking at a pace that is not too slow and not too fast? What lies between a desire to leave the past and a desire to stay in the past? Between a desire to be in the future and a desire to avoid what is coming next?
Equanimity is one word for the complete acceptance of what is. It is a term often used to describe the state of mind that a life of meditation will cultivate. With equanimity comes deep joyful breathing and a lightness about all that has passed and all that is to come. Equanimity is a composure that even the most difficult situations can not disturb. Equanimity is not physical stillness, but it can feel like a stillness in ones thoughts. In many ways it is tied to being in a state of FLOW.
Our body follows our mind, but our mind also follows our body. It is a chicken or egg cycle that we can impact from either side of the equation. Change your mind and your body will react. Change your body and your consciousness shifts. You likely know that I am a huge fan of using Breathing Exercises to shift your mind and your subconsciously controlled body systems (such as heart rate and digestion). Another, perhaps more easily tapped resource is the way that you walk.
Try this today. Next time you are walking somewhere notice the speed at which you are walking. Now notice your mind. Play with the speed. Try walking extra slow. Do you feel resistance? Can you enjoy where you are? Are you thinking about the past? Does your mind go to the future? Can you feel your feet hit the ground? Can you smell the air? Do you hear birds? Cars? Other people breathing? Can you hear your own breath. The speed at which you walk connects with the contents of your mind. It connects directly with your ability to connect with The Power of Now.