When my son was a little over a year old, a friend and I began The Morning Walk. Our motivations were simple: lose weight, break up the long days alone with the baby, and vent. We live in a valley between the foothills of the Alps, down a steep hill from the village center. We both pushed strollers up the curving incline to the center of town. Our muscles grew along with our kids. Preschool began; we dropped the strollers and went higher and steeper, using the time to support each other and gain perspective from our parallel “love-pat” lives. Over the years, we’ve changed routes, pushing ourselves in different directions, and inspired each other when energy was low. Routines changed, but we continued with or without the other. It is deep in our bones now, a habit that be can’t broken.
It’s six years later and this Morning Walk has changed my mental and physical health in prism-like fashion. Changes in my confidence, and social, family, and creative life have led to increased involvement in the community in which I live – 8,000 miles from “home”. The Morning Walk has indirectly led me to unexpected joys (like singing jazz standards with a 20-piece big band) and a groundedness I never thought I would experience outside my country of origin.
You can’t be stuck, if you’re moving forward.
You can’t be isolated, if you put yourself out there.
Morning Walk = Mindful Walking
I walk for different reasons now. The stamina and strength is there, as is the bond of those toughening years pushing strollers together. I walk in consciousness and awareness of my breath and surroundings. I walk to awaken my senses and center myself. I walk to be a part of the changing seasons, to notice the tiny transformations in nature and the townspeople. Mornings, walking together, are not as frequent these days and, in turn, relished.
Sometimes I listen to music or favorite podcasts. Other times, I practice loving kindness meditation to the rhythm of my breath and step. On days where my thoughts become tiny tornadoes, I whisper “just” (step) “this” (step), all the way up the hill.
Every morning I choose to walk, I choose to cultivate joy and peace in my life.
I fell upon this life-changing practice organically but, as it turns out, I am not the first to discover its positive impact! From the websites of contemporary Buddhist Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh to the integrative specialist, Dr. Andrew Weil, you’ll find literally MILLIONS of articles on Google, alone, in support of my personal experience. Mindful Walking, that is walking with awareness of step, sensation, and breath, connects us to our environment, our body, and the present moment. It gets us out of our head, slows us down, and increases our ability to concentrate. It is free, available, and accessible to those who are able. There are countless other proven and assumed benefits to walking meditation, mindful walking, and walking, in general.
But it is the walk itself that teaches us what we need to know:
- Day breaks so we can wake up.
- You don’t have to walk up a mountain, but you can.
- You don’t have to walk for an hour, but you could.
- You don’t have to walk alone (but you can if you want).
- You just have to start.
- Just for today, put one foot in front of the other.
- Focus on the moment; the destination will come.
- Just go as far as you feel like the first time, no judgement, no expectations.
- See what the universe wants to show you.
- It doesn’t have to happen with a struggle.
- There is no rush.
- Stop and relish.
- Notice the spectacular and simple graces.
- When it gets tough, breathe in. Notice the scents around you. Feel the weather on your face. Breathe out. Listen to the birds, insects, wind, water flowing, motors, voices.
- Keep going; the end is just around the bend.
- Your perspective will change the closer you get to where you want to be; re-evaluate and make adjustments accordingly.
- Follow the signs to your center.
- Notice how far you’ve come and celebrate!
- Every thing, every one is changing all the time; nothing stays the same. Change. Is. Normal…uncomfortable…beautiful.
- Rain gives new perspective.
- Buds don’t bloom overnight; they withstand rain, hail, cold, heat, and predators, but they make it through and you will too.
- It is time to bloom where you are planted.
- Everyday, we get to begin.
Walk ‘Together for Peace’
My heart plumps with gratitude, appreciation, and joy when I reflect upon the transformative power of my Morning Walk. I wonder what shift could take place, if the entire world started their day off the way I start mine.
In his book Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth, in the present moment, to enjoy the peace and beauty that are available now.” But, it mustn’t end here.
Nhat Hahn believes we must link mindfulness with social action. September 21st is the International Day of Peace, declared by the United Nations as a day of global cease-fire and non-violence. This year’s theme,”Together for Peace”, supports diversity, non-discrimination, and acceptance of those forced to flee their homes for a better life. In our humanity, we are one. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
May we walk together for peace, cultivate it within, then go out into our respective worlds and take peaceful action.
Author: Carolyn Parse Rizzo
Carolyn is a Certified Child Life Specialist, Healthcare and Vitality/Core Energy™ Coach and trainer living in Northern Italy with her multi-cultural, bi-lingual family. Her private practice, Interval Coaching and Consulting, supports international patients, parents, and partners in building resilience through healthcare challenges and change. Prepare, Play, and Persevere! An expressive-arts enthusiast, Carolyn feeds her soul and builds grit by singing vintage tunes in local wineries with a 20 piece big band and practicing her Morning Walk up the foothills of the Alps. Carolyn’s definition of “home”? Home is where you feel like you!