The Path Less Travelled
Jenny Hare accompanies a mindful walker and shares his insights. The Art of Mindful Walking: Meditations on the Path by Adam Ford. Leaping Hare Press, 2011. ISBN: 9781907332586
Walking keeps me fit, makes my dog bouncily happy and unfailingly lifts my spirits too. It’s also wonderful for thinking things through, and sometimes understanding, ideas and inspirations come to me. Blissfully, there is the feeling of being in touch with Nature and often with something mystical or spiritual.
How welcoming to read in the introduction: “Don’t set out to do some thoughtful walking. Just walk.” So I started reading The Art of Mindful Walking with no fear of prescriptive demands, stern teaching or pressure: I would simply read, just as I simply walk, step by step.
And a beguilingly enjoyable journey it proved. Just like a walk, as the pages progress the views change; there is always something remarkable to catch attention where you are now, and a pleasant anticipation of new interests and insights to come along the way and over the horizon.
Throughout the book there is the comforting, humbling and yet at the same time awe-inspiring sense of being part of a timeless tradition. Our oldest human ancestors would have been mindful as they walked when searching for food, while the first written records we have of mindful walking are by the peripatetic philosophers of ancient Greece.
It also made me tingle with recognition to read that the concept of a sacred path is at the heart of many religions: for example, early Christians were ‘followers of the Way’, Taoism is named after the Tao – the Way and the mystery behind the world – while for Buddhists mindfulness is the seventh element of the Eightfold Path in our journey towards understanding and peace.
There are some profound thoughts on life and its dichotomies. Adam Ford writes: “I was very aware of the transitory and vulnerable nature of my own existence” and later mentions “the immortal dignity of the human being”. He is also illuminating on the questions of loneliness and solitude, and on walking alone or in company.
But the book is more than a philosophical and spiritual journey. It reminds us of practical considerations. What to wear? What to take? And in both his company and others’ we are vividly shown places where we may never have the chance to walk. We meet Kierkegaard, who wrote that daily he walked himself into wellbeing and away from illness, into his best thoughts and away from burdensome ones. Sections on great travellers such as Robyn Davidson and Bruce Chatwin made me want to read more of their work.
As we walk with Adam Ford in the countryside, through cities, along the waterside, memories of walks taken in the past flood back. The feel of the track, beach or road beneath our feet, the things we saw, conversations, thoughts. So many feelings. Such richness, echoed here as the pages turn and the path unfolds.
There is a delightful section on walking in moonlight. Oh, how good it is to walk in the light of a moon – let’s do it more. Let’s walk more day and night.
To read this book is to enjoy the company of Adam Ford as he walks, generously and charismatically sharing his thoughts and anecdotes. I loved the journey and learned much along the way.