When I was a kid, my grandmother told me that I was her ugliest grandchild.
She said it to be funny and I laughed to be polite. I was a very chubby kid growing up in an era where beauty was associated with being skinny. The more space you took, the less you were considered worthy. When I was in high school, I never ever took part in sports or physical activities. I preferred to fail my physical assessment than to jiggle and wobble in the presence of people slimmer than myself.
I used to think that I hated sports and that I would always suck in physical activities. That mindset changed when, after years of battling anorexia and bulimia, I took up leisure walking to help ease anxiety. I realized that I loved the thrill of discovering new paths and watching Mother Nature excel in quiet strength.
While out on my walks, I found ponds and lakes that reminded me of the beauty of simplicity and the victory of perseverance.
I saw wild flowers that cheered me on and whispered about how the best blossoms can happen in the driest spaces. Birds chirped in excitement and comforted me with their songs of breakthrough.
I walked and walked my way into a clearer mind scape and realized that I actually had remarkable endurance. Whenever I would walk with friends to a lecture, I would find them lagging behind and breathless. I was shocked because in my head, though I was a tiny size 8, I was still that clumsy chubby kid. Walking taught me more about my body than diet culture ever did. With an increase in my self-confidence, I signed up with the local gym and fell in love with exercise even further.
I’ve stopped weighing myself and obsessing over my body. I eat when I am hungry and try to stop when I’m not. I am determined to keep exercising my sacred place of self-discovery and self care and not an activity borne out of guilt or the desire to change my body.
Walking is a magical activity.
It is slow and steady enough for you to take full breaths and immerse your senses with the life that surrounds you. And walking should not be limited to parks and spaces of nature. We can find the glorious magic of life on everyday routes; the sights of laughing children walking to school, the sniffing dog with the adorable brown spots trying to break free from his leash and the dancing routine of the traffic lights that lure us with their display of routine and consistency.
Walking can be a profound yet subtle means of embarking on internal healing. It is a free and unassuming way to learn how to breathe in the atmosphere around you and shift your focus from whatever is raging within to the unscripted reality of the world around you. Your internal critic will try and convince you that walking is not meant for you, let this be your sign to ignore that voice. Start at your own pace, flow in accordance to your stride, selfishly navigate routes and through consistent steps you will quickly learn to trust your new sense of capacity.
Walking is a beautiful form of both meditation and gentle exercise, it gives your body a loving warm up without the sense of competition and allows you to be fully independent in designing the activity. If you have ever felt like you have lost control in life or are drowning in the overwhelm of a post-pandemic world, intentional meditative walks can help you feel centered and reintroduce you to the world around you at a pace you are comfortable with.
With meditation there is sometimes a perception that ‘you must get it right’. True meditation is centred on you and what feels right for you in each moment. Through meditative walks you can begin to discover the flexibility and even the excitement that a meditative state of mind brings. Your choices are vast as you can decide to focus on your breaths, pay attention to the wildlife, softly acknowledge the swoosh of cars or simply the sensation in your legs as you stride.
All you need to do is open the door and take your first step.