I have been running/walking for the past week. It’s not an easy task given my schedule and sadly, my age. But I love doing it, even at the end of the day when I’m most tired. It allows me to have a certain clarity. You can say it’s even meditative.
Today, as if to give me a pat on the back and tell me I’m doing the right thing, I received the following e-mail from Robert Genn, artist and author of The Painter’s Keys. (It is not actually a personal e-mail but a newsletter of sorts.) I am sharing it with you to inspire you to “walk with me”.
Trust your steps
February 21, 2012
Walking briskly, pushing the blood to your extremities, alone and with minimal distraction along the path, concentrating the mind on the thighs’ movements, you trigger imagination and focus. In other words, brisk walking is a form of creative meditation. You need a notebook to scrawl the thoughts as they come. After the walk, you need to reassess your scrawls. I like to clarify them in my laptop. I put my really stupid thoughts into trash, but I don’t delete them.
The ability to focus is challenged in our society–not just with the nerve-jangled adults but also with the new batch of kids. Richard Davidson, a psychologist known for his behavioral research with Rhesus monkeys and studies in meditation with the Dali Lama, has made some interesting discoveries. Children (some of them with learning disorders) were invited to lie on their backs with a pebble placed on their tummies. While deep breathing, they were to focus on the pebble going up and down. After this exercise and for a period of time, they enthusiastically concentrated on schoolwork and other tasks.
I haven’t tried watching pebbles going up and down on my tummy, but I sometimes look down at the movement of my feet while walking. It induces a lovely trance. I don’t recommend doing it in traffic.
Brisk walking removes dark clouds, refreshes the artistic mind, encourages the interbreeding of thoughts, and plucks new ideas out of the blue. Walking itself is a time-honoured path to spirituality (think Camino de Santiago across northern Spain). There can be no doubt walking stimulates the imagination. Walking is a readily available antidote to a sedentary life. Different artists get different results. Mine are all over the place. Here are a few purged from my laptop: “The same object seen from two sides.” “A work of art dependent on gradation alone.” “Teaching art by not talking, just showing.” “A way of temporarily gassing fanatics so they just lay down their arms and become nice.” “Encouraging autonomy in others by being autonomous yourself.” “A better way to fix that sky.”
With the brisk walk, you make up your mind. It’s as if someone is walking along with you, helping you with your thinking. No matter how long the walk, the best stuff comes during the second half. You may find the last minute is spent running to the studio.
PS: “She was wrapped up and sold, coming home from an old fashioned walk.” (Irving Berlin)
Esoterica: Dr. Davidson thinks happiness, compassion and a sense of well-being are simply skills learned in the same way a person might learn the violin, tennis or painting. Time and practice are necessary. Apparently, the brain is built to change in response to training and the use of ploys. Whether you are a Rhesus monkey or a student in third year industrial design, focus is key. There are many ways to improve focus. Trusting your steps is just one of them. The system is just outside your door, and it’s free.