Sunday, June 17, 2018

Get Grounded

“So why do you choose to walk instead of other means?” Sitting opposite of a psychologist, I got a bit curious myself when I heard the question come my way. So why exactly do I choose to walk everywhere whenever possible?

A bit of context would be helpful I suppose. Well, let's go back a few steps on the therapist part since it is rather personal and revealing. Recently I have been shopping for a psychologist here in the Netherlands. I have always found therapy a great coping mechanism, working for me for more than a decade in different countries. I am proud of it as I am of my occasional yoga and jogging. And this time around, to better cope with moving, job, love, loss, you know, all the bitter sweet things having to do with life in a new chapter. By the way, I am happy to discuss mental health any day, just like happy to discuss physical health, and spiritual health while we are on that subject. Health needs to be discussed, otherwise we end up collectively gaining more and more mental dead weight – that is not healthy. Anyway, I digress. 

So I told the therapist that since about a year ago I made a conscious choice of walking everywhere whenever I can. Well, if you want to know the definition of “I can”, it is about 45 min walking distance according to Google Map estimate. Yes, those are the sort of hard lines I draw in life. :) So why do I choose to walk? Primarily it has to do with being active. Your whole body is engaged in a fairly low impact but slow burning gear. There was a study showing the Masai’s from Kenya shares this type of physical exercise pattern with their herding routines, walking with cattle all day long. High-impact sports are good, but it is only one side of coin, isn’t it? And the other side can’t be just sitting in front of computer, on a couch, on a bike or in a train, so walking seems a reasonable choice.

Our Swedish visitors, Pernilla and Maddy were good sports, walked in a straight line following our leader. 
That and I also find walking surprisingly relaxing. There is actually opportunity to stretch neck around and look around at all the interesting buildings, trees and people. Adding a bit of slower and duller moments in busy days is surprisingly soothing. If I know I have to walk for 45 minutes, I will make sure to make time for it and enjoy the walk with listening to podcast or just looking around at random things. Q and I try to take a stroll in our neighborhood in the evening whenever possible (could always do more), discovering the city taking on a different look (you really have to see it for yourself in Haarlem to experience it), listening to the evening church bells beckoning wanderers to go home, enjoying the pace of the city slowing down and thoughts winding down. Walking is as inspiring in the morning as it is rejuvenating in the evening.

Strolling in Lisbon with Sara & Q
So back in the chair across from the therapist. Why do I walk? There is something deeper. Both the therapist and I fell silent. We both chewed on it for a moment because we both sensed its significance, but can't quite put our fingers on it. To the credit of the €150 I paid the therapist, he came up with this answer out of nowhere, “you become more grounded this way”. Yes, that is it! I love connecting to earth. Same reason as doing yoga and jogging and hiking, to connect with the nature and to be grounded.

If we look at this in a broader sense, as we continuously move into cities (urbanization), the cities become denser and higher (densification), our environment is changing, and I am not sure if it is for the better. As we spend more and more time in various boxes that we build for ourselves, buildings, cars, buses and trains, the bigger environment becomes more of a nuance that we want to bypass or speed through as quickly as possible in name of efficiency. A bit like taking water out of natural juice to make it into concentrated version. Well, I am here to argue that water is important – and hopefully we can all agree to that. So why less rushing and add some of the water back to our busy life. Walk more is a great way to be connected to our environment, to breathe easier, and to smile. 

With my teacher during my Dutch immersion week last June
When I left the therapist’s office that evening, I can tell you there was an extra spring to my steps as I walked home. To be grounded is a meaningful way of life. Join me. Join us. 

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We invite you to make a virtual walk together on Saturday 7 July (+/- days) to join me and Q in celebrating our birthdays together. 

You choose how long – 5 minutes, 30 minutes, 2 hours, whatever you like. You choose where, in your neighborhood, in a park, through a market, wherever you like, okay, maybe shopping malls are not my top choices. You choose how: do it alone and enjoy solidarity, or invite your family and friends and make it an outing. Please remember to take a photo and share it with us. It would be the best birthday gifts we can ask for of our family and friends. Let's get grounded together.  

From last year's annual birthday hike - inspired by Marie and Tadeáš!

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