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The Spiritual and Emotional Benefits of Walking

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Being an Aquarian with five other planets in air, I am challenged by the persistent desire to fly wherever I want to go. Of course not in the literal flying sense, but in the metaphorical craving to get where I'm going as fast as I can. It is a daily challenge for me to stay in my body and be on the ground. I believe this is partly why I've had so many physical health issues from a young age, a reminder that I need to pay attention to and be in my body.

Throughout the years, I've been encouraged by every heath care professional I've come in contact with, to walk. I can only imagine the expression on my face, it must have been priceless, when told this simple offering: Start walking. Could there ever be a slower possible way to get where I wanted to go? However, after many years and many tries by many people, I finally agreed to put one foot in front of another, and start my walking practice.

It is widely known that walking is the most natural and healthy of exercises. In many ways the perfect exercise. We virtually all learn to do it as little children. It is our first ticket to freedom, our initial experience of moving forward in life without obstacles or the help of another. Although I was flying from birth, I found my earthly freedom at nine months, when I started walking.

On a physical level, walking has enormous benefits. It strengthens the heart. It helps the lungs operate more efficiently. It strengthens the digestive system. Walking boosts the immune system and enhances the nervous system and cognitive function. Walking also helps your circulatory system and helps to maintain bone density. It is an ideal non stressful way to help manage weight. Just ask my friend Nealon Hightower who released 100 pounds of body fat, with walking as his only exercise. There are a multitude of positive physical benefits of walking.

Of course, I'm not referring to the kind of walking you do by parking at the outskirts of the mall and walking to the entrance. Or walking around your house or up and down stairs. I've discovered that walking, in a purposeful and conscious way, is the walking that has the most magical of all benefits, because it connects you to a higher spiritual place, a source of unlimited possibilities. But walking needs to be your only activity where you stay present with each step. For me, this kind of walking has become a direct line to my source of creativity. This article was in fact birthed on a walk and often the ideas are flowing so quickly I admit, I can't wait to get home to write them down. But I stay the course and continue to walk. Most of the time.

Walking connects me to the glorious world of nature, which I believe we often lose touch with in our hectic day to day lives. I know people choose to walk indoors, whether on gym tracks or on mall floors, but I highly recommend getting outside, where the opportunity to reconnect with nature abounds. It offers a totally different experience. No matter where you live, there is some small space, a park, a trail or a route you can find that hasn't succumbed to the fate of Joni Mitchell's observant words: "They paved paradise to put up a parking lot."

Daytime walking is great, especially in the early morning as a way to start your day, but a walk at night before bed is also a wonderful way to wind down before you go to sleep. Your dreams might even be different too.

I personally like walking solo, as I can set my pace and spend time with myself. As I watch other people in groups or walking their dogs, I acknowledge the social aspect of walking as well.

When I began walking, it was the middle of January in our often dreary and harsh Toronto winter, but I somehow kept going. Everything about me changed. My body, as I started toning from the daily practice, but more than that, my perspective changed. I felt it was my opportunity to commune with nature, which prevails regardless of the weather or the season. A great lesson we are offered from Mother Nature, if we care to observe it. In our modern stress-filled lives, where we seem to be moving faster and faster with more to do and less time to do it, walking allows you the opportunity to slow down and be aligned, a chance to breathe and relax. Walking from a place of relaxed intention is a freeing practice. It is a way to bring your mind, body and spirit into balance. Walk this way and your senses are enlivened. Colors seem more brilliant. The smells and sounds become more alive. I hear the birds song and some days I believe they recognize me and are singing their song to me, inviting me to fly with them. The leaves on the trees are dancing in the breeze and I have a sense of freedom, of being in touch, in harmony with some cosmic orchestra.

Walking as a practice does require commitment with a clear sense of intention, consistency, focus and awareness. There are many books and articles on walking and "how to" do it in a mindful or meditative way. But as everything in life, it is ultimately about the doing. Engaging in the activity and being committed to it regardless of the reasons that invite you not to. So now I walk. I breathe in and take in the world. I exhale and let go of any stress I might be carrying. As I finish writing, I notice the rain has stopped and the fresh afternoon air is calling me to get outside and walk! And I listen, because walking has changed my life. Love to hear about any insights, epiphanies or even solutions to problems that surfaced while walking.

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