In the middle of the day, I would put on my shoes and go out walking. Usually, I’d already done an hour of writing and felt I needed to get away from my computer.
I would pick a route that took me to nature. Once there, I would walk a path surrounded by trees, bushes, and other green growth. I would not force any thoughts, nor would I keep any mental discipline.
I learned from meditation that it works best if you let the moment take you where needed. I’ve also known that meditation and walks work the mind similarly. The first ten minutes are still about solving problems, taking care of loose ends, and going through tasks.
When stressed out about something, the walk is therapeutic. I try to think about this thing that I’m stressed about—will it significantly impact work and life twelve months from now? Usually, the answer is no.
The calmness and primitiveness of the surroundings bring me to the present. I notice that I’m walking; I become curious about the fallen autumn leaves and how they are of different colors. It feels great to care about the present. Not what happened in the past or what will happen tomorrow.
“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Besides the meditative qualities, walks have massively improved my creativity. Ideas would come up after fifteen minutes; new things start coming up, unrelated to what was happening before the walk. New connections are made, and innovative ideas take the stage.
When I started taking these walks, I’d feel bad for not bringing my Moleskin and Muji pen to record these ideas on the fly. On one of those walks, my inventive mind got an idea. I came up with a “mental backpack,” where I’d store my imagined items, ones that were of importance.
Here’s what my mental backpack contained after one walk:
A book called “Embracing new routines, why is it easy for some people?” which came from thoughts like Exercise routines or dietary advice that I pick up, I often follow them like the bible. Maybe it’s the craving of an even bigger dopamine hit from doing these things more efficiently? For improved performance, other things, vanity?
A book called “No Moleskin, no Muji pens on walks by Joakim.”
A book called “On walking by Joakim” which became the seed for this newsletter piece.
I’d return home after a 35-minute walk, open my mental backpack and type them down on my iPhone’s Notes app.
Here’s why I feel that pen and paper are irrelevant on walks: you gain immense amounts of mental bandwidth because of the meditative qualities of a walk, which allows you to utilize a mental backpack and hold on to it. Just make sure to unload it once the walk is complete.
Ensure a meditative walk
This random Tweet got me thinking:
Is a podcast or audiobook going to harm your walk? If you’re not planning to use walks as a form of meditation, then go ahead. If you don’t care about the creativity boost, the walk gives, by all means, fill your head with content from your AirPod.
But I’d urge you to try it.
Don’t bring your phone on the walk. Removing the option to pull out the phone is a massive step toward the place where you want to be. Note that this means no music, no podcasts, and no audiobooks. It would be just you, your mind wandering, and the outdoors.