Solving Problems by Walking ... or, Here’s Another Idea
A few weeks back, another op-ed piece appeared in The New York Times that caught my eye. Andrew McCarthy wrote “Whatever the Problem, It’s Probably Solved by Walking” (March 26, 2023). I know, I know: I’ve blogged about walking before, but as I’ve said, David and I walk “religiously,” every day. In fact we have a morning and an afternoon one ... the latter called our “Camelot walk” because we cut down Camelot Street, walking through different areas in the neighborhood, checking out recent house projects and chatting with neighbors as we go.
I couldn’t pass up McCarthy’s piece, so let me share just a bit with you before turning to a radically different approach to life’s everyday problems. Quoting the ancient philosopher Hippocrates, McCarthy writes, “walking is man’s best medicine.” The good doctor also knew that walking provided more than mere physical benefits when he suggested, “if you are in a bad mood, go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood, go for another walk.” McCarthy notes that “walking not only nourishes the body but also soothes the mind while it burns off tension and makes our troubles recede into a more manageable perspective.”
Walking also promotes creative thinking. Before moving on from McCarthy’s piece, allow me to quote him one more time:
The great naturalist John Muir keenly observed, “I only went out for a walk ... [but] going out, I found was really going in.” Has anyone ever emerged from ambling through nature for an hour and regretted their improved state of being? Perhaps this is what that dedicated walker Henry David Thoreau was referring to when he wrote, “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” Even the resolutely pessimistic Friedrich Nietzsche [observed] that “all truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
Let me turn now to another approach to creativity and even stress management as we move our way through the days of our lives. Let’s turn and consider a book I received as a gift recently — one I’m dipping into — and one I’d like to recommend for your consideration. But first, a little background story.
A very dear friend of mine, someone I’ve been close to for decades who lives in Ohio, surprised me by sending me this book a week or so back. Over the years Karen and I have shared so much — ups and downs of life, joys and sorrows — that visit all of us from time to time. A fellow psychologist, she’s also a devout Christian of the Episcopalian variety. We've taken trips together over the years — including a European Viking cruise — and visited each others’ homes. In fact, she was just here visiting us a couple of weeks ago.
Well, anyway — to the book: The Lives We Actually Have: 100 Blessings for Imperfect Days, by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie ... newly published this year (2023) by Convergent Books, an imprint of Random House. (See the lead photo and photos below.) In its Introduction, one of the authors writes the following:
Blessings put our spiritual house in order, even when our circumstances are entirely out of order. ... When I bless the actual days I am living, I suddenly find I have a great deal more to say that is honest. I am mourning. I am bored. I am exhausted. I am apathetic. I discover that I am freed from the need to declare everything #blessed. Good or bad, I don’t have to wait to say something spiritually true. I can simply bless it all instead. (p. xix)
The book is divided into sections, allowing the reader to thumb through and find the best match for their current mood: Bless this ordinary life; Bless this tired life; Bless this lovely life; Bless this grief-stricken life; Bless this overwhelming life; Bless this painful life; Bless this garbage life; Bless the lives of others; Bless this beautiful, limited life; Bless this holy life.
As you can see, these sections pretty much cover the waterfront of our lives as we actually live them. Each section is further divided into 10 short, two-page meditations, or Bible verses or quotes from literature that aid in spiritual reflection and honest dealings with our days. Let me end this review with a quote from the first two-page meditation on “this ordinary day.” (See my photos of the book's cover and this sample for a flavor of its charm.)
Lord, here I am.
How strange it is that some days feel like hurricanes and others like glassy seas and others like nothing much at all.
Ordinarily, I might not think of you at all.
Except, if you don’t mind, let me notice you.
Show up in the small necessities and everyday graces. ...
Be the reason I feel loved when I catch my own reflection or feel my own self-loathing fluttering in my stomach.
Calm my mind, lift my spirit, make this dumb, ordinary day my prayer of thanks.
So I say, “Amen!” I can’t recommend this book to you more! Blessings on you all dear readers. And in the meantime, please go and take a walk!