“It seemed to Svasti that the Buddha walked just to enjoy the walking, unconcerned about arriving anywhere at all. So it was with all the bhikkhus. No one seemed anxious or impatient to reach their destination. Each man’s steps were slow, balanced, and peaceful. It was as if they were taking a pleasant stroll together. No one ever appeared tired, yet they covered a good distance each day.
They walked with quiet dignity, observing each breath and each step.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh. Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha
I lived in New York for most of August. The only way I can survive New York is if I live by Central Park. Following the Ayurveda lifestyle, I usually did a morning pre-breakfast and an evening post-dinner walk.
One day, I was super angry or irritated or annoyed (maybe it was that August heat!) – I don’t even remember which one! My fire was burning, and I walked super super fast. It felt good.
The problem was that I ended up just feeding my fire and enjoying it so much, I kept walking fast the day after that and the day after that and the day after that… Soon, my evening walk became a rush. Something to check off my daily todo list.
My body was out of balance – I knew that. And I was preparing for a very stressful big event I was planning. I knew I needed to recover, so I scheduled a spa day at the SoJo Spa Club in New Jersey with a friend despite still having a lot of stress and work to deal with.
SoJo Spa Club ended up being INCREDIBLE! There were so many amazing things to do, that we ended up staying there for an entire day – 10 hours!
That amazing day of recovery plus an amazing acupuncture session a day after truly healed me in a huge way. I know because the next time I walked in Central Park, I started out rushing.
Then I observed my body. My legs, especially at my hip joints, have been in a lot of pain. I’ve been walking A LOT in New York. Not only on my morning and evening walks, but as many as 30 blocks during the day to get places.
My body itself was telling me to slow down, but I wasn’t listening. Suddenly I listened and started walking mindfully, listening to my body. Walking at a pace where my hip joints were happy with.
I observed my thoughts and realized that one of the reasons I was in a rush was because sunset was coming earlier and I was worried about being in Central Park in the dark. But now that I recognized my fear, I realized that being in Central Park just a few minutes (even 30 minutes!) after sunset shouldn’t be dangerous yet. Many people were running and walking during that time.
Now that I had nothing to fear, and I was walking at a pace my body allowed, very slowly!, I started to focus on every step I took. Whenever I noticed that I was speeding up, I forced myself to slow down even more. It felt amazing to walk mindfully. I don’t think I ever have done that before.
I was rewarded with incredible views of the sunset.
But my life once again took control and I no longer had time to walk in Central Park. But at one point during my event, I volunteered to go out and get lunch for myself and those I was working with.
Once again, I naturally started walking slowly. Each step with intention. This time, the intention was love – I wanted to make my friends happy with food they loved, even in a stressful situation that we were all in.
Stepping away from the stress and doing a simple errand of fulfilling lunch orders very slowly was one of the top highlights of my day. It felt amazing! I didn’t get angry at my friend like I usually do during this event – like I’ve done for the past two years…
Finally, on my last day in New York, I had a late flight. I decided to spend 3 hours before I had to head to the airport back at SoJo spa. However, do remember that I happily spent 10 hours there the previous time. So 3 hours seemed like not that much time.
My urge was to rush. I had to do everything I wanted to do in only 3 hours! So much relaxing to do! Turns out, even going to the spa could be stressful if you’re in the rushing mindset.
I had a whole plan to optimize my time there. I got there with a friend, showed them around, then went to change. I was in a hurry to get to the Japanese hot stone room. But on the way there, there was a walking path filled with rocks. I did need a good foot massage, so I decided to take it to the hot stone room.
My initial thought was to rush through it – it’s a long footpath! But as soon as I stepped on it, I had to slow down. It’s painful and intense to walk fast on these foot massage rocks. I slowed down. And suddenly I was relaxed and in no rush.
I walked slowly, enjoying each step. Mindfully realizing that even though I had 3 hours at this spa, I have to treat it like I do have the full 10 hours. I will spend as much time doing and fully enjoying each thing I do as I need, mindfully, even if I don’t get to do everything.
Being forced to slow down by these rocks put me in relaxation mode. I spent a lot of time doing each thing I wanted to do in no rush, and I still got to do everything I wanted! The only thing that changed was my mindset.
It’s funny how these three events all happened within a short period of time. At a time, when I was in fact super stressed and had to move fast otherwise. And each time, slowing down was exactly what I needed to maintain my balance in a stressful situation.
I’m now more deliberate about slowing down and walking consciously, being mindful of each step I take.