We must walk before we run.

I don’t know who said that, and I think it’s universal enough that I don’t have to give a citation. This universal truth popped up into my brain while meditating today. How true it is in metaphor as well as practicality. It is the perfect metaphor and advice for walking for self care, well for self care in any form. 

One of these days we must run…run like horses, for freedom, escape, joy, to fill our lungs fully with the fresh air of the Earth. This is meaningful to me because I won’t literally run again in my lifetime (well, not without my horse’s legs beneath me.) After one total knee replacement done and another in my future, the doctors say running is out, but walking is prescribed. I never was much of a runner anyway, but something about being told I can only walk feels restrictive and sad until I think seriously about walking.

Horses in the wild can walk 30-50 miles a day–and they only run a few. It is the walking that brings them peace within and without. It is the fact that “they are always where their feet are” regardless of activity that makes them brilliant models for our own path to health within and without. 

I can’t take myself from half-assed exercise twice a week to pilates, biking, or yoga for two hours 6 days a week (the amount I think I need to be as strong and calm as I envision for my optimal life of thriving.) I can’t jump from a 5 minute guided meditation a few mornings a week to two hours a day as my young adult son aspires and often does. I must walk literally and metaphorically. One step in front of the other. One step at a time. One shift of weight at a time…SHIFT. What does it actually mean to shift? “A slight change in position, direction, or tendency”* of the weight from one heel to the ball of the same foot, from one foot to another, from being stuck to moving, from anxiety to stillness, (*Google definition).

There are those days or weeks that I go overboard. Practice what you preach, Alane, I tell myself. Get out there and move, knees or no knees. And I feel amazing when I am doing it. Then the next day, oy, the aches and pains, the discouragement. Maybe you know this experience. Maybe you have youth or athlete genes, and you can’t relate. We all have those stuck places in us, and I firmly believe that we can create shifts by simply taking one step. One of my mentors talks about the ping pong balls of our intentions, tasks, and aspirations. They are actually so lightweight that it takes only a tiny nudge to move each one forward a bit each week or day. Even a breath can move a ping pong ball. So walking is key, but breathing is first. 

I am a big fan of meditation apps for the valuable lessons they offer. I use Insight Timer which now has playlists on themes such as walking and breathwork. So many resources at our fingertips. It just takes a tiny shift, even a breath to move toward the healing. So, let’s start with a breath, one that we notice and maybe deepen, widen, and lengthen. There, breathe, can you feel the shift? I did.

Walking was the theme of this article, so let’s return there. Isn’t that just like meditation? Always returning to the center, the calm, the peace, that place that feels so elusive to an overstimulated highly sensitive brain. I find movement to be one of the best ways to create the shift. Maybe it’s walking the puppy or walking a horse, aligning, mirroring my foot falls to their movement. Perhaps it is a hike along a beautiful trail feeling my heart swell with gratitude and joy, noticing a leaf and its unique color today, really appreciating the beauty and my awareness of it. And when I step in dog poop or see something distasteful, maybe I still relish my existence on the earth. 

I ground myself, feeling the four corners of my feet on the ground, my spine extending with space between each vertebra, the air on my face (always hoping for sun for a moment before the hat comes on to protect my pale skin from the beautiful warmth and Vitamin D Sun gives me.) I take a moment to breathe in with gratitude and breathe out love. 

Noticing what is true for me in the moment, even if it’s sorrow, tears, anxiety, or anger, those experiences I might want to turn away. No, I turn toward them and nurture them, leaning in so that in the acceptance I offer my tender or vulnerable places, they can feel safe and live peacefully within. Then, I allow myself to move forward with a tiny shift, remembering that I can not take a step without shifting the weight off of that foot. 

That small shift becomes huge. 

And in shifting my weight, even minutely from side to side, I shift my mind, simply by paying attention to the weight shift. Wow. The brain is so powerful! Our highly sensitive, highly reactive brains are all the more so because they work overtime with the deep processing and noticing subtleties. It actually means we are more likely to be experiencing the shifts. We are more able to benefit from the simple act of walking.

There are those who say that walking is meditation in and of itself. Perhaps it is true. I am not here to judge, only to offer the idea that meditation lives when we notice and intend to pay attention. Maybe you will direct your attention to your breath, your footfalls, the sights around you, the beauty in the concrete of the sidewalk, your dog or child, a prayer, a mantra, or your body shifting. The meditation is in the directing. It is what you see and do. 

My highly sensitive friends, I ask you to move now, to walk and move your body so your energy also moves.

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