"Do not trust the thoughts that arise while sitting." - Nietzsche
"When I sit down, my thoughts fall asleep, and when my legs don't move, my mind doesn't stir." - Montaigne
Do you know the origin of the word 'Method'? The word "method", is a combination of the prefix "meta", which signifies 'beyond' or 'transcending', and the Greek word "hodos", meaning 'path' or 'way'. If you want to know the 'method' for rejuvenating your body and mind, or finding the 'method' for happiness, try walking the path. The author of 'Philosophers' Walking Lessons' explains that many ancient philosophers and wise individuals cherished the act of walking, expressing that walking is a method to approach happiness. Let's explore why they loved walking and how walking contributes to experiencing happiness.
Most people live their lives disconnected from conversations with themselves. As a result, they do not know what they like, what they excel at, or their appropriate boundaries and limits. Buried in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, there is little time for introspection. Even during moments of rest, activities like social media and games fail to provide our minds and thoughts with a chance to unwind. Socrates once said, "There is no greater thing to care for than one's own soul". Another Greek philosopher questioned, "If you do not know yourself, how can you truly live well with yourself?". Knowing oneself provides assistance in relationships with others, and helps in understanding the balance between work and leisure, appropriate timing, and harmony in life. It also allows one to recognize their innate qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. So, how can one get to know themselves? The answer lies in approaching oneself. The ancient Indian philosophy, the Upanishads, states, "When you come to the silence and stillness within, you meet yourself". Meeting oneself in the silence and stillness, getting to know oneself by name, is the way to do it. This kind of stillness particularly occurs when walking alone.
The 'Nature deficit syndrome'(자연 결핍 증후군) has emerged as we have distanced ourselves from nature, which used to provide us with healing. The lush greenery, warm sunlight, comforting smell of earth, birdsong, and refreshing spring water in nature satisfy our senses. Even growing and decaying plants are said to release healing substances. Interacting with and influencing each other as part of nature is an essential activity for us. Walking in nature can also aid in solving everyday problems, as facing trivial issues in the face of the vastness of nature can put problem-solving into perspective. Contact with nature stimulates the mind, and activates cognitive functions, insight, creativity, concentration, and learning abilities, while also calming the body and mind. These effects are particularly pronounced near water bodies, such as rivers, where the gentle ripples or flowing currents seem to have a more potent calming effect, as the saying goes, ‘water soothes’(물멍).
Walking provides significant benefits both physically and mentally. It greatly reduces conditions like high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, joint and respiratory disorders, and even age-related dementia. It strengthens the immune system. Walking triggers the release of serotonin and dopamine, promoting a sense of happiness and reducing negative sensitivity. Additionally, physical movement during walking reduces the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, making it more effective in managing stress. In essence, walking itself acts as a powerful antidepressant. Repeating a consistent form of movement and walking wherever your feet take you helps relieve tension and brings tranquility. Subsequently, the mind assumes a state similar to sleep. Therefore, after a long walk, you may feel refreshed and invigorated, much like waking up from a nap. This tranquility and serenity halt everything that distances us from the present moment. Neurologist and psychiatrist P. Ulrich Neumann stated, "Among the patients I treated, about half of those who walked for at least 30 minutes a day saw improvements in their mental conditions. Most psychological issues arise from too little physical activity".
We should not seek for happiness only in external achievements or goals; rather, we should find it in the very activities we pursue. In other words, the act of leisurely walking in nature itself should be the goal, not reaching a specific destination. There's no need for disappointment or distress if we don't reach a goal. Enjoying the path we took towards a goal is just as important as reaching the goal itself, and not achieving a goal could be a recognition of our own limitations, which should be accepted humbly. This mindset doesn't become an obstacle to external achievements; instead, moving forward with a humble attitude can often lead to better goal attainment than striving with force.
The German writer Kurt Tucholsky once said that by wandering and taking detours, you can come to know a place better. Just like solving a mathematical problem after several attempts, having wandered somewhere for a long time, you can eventually describe that path. While walking in nature, hoping to rejuvenate both body and mind, I hope that in this process, even if you encounter unfamiliar paths, you won't be afraid.< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >