I have the great fortune to start out almost every day walking to work.
It used to be an almost imperceptible walk of about 10 minutes - when caught in busy mind sometimes hardly enough time to notice that I was walking- but now its closer to 25 each way. Depending on the day and time I see neighbors I might not (if I was hustling into a car), or hear the lonely call of geese crossing the sky in their season ,and first sightings of the cardinal family who seem to call our block home. I can note the weather intimately - a sensed 'smells like rain' is different than reading 'showers predicted". Im able to move my limbs and thus my mind and so feel their interconnection. Last Summer when our son married, I thought it was possible, if not certain, that Id offer a toast. Walking allowed both the focus and the openness to discover what I felt needed saying, and then the rhythm to set it into my mind so I could speak it easily. Walking has allowed me the chance to work through more troubling concerns as well, in part by the relief it offers from active problem solving. Im able to access what I didnt know I knew, in the way that the movement of the body will stir the recesses of the mind and heart.
Underlying all these benefits, I get a pause, a shift in attention that also adds to the sense of connectedness walking often brings. I recall hearing many years ago about the son of a farmer wondering why his family would cease work on the Sabbath -there were crops to be planted or harvested, a living to be made! His grownup conclusion stayed compellingly with me: that the pause allowed acknowledgement that it wasnt all his family's doing, that even in their rest, the growth would continue, the sun and rain and minerals in the soil, the busy microbes - partnering his family's efforts..
The system of agricultural and social design called #permaculture notes that most effective action best serves several purposes,(' diversity in functional relationships");.This mimics the patterns of natural ecosystems ,for example the way #mushrooms in a forest ecosystem help decompose dead matter (its been said our forest would be 'one big garbage dump' without their good work), and by so doing enrich the soil matrix. By breaking down already weak old trees, they help create gaps in the forest canopy that support ecosystem diversity, and they feed arthropods and nematodes along with many mammals, including badgers, deer, rabbits and squirrels -and of course, we humans too. The work Im walking to is as an acupuncturist, and that tradition along with others makes powerful use of mushrooms medicinally (perhaps other animals do as well, that's as yet unknown)
The opposite side of this same coin also has value . Just as an effective action best serves several purposes, a good end is also best served by many good actions braided together. .C.S, Lewis describes in Screwtape Letters describes how any virtue can be used for evil, taken in isolation from others. Love for one's country, or freedom, or kindness....it is the contexting of them together that creates goodness.
In the complex effort to discern a good choice in our world of very many choices, Ive looked to rich , contexted experiences, wher lines of 'what is good' cross, mutually reinforcing. This simplifies and clarifies the complexity.
It seems to me that walking is one of those places .It helps contextualize my life. I am not only getting to work, Im observing and connecting with my neighbors of the human, animal, and plant kind, exercising mind and heart along with body -acting as noncompartmentalized being.
It gets me to work on my own steam, -not using fossil fuels -while lubricating my joints and mind as I go.
It puts me closer to the ground than most other ways of transport, allowing me to take in all the tiny ecosystems along the way, which brings me joy (not an insignificant good!) and informs me in wide ways. I know when the violets emerge around the corner, and get to speculate as to why that is a little earlier then the ones on my block.That leads to closer yet observation; I get the chance to come to my senses. Then at the same time, that can lead me to analogies useful in my work : the fall aster in that garden down the street which is so beautifully purple, with a golden heart , in its season. is never going to bloom before the Fall -it will remain an insignificant green blob until then; maybe that can relate to the father I will see, fretting about his child who is 'behind his classmates".
We cant all walk to work- I know I am lucky in this.(and of course, many many have no chance to get anywhere by any way but walking., and many who deeply desire it, have no good work This guidepost to 'what is good' is situation-specific, as my practice teaches the most effective remedies tend to be)
We can each choose moments of slowing, of shifting gears into a wider slower mind, the way of perceiving that offers reprieve from the adrenaline fueled narrow view that so much of life seems - and maybe often does - require. And the wide, contexted vision those moments allow is part of what helps direct the choices towards a better world EI is positing we can reach, are reaching.
For example, the # 'local food movement, so strong in Philly, offers good work to many and the promise of more. It can make use of abandoned lots, eyesores in their communities, transforming them into neighborhood gathering places. It can dramatically improve the diets of those in whose neighborhoods they flourish, provide healthy activity for seniors and youth, improve the soil and the water (because most eschew the chemical fertilizers large scale farming requires) and even the air, both since every green thing partners us in exhaling what we inhale, oxygen, and then absorbing the COs we expire, as well as by hugely lessening the need for oil hungry transport. Its easy to see how it provides a web of positive results, offering alliance between those whose 'cause' is food, or community, or clean air -who can sometimes differ, arguing over resources felt to be scarce from a view of separation., instead of each strengthening all. It seems that it can take a reflective moment sometimes to see those kind of connections, to slip into the mind which can perceive them and which walking allows.
Another permaculture principle concerns the power of positive feedback loops. As I walk, Im able to experience the kind of ecological thinking where many virtues create a web of mutual reinforcement , that lets me know just how good a thing the local food movement (in itself just that kind of web) truly is.
And, if - as- we move forward to a saner healthier world, we are likely to need that kind of awareness to make good choices, ones that serve justice, the economy, the air and water, our fellow creatures, and most definitely also ourselves. Perhaps these choices will lead to a world where walking to work is an option for anyone who is willing,(and there IS work , good work, for all) where the needed shift of gear is incorporated into daily life, where we all experience -viscerally,like the smell of rain in the air - how we are in partnership with with one another. with the world.