I recently read Joan Anderson’s biography, A Walk on the Beach, a gem of a book and also a wonderful gift item for that middle-aged woman who has everything, but seeks deeper meaning in her life through growth and exploration. The book’s sentiments are akin to those offered by Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie.
Anderson decides to spend a year alone in Cape Cod where she befriends Joan Erikson, the late widow of the psychologist, Erik Erikson. Joan Erikson bestows her years of wisdom on Anderson and the book unravels alongside their extraordinary developing friendship. Anderson quickly learns the power in having a mentor. After living all those years with her therapist husband, it would seem logical that she’d have a good grip on how to cope with life’s ups and downs. While reading this book, I made sure my notebook was alongside. Each page had potent insights to spark my own thoughts and serve as kernels for future essays and stories. The last section of the book compiled these nuggets of inspiration into a reusable list.
I love reading books which offer insights to inspire my own writing. I also enjoy books which open my eyes to new activities, such as walking which cleans the cobwebs out of my mind and also unlocks writer’s block. By the time I reached the end of the book, I decided to make walking a part of my daily routine. Since moving to Santa Barbara nearly four years ago, I’ve noticed that many people favor walking as a hobby. For me, it’s a time to meet new people, but it’s also a time to nurture reflection and creativity. Santa Barbara offers a unique blend of calm and an unexplainable creative force. I often wondered if this is a result of its unique location, where the ocean meets the mountains.
Patricia Fry wrote an article called “Meditation Walking for Writers,” which I read with great interest. She suggested a walking meditation technique to help if you’re stuck in your writing. She says that there is no altered state of consciousness needed to embark on this type of meditation, and that it’s just a matter of quieting your mind and finding the stillness from within. She does admit that you have to want to do it and then you will see results.
The technique is simple. The first step is to establish a schedule, anywhere between forty-five and sixty minutes each day. Dressing comfortably and finding a quiet place to walk, is critical. Santa Barbara, thankfully, has a glutton of perfect walking locations. Fry suggests that while walking you focus solely only your senses—hear the sound of your shoes hitting the pavement, a sprinkler turning on, or the birds chirping. Then she suggests feeling the air against your skin and how the muscles in your legs tighten with each step. Pay attention to the aromas, whether it’s the blooming flowers, budding trees or grass being cut. In other words, put yourself in the moment.
Beth Baruch Joselow in her book, “Writing Without the Muse,” also suggests in her chapter “Go Outside,” to explore the outdoors and discover something unfamiliar—something growing in your garden, something living under a rock, something discarded in the alley. She suggests bringing that something back to your desk to examine all its facets. She recommends writing a description of it using all your senses. She takes the exercise one step further and suggests describing the item using someone else’s voice, someone you know.
Once you try these mind-clearing techniques, you can start allowing creative ideas to filter in. Fry claims that meditation walks provide an ideal arena for problem-solving. When she feels overwhelmed, she walks change her approach to life, whether it results in slowing down or figuring out what to do next. She suggests replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. If you think positively, then chances are it will soon become a reality. Meditation walking is a way to relax and increase your awareness while getting some of that fresh air and exercise we all need and who knows, the side effect might be a fabulous poem or story!