Walking – to me – suggests intentional progress, moving forward on purpose. Choosing to go from point A to point B, one step at a time. Consciously, deliberately taking steps in a particular direction, or along a specific path, or even forging one’s own way. Slowly, but surely. At a pace that enables us to actually experience and appreciate and make sense of the progress we make. Walking is, of course, an act done in the present, which moves one’s body and life into the future – one step at a time. Naturally, as we arrive in that future moment, that very moment becomes the present moment. We are simultaneously stepping out of the past, experiencing the present, and stepping into the future. And though this process never stops, we can miss much of the journey, if we aren’t watching where we’re going.
Even if a walk returns to point A, where we started, the place is not quite the same when we get there. Time has passed, and in usually subtle – but sometimes dramatic – ways, the place has changed, we have have changed, and the way we experience the place – in that moment of return, of arrival, has changed. Point A becomes a somewhat different place, a “Point B” to some degree. The extent of the change relates in part to how transformational the journey we took; and that relates to how awake and on-purpose our walk. Or, to what degree we were walking our why.
True, even if we stand still, we are carried along by the conveyor belt of time that moves us (all of us) constantly from past into future, yet always keeping us in the present.
True, if we choose to move by rocket, or plane, or train, or bus, or car, or bike, or even by running, we will likely arrive at point B more quickly. Often, we need need to get there faster than walking alone will make possible. But it is not always about speed; and it is not always about physical places or destinations. It is, however, always about the adventure called life, and we always have a choice of how fast we want to live it.
The distinction I’m exploring here is that if we do not move with a sense of purpose, if we do not consciously progress, if our attention is being pulled into memories of the past even as the Universe invariably draws us into the future; then, we will not have the experience of moving forward; we will not have the experience of progress in our lives. Rather, our experience will be of mind movies of our past. And every present moment consumed by viewing our mind’s recording of the past is a moment when we are not consciously moving into the future; a moment when we are not making why-driven progress. We are on that conveyor belt of time, we are getting older, our past is getting longer, our future is getting shorter, but are we really getting anywhere? Sometimes it seems we get nowhere, even if we get nowhere fast!
Admittedly, even when walking, our minds might often be dwelling on the past. Walking does not necessarily prevent us from being lost in dramas, or thrillers, or droning documentaries of our past. This is very true, and I distinguish this kind of movement as sleep-walking: the body might be moving forward, but the mind is in reverse! This is physical movement that is largely disconnected from a conscious, intentional state. At any particular time, by any particular individual, it might also be known by another variation – or another label – such as: day-dreaming, wandering aimlessly, walking in circles, being in a trance, or being in a zombie-like state.
I am not speaking of when we might arise from bed and literally walk in our sleep. I am referring to when we are physically awake but “asleep” at the wheel of our mind, allowing ourselves to be driven by our ego in every direction but that our heart and soul truly wish to go.
It is important to note that “sleep walking” (whether or not physical motion is involved) applies not only to dwelling on or fretting over the past but also to fantasizing about or worrying over the future. It can have the same kind of debilitating impact on our ability to make purposeful progress. Essentially, it is like being “asleep” even when one’s eyes might appear wide open; even when one’s mouth might be running on and on… about memories of the past and/or worries of the future. Perhaps the objective of getting from A to B is being fulfilled, but there is no other purpose in the movement, because there is no attention to any purpose. The attention is lost to an inner film reel, and just as the reel on the projector turns, so are we walking in circles, making no meaningful progress.
Wake walking is the kind of walking, the kind of being, in which we move forward with purpose, because we are awake and attentive to the present. Our mind is dwelling neither on memories of the past nor fantasies of the future, but rather is actually experiencing the here and now. This is walking a path informed by our past but not defined by our assessments of it; a path leading into our future but not pre-determined by our concerns about it. This is walking meditation; mindfulness in motion. It is the path forged in the crucible of experience, including lessons learned from our past, life force felt in the moment, and vision calling us from and into the future.
This is one perspective of what it means to “walk your why”.
In what parts of your life have you been sleep walking? If you are honest with yourself, where would you say it has led you? And in what direction have you been drawn when walking awake? Which way of walking has taken you closer to actualizing your dreams? Which has tended to keep you lost in fantasies or trapped in nightmares? Give these questions some time. Consider taking some walks – some wake walks – with the intention of gaining clarity of purpose that is at work (or at rest) in your life – by contemplating the previous questions and that which follows:
Moving forward, how do you most want to walk your way through the World: as a sleep walker, or a wake walker?