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Walking in Turbulent Times: Part II

Missed the first installment? Read Walking in Turbulent Times: Part I here…

So here we all are, a year into the pandemic, and with the end vaguely insight. We thought now was as good a time as ever to share the experiences of another of our volunteers who has taken to walking in these difficult times. This week we hear from Tash Bowen, one of our Social Media Officers and we hope that in reading her observations and insights, you can perhaps think about your own experiences with walking and where you may hope to venture in the future.

Are you an artist, a musician, a writer, or a creative of some sort? Another of our volunteers, Nicole Mawby, has provided us with the following quote from Earling Kagge, a writer, art collector and explorer: ‘Language reflects the idea that life is one single walk; the word “journey” comes from the distance we travel in the course of a day.’ How does walking affect your creativity? What do you hope to achieve from it? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Tash Bowen

Deep breath in, deep breath out. One foot first, now the other. Repeat. 

It’s fair to say that we can all let our emotions run amok from time to time. Personally, I find it most difficult to manage my emotional responses when certain situations are outside of my control. So, in the past couple of years, I have been concentrating on appropriately managing my emotional responses. Walking helps.  

Each time I feel overwhelmed, I slip on a sturdy pair of boots and get out. I walk to accept, process, and understand my feelings, regardless of how long it takes. I walk to separate myself from an environment that is potentially physically and mentally confining me. I walk to appreciate the wider world that I often take for granted because I can let trivial circumstances overrun my rationality and disengage me from the matter at hand. 

Being a part of a generation that encouraged lots of outdoor play, walking to and from places regularly, and the Saturday-staple family-walk, I have spent a lot of time connecting with my surroundings and realising my place within it. Each place has a deeply rooted and distinct history and culture, which, when recognised, can grant power to the self. The human species, however, is complex and there are parts of ourselves that we will never fully understand, so rather than drown in the intricacies of the self, it serves us better to ground ourselves in the reality of the great outdoors.

To build a relationship with our natural environment means building a relationship with ourselves through physical and emotional grounding. This type of connection has been encouraged and strengthened by being born and bred in South Wales. With my home city’s placement between the mountains and the sea, there has always been a plethora of natural spaces for me to belong to and explore. 

Residential streets where the distant hills rise up and engulf the houses in a sea of green, where the waves are made from other little houses and streetlights are dotted about like sea foam. Woodlands where the trees whisper to each other when gentle gales blow or they rumble in blustery winds, summoning stories from deep within their roots. Mountains silent in their watch over us, standing resolutely against the elements; shaping our skyline, carving the sunlight into separate segments, and casting it out across the valley floor. Fields where the grass and the flowers dance together, intertwining their bodies to create fluid movements that sway and flutter, caressing the legs of those who amble through. Beaches where the sand glides and swirls in a mist over its bed, pulling back the covers on shells and creatures that lie sleeping beneath.

The sea can soar towards the sky as if reaching for the rain to be brought back home. It tumbles over itself, yearning, longing for the company as it crawls up the shore, crashing, shouting for people to step in. This place hugs you. It feels like standing on an open pop-up book, looking up to the crisp-paper layers that lie one after another. The roll of the hills is reflected in the motion of the sea and their presence serves as a reminder that emotional ups and downs are a part of life.  

These fluctuations are inevitable – and the ability to accept that is imperative in managing your wellbeing. As a species, we are not easily contented with our lot, and with the dramatic rise in social media over the past couple of decades, the daily bombardment of how to be our best selves is relentless. Industry advertisements, movies, and TV shows, and pop-cultural figures all contribute to the already dictatorial dichotomy of what is good and bad in today’s society. So, distancing yourself from the ingrained, self-critical nature of the human mind is harder than ever before. One way to achieve this emotional distancing is through walking. Let the outside world absorb you in its setting, and as you focus on what is physically nearest to you, the most distant concepts of competition and morality can be let go.

By grounding yourself in your environment you can regain power and reconnect with yourself as a part of something greater –as a part of the world.

The relationship that you can build with reality in this way will bring calmness, focus, and the ability to alter what can be altered. Do not sit and hope for things outside of your control to change, instead accept what is within your power and change that – you can get outside and enjoy your space. Enjoy the finer connections that hold you here and fully appreciate them for what they are. Reality is multi-faceted, complex, sometimes stressful but always fascinating. So, resist the urge to get lost in your emotions, and get lost in your surroundings instead. Walking will help you to fully recognise your emotions, value them and hopefully, with each footstep, process them and distinguish between what is productive and counterproductive for you. So, explore a little. 

Deep breath in, deep breath out. One foot first, now the other. Repeat.

Conclusion

For us creatives in Be Extra, walking has provided a helping hand not just to our art, but to our minds. Whether it be walking or something else, we hope you find something to take your mind off the pressures of the modern world. Virginia Woolf, a particular favourite of mine wrote: ‘Yes I deserve Spring – I owe nobody nothing.’ I certainly look forward to making the most of the Spring weather and getting out as much as I can.

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