Updated: Aug 11
A quote from Henry David Thoreau about walking recently got me thinking:
“I come out to these solitudes, where the problem of existence is simplified. I get away a mile or two from the town into the stillness and solitude of nature, with rocks, trees, weeds, snow about me. I enter some glade in the woods, perchance, where a few weeds and dry leaves alone lift themselves above the surface of the snow, and it is as if I had come to an open window. I see out and around myself…. This is what I go out to seek. It is as if I always met in those places some grand, serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging—though invisible—companion, and walked with him.” (Source: In Wildness is the Preservation of the World)
I have often thought that part of what I seek when I walk is something outside myself, like what I consider to be divine presence—maybe that is who Thoreau’s “grand, serene, immortal, [and] infinitely encouraging” companion is. It’s also possible that for me it might be more philosophical and I seek connection to the infinity of time and space. Or perhaps it is more mundane and I seek becoming one with my body, since I live in my head a little too much.
As I walk, I know I seek out myself, to be my own companion on this journey—visible, embodied, human. It’s like I’m looking to truly know who I am. It is as if I see into the window of my own soul rather than just seeing “out and around myself” through Thoreau’s open window. (I want to give him credit: Thoreau likely found himself in his nature walks, too.)
It’s often the packed granite path and the desert scrub-covered hills around me when I walk. But sometimes it is sidewalk and driveway; other times, sand and sea. In all these places, I go mostly to find myself. To seek clarity of my life’s direction, meaning, purpose. To find calm in the midst of my overactive brain and bustling daily life. It truly is my solace. It matters less where I walk and more that I walk.
Earlier this year, I created a Wayfinding Day for myself. It’s kind of a tiny-mini DIY Pilgrimage but with a slightly different focus for me. With pilgrimage it’s often about place or sacred space, even as the journey unfolds. Wayfinding is about my interior space, an exploration of my inner landscape. I’ve discovered over this past year that my mind is excruciatingly busy and when I sit, it spins—seeking resolution, solving problems, searching. But when I move my body, my thoughts slow and I find deep clarity in that inner stillness. So, I walked from Santa Monica to Redondo Beach along the ocean boardwalk—17 beautiful miles! The intent was to walk and to stop every hour to journal what I was noticing internally. The first few hours were bustling with noise and commotion since it was a beautiful February weekend day after lots of rain. People were out and about and enjoying the sunshine. I found it difficult to notice what was going on inside of me. I wrote about what I saw instead.
What’s funny to me now is one of my journal entries was simply signs I saw along the way:
🌊 We Serve Brunch on Weekends
🌊 Save the Bay Aquarium
🌊 Cleanse your Chakras
🌊 Come Pray with Us
🌊 Wish You Were Here
In trying to connect my thoughts on these signs (serve+save+cleanse+pray+wish), I discovered that my Wayfinding Day provided all that for me—for my mind, my body, and my spirit. After I recorded those signs in my journal, I was able to walk in silence and in peace. I went walking that day to find something in the immensity of the ocean and the expansiveness of the sand. Instead, I found the quiet within.
I've begun offering guided Wayfinding Days with others—it's an awesome experience so far. Let me know if you want to find out more about upcoming Wayfinding Days near you, or how to create your own with tools and tips from me, by clicking the button below.