Friedrich Nietzsche and I disagree on a lot of issues. However, as my friend Susan (not the Proser) says, that doesn't mean he was a complete waste of space. And he may have been a trifle hyperbolic, but I still agree with him when he said:
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
When I was in high school, walking is what my friend Kara and I did. We wandered through the neighborhoods, at a not particularly fast pace, chatting with people, and stopping wherever the action was, but still managing to log miles and miles most days.
I walked quite a bit in college too. Who doesn't?
But it wasn't until I lived on a lonely rural road that I discovered the joy of solitary walking. I will go so far as to say that if I hadn't started walking by myself, I would never have become a writer. I wandered up and down the corridors of my mind as my feet wandered up and down roads and deserted tracks. I discovered patterns, interesting twists and out of the box answers to problems in real life and in my novel. I talked to God, and felt him answer.
But somewhere along the line, something happened. My kids started growing up and getting busier. I started blogging. My desire to publish a book became more demanding. I started teaching preschool. We got Netflix Instant. I needed to lose weight, so I gave up walking in favor of more intense, less contemplative exercise (and, in an interesting twist, didn't lose any weight.) We moved to a suburb. For a myriad of reasons, I stopped walking.
Getting back into it has been so hard. Not the actual walking. That's as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, but settling into that meditative state is hard. I find myself timing my walks, thinking about what else I could be doing. What happened to the woman who drove 3 hours to walk by herself on a gorgeous trail for 9 miles? That day, I was so deep in thoughts of a new novel that I couldn't believe it when I got to the trail's end. Only when I thought about it did I realize how jelly-like my legs were.
Haruki Murakami said:
No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative...act.
I've been swimming twice a week all year long. Now that I can keep up the breaststroke for a long, long time, my mind is starting to roam as I swim. It's such a freeing feeling. (And suddenly, all my heroines can be found at their local pool.) Doing something over and over and over again seems to be the key.
Other activities that have helped with my writing:
Cross country skiing
Cutting vegetables (lots and lots of vegetables)
How about you? What actions do you do often enough (and mindlessly enough) that they have become contemplative?