An Eskimo custom offers an angry person release by walking the emotion out of his or her system in a straight line across the landscape; the point at which the anger is conquered is marked with a stick, bearing witness to the strength or length of the rage.
~ Lucy Lippard, Overlay
Long walks have a way of stirring up random frustrations and anger. I remember reaching my halfway point on a day hike a full hour before I expected. When I sat down and leaned against a big rock, I reflected on just how much anger had fueled my hectic pace. The anger wasn’t even about anything real. I was having a phantom debate with a complete stranger about a problem that had never happened. Apparently, I needed to work this out. And so three hours of hiking became two.
I love the idea of this Eskimo custom. It acknowledges a simple connection between mind and body. Anger fuels the body to walk faster and further. The body provides a vehicle for the anger to dissipate. The walk allows the energy to release slowly and safely into the world. And then all is calm. We can draw the line and look back in astonishment and just how insane we’d been for a moment.
Long walks were largely how I survived high school. I didn’t, for the most part, have access to a car. So I mostly walked everywhere. Miles and miles and miles. I took the opportunity to sort out any drama in my life or watch my mind manufacture drama. I held magnificent debates in which my logic was perfect and irrefutable. By walk’s end, I felt purified — like all the dark, heavy air was exhaled.
Walking is a powerfully simple act. For me, it is more powerful than a seated meditation — where following my breath tends to activate my mind and opens up a powerful brainstorming session during which I solve the world’s problems, if not mine. Walking is completely different. It creates clarity and quiet. Once my body and mind arrive at the same place, at that line, I can look around at the world around me and appreciate it all with fresh, clear eyes.