It's solved by walking

Lifelog  •  12 Oct 2021

“Solvitur ambulando.” In Latin, this loosely translates to “It is solved by walking.”

Bonnie Whitehouse, in her book Afoot and Lighthearted, paints it out well:

“For many years, I have wondered how, in the frantic pace of this age we call our time, I might keep my focus on what nourishes me,” the professor writes. “I decided that, like many creative walkers before me, I had to disrupt habits that neither fed or sustained me by radically and literally walking away from them.”

And indeed, I find myself unknowingly doing this for my writing and my work. I find walking especially useful for untying thinking knots. I was stuck with indecision between two choices recently - continuing on my writing, or start something else, even for a while. Part of me wanted to be disciplined and make good on publishing words, yet the other part of me wanted to flow with my energy and curiosity, enjoy my work in the moment, and do something else. Initially, I simply sat and sat on these two choices, facing my laptop screen, my notebooks. And going nowhere with the decision. Sitting still in rumination and reflection, it seems, isn’t helpful in this case.

So I packed up, kept the issue at the back of my mind, and walked. I chose to walk through some malls, and a few train stops down towards my eventual commute home. And the switch up in energy and motion really did help. With blood running, limbs moving while the brain is in energy-saving mode, it actually aided the decision-making. Kind of like walking meditation, which my teacher and Zem Master Thich Nhat Hanh had taught tirelessly about.

Such is the irony and contrast between what my work requires of me versus what how I work best. Writing, coding, designing entail lots of sitting down in front of a computer, yet my body, soul, spirit, whatever you call it, yearns to work while moving.

How can I find the balance?

At least, I’m grateful that this new season of work is allowing me to find ways to explore and experiment with that balance. Freed from client commitments, I can now do as I need, as my body, soul, spirit needs.

And in walking, I am free and freed. Free to let it unfold and unkink through movement. Freed to better solve whatever the problem of the moment.

The 19th Century Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard - one of my favourite Continental philosophers - couldn’t have described it better:

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.”

Solvitur ambulando.

It is solved by walking.