“Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I set out on an early morning walk fully prepared to listen to a podcast through noise-cancelling headphones for the bulk of the five miles I’d planned to traverse. Walking down the driveway, I heard the distinct song of a cardinal greeting the morning. Listening more carefully, I heard almost nothing else beyond the cardinal. With such clear guidance, I stuffed the earbuds in my pocket and opted to take in the world instead of block it out.
A proper walk ought to be simplified. Without earbuds I could hear the approach of cars, industrious squirrels harvesting acorns high above, and feel the world around me in a way not possible when you’re focused on a podcast or your favorite playlist. There’s a place for multi-tasking with earbuds, but there are times when bringing your ears to the walk offers a greater overall experience.
All of this seems obvious on a hike or a walk through a place we’re visiting for the first time. Could you imagine walking through Edinburgh or Amsterdam or across a stunning ridgeline for the very first time wearing earbuds? Neither can I. We tend to save the addition of media for the mundane. But what if we sought out something new in each step? This is only possible when we’re fully present.
The thing is, it’s not just walking, is it? Within each moment we have the choice to block out the world or let it in. What we do in that moment influences our now and our accumulation of experiences. We don’t just learn how to live, we learn how to live optimally. To be open to the world allows us to receive more than we otherwise might have.