Walking or Sauntering?
I decided to undertake a three mile hike at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico.
During the experimentation process, Henry Thoreau described the beauty and freedom of living a simple and independent lifestyle away from the common herd of men. His self cultivation process focused on his inner self and aligned best with striving to achieve wisdom, contentment, freedom, and tranquility. In solitude and nature, he was able to make sense of his identity, and meditate on the extensive problems of living and existing in the world. Thoreauvian’s model of immersing oneself with nature is proposed in his writings, and challenges one to reflect on both the act of walking, and one’s relationship with nature. The kernel of self cultivation is present in his writings and experiment as he purposefully withdraws from his external obligations of society and attends his internal arena in order to amplify his spiritual connection with nature. Hence, one will reference Thoreau’s excerpt titled, "Walking," to highlight his interpretation of the significance and art of walking as a means to self cultivate his inner state of being.
Thoreau devoted two years of his life to withdraw from obligations and entanglements with industry and other townsmen in society. Observing and living in peaceful coexistence with nature holds great significance for Thoreau and his reality. Beauty and order lies in natural phenomenon and he yearns for individuals to understand that there is a subtle relaxation and enjoyment in the act of walking. Initially, he reports on the main predicament of walking; he states, “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking—that is, of taking walks… for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived ‘from idle people who roved about the country” (Thoreau 627). Sauntering is defined as walking in a slow and relaxed manner; however, Thoreau does not believe that individuals understand its beauty and spiritual qualities. Because individuals and the universe are one, individuals share a sentimental quality in a sensory world as perceive their surroundings through sights and sounds. Moreover, he emphasizes nature as a means of attaining “Absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil, -- to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society” (Thoreau 627). Thoreau rejects the labeling of individuals as citizens within society, and instead refers to them as inhabitants of nature. It is assumed that the majority of individuals consider themselves as citizens within society; however, Thoreau insists that individuals should refer to themselves as inhabitants of nature. Temporary inhabitants that should adhere to the innate tendency of appreciating the marvels of nature, and the spiritual benefits that arise after tapping into the realm of nature.
Thoreau recognizes the role of individuals in a working class society, and claims that because of industry individuals do not have time to walk let alone understand the art of walking. He writes, “Some do not walk at all; others walk in the highways; a few walk across lots. Roads are made for horses and men of business. I do not travel in them much, comparatively, because I am not in a hurry to get to any tavern or grocery or livery-stable or depot to which they lead” (Thoreau 634). The further Thoreau is from the roads and working men in society, the more time he has to appreciate nature and enjoy his sauntering. In addition, he notes, “Some of my townsmen, it is true, can remember and have described to me some walks which they took ten years ago, in which they were so blessed as to lose themselves for half an hour in the woods; but I know very well that they have confined themselves to the high water ever since” (Thoreau 629). If townsmen can recall walking ten years ago, what did they spend their time doing during these ten years? Benjamin Franklin would agree that the townsmen were strictly devoted to a life of industry and embodying a ‘working man’ image. His attitude towards idleness and leisure time is negative, so one can assume that he would think of Thoreau as a lazy and worthless individual. While reflecting to the vivid imagery and diction, Thoreau is displeased with the obligations of labor and industry that distract individuals from the simple pleasures of appreciating nature through walking.
Thoreau use of language reflects metaphysical and spiritual ideas that are pivotal for his appreciation of walking. For instance, the word choice as he states reflects his transcendental impressions of the universe. He states, “I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least, -and it is commonly more than that, sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements” (Thoreau 629). The phrase "preserving my health and spirit" demonstrates his attraction towards reaching an inner state of tranquility. One’s connection to the environment is the first level of experience and one must understand the subjectivity and personal connections to nature. Modeling Thoreau’s idea of self cultivation as first attending the inner self before the external self was meditated upon during my walk. I decided to undertake a three mile hike at the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rock National Monument in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico. It is a trail that features unique, cone-shaped tent rocks resulting from the erosion of rocks that once erupted from a volcanic explosion seven million years ago. During the hike, I contemplated heavily on Thoreau’s interpretation of nature verses the roads in town. Because the roads were so distant from me, I felt more tranquil than I would have in a social setting with other individuals. As I walked up the trail, I felt the magnetic and electrical energies connected to the native land and considered myself to be Earthing instead of sauntering. The surface of the Earth maintains a negative electric potential charge that gets transmuted into one’s body through direct contact. I reflected on my inward emotions and thoughts until I reached the top of the trail. Reaching the top of the hike, I spotted a massive rock near the edge of the cliff, and immediately felt the urge to close my eyes and drift away into a mindful meditation. Minutes later, I felt another internal pulling to document a short poem in my journal. Turning onto a new page, I wrote:
“The sudden rush of cosmic vibrations rushing from the Earth and into my celestial body. You are moved within, I am too. Moving energies inside my head attempt to make sense of the vastness and beauty of nature. Here life is renewable, life continues, life is here, life is now. The ticking of the clock does not matter. What is time? Ah, ataraxia. The voyage going down is just as marvelous, maybe even more, than the voyage going up. How dare you just appreciate the top view, the rich air. When the whole experience is a thin thread of mystery and electricity. One knot, one wholeness, one subjective experience. With the universe. With the divine source. The sun. The unexplainable energy. Every experience requires an openness, for nothing is ever repetition. From beginning to end, everything in my surroundings pulled the strings of my attention. The sea of tent rocks and trees. The reliable cycle, the cycle that reminds us of the truth. The one reality, as we see it, functions as a cycle. From morning to noon to night, because light beams come from above. The sounds of dirt flowing through the air spill through the echoes of silence. Look straight ahead, take a loose chance and look up instead. Look up instead. To my birthplace, this land. Is it called Earth?“
The aim of self cultivation was to identify the power within my inner domain, and to engage in a personal relationship with nature and its electricity. To achieve a tranquil phase and meditate on one’s inner state of being is the aim of Thoreau’s art of walking, and he pushes this idea further as he challenges individuals to apply it in their own lives.