If you’ve done much solo
walking, this may sound familiar.
At first, you think about the
walk itself. You check your
body—especially your feet—for potential trouble spots.
You think about your walking goal for the day, your route, the
landmarks to watch out for. You
think about lunch, dinner, and lodging.
When these concerns are put to
rest—surfacing occasionally as necessary—you start to think about
your daily life. A
situation at work, an upcoming family event, an issue with a friend.
These are the sorts of things that occupy our usual waking minds,
and cause our mundane dreams.
But after a while, you run out
of material. You’ve
pretty much hashed over everything, come up with solutions for all
“the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir
to.” The mind becomes a
blank slate. You find
yourself counting your steps, or reciting a mantra, or just breathing.
The religious know about this.
It’s the basis of many kinds of meditation.
But soon, the mind starts
working again, on another level. Instead
of thinking about your life, you find yourself thinking about
life itself, the sacred instead of the mundane, what the Japanese call anoyo—that world—instead of
Even the thoughts that do relate to your daily life are now
deeper, more philosophical. You
even find yourself—as in this essay—thinking about thinking.
The Journal will record this
kind of thinking, my own “deep thoughts,” the lessons that I glean
as I walk, my thoughts on life, the journey, Japan, religion, and all
the things the mind turns to when it’s freed from the tyranny of the
See this Index for a list of