As an Honors Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, I am grateful for the opportunity to support first year students and contribute insight to classroom discussions in my section of “COLQ 1030: A Quest for Answers". While revisiting familiar texts never fails to reveal new connections, it was an unfamiliar text that inspired my latest learning experiment. In “The Mind at Three Miles Per Hour,” Rebecca Solnit gives a brief history of the relationship between walking and thinking. Solnit acknowledges many philosophers on foot who are drawn into complex contemplations – so with the help of Professor Gross, I decided to try it for myself.
I began my walking meditation at Audubon Park on a crisp, sunny afternoon. Without phone in hand or earbuds to mask my thoughts with music, I paid close attention to my undistracted internal dialogue. Unsurprisingly, my initial thoughts were a lightning storm of questions, concerns, and reminders-to-self about upcoming assignments and school events. I noticed my furrowed brow and shoulders drawn tight, my entire body turned toward the ground as a physical manifestation of my headspace.
Slowly, very slowly, my mind calmed as each step carried me farther away from campus. I felt pulled to face the sun and tilted my chin up to savor the radiant warmth spreading across my face. I noticed things outside myself – vibrant green resurrection fern draping great oak limbs overhead, tendrils of Spanish moss swaying gently in the breeze, and not a single cloud in the clear blue sky. An earth science major and outdoors enthusiast like me might be quick to lament the absence of topography and natural escapes in New Orleans, but after my walking mediation I can better appreciate at least one green space hiding in plain sight.
I encourage all Honors students to take a walk like mine. It need not be lengthy, just be sure to leave your phones behind and truly allow yourselves time to think, observe, and feel. We are constantly surrounded by stimuli, distractions, conversations, and each other. Allow yourselves at least ten minutes to walk and think in the quiet solitude of nature – an ideal medium for creative thought and experience.
If you’re like me and still pine for places where the St. Charles streetcar is far out of earshot, join Outdoor Adventures on one of our trips hiking, backpacking, camping, canoeing, paddle-boarding, and even practicing yoga. Sign up online and explore other opportunities to get outdoors and think on your feet at our website: https://campusrecreation.tulane.edu/outdoor-adventures/trip-schedule.