Sometimes I don’t want to take my dogs for a walk. It’s cold, I’m lazy, I’m busy. But at the end of the day, when I am creating my daily “best and worst” list, 9 times out of 10 the dog walk is right at the top with the best.

Walking with Others

If I’m walking the dogs with other people, it’s a great time to chat it up. Important events I’ve been meaning to talk about (Drew Barrymore was on island!!) or deep questions I’ve wanted to ask (when does the new season of “Dexter” start?), there’s plenty of time for all that. And the physical motion keeps the chatter going. I’m not a chatty Cathy by nature, but on dog walks I love when the walking ends long before the talking.

This week I had two youngsters along on a walk. There’s nothing like hanging out with kids to make you feel really smart (or really dumb). I expounded upon osprey nests, horseshoe crabs and dirt baths, turtles, snakes and eel grass. (But could answer few of their follow-up questions.) Great fun. Educational for them and me. (Not to mention that their never-ending energy is good for the dogs—I could never run that fast.)

Walking Alone

When it’s just me and my dogs, subtler more internal events occur, of no less importance.

It used to be that while I walked I would plan my day . . . or tomorrow or next week or my life. Plan, plan, plan. List, list, list. What’s next, what’s next? And this came in handy. I’d get home and write down everything that I needed to get done on a quickly expanding, never-ending to-do list (buy cat food, mow lawn, return library books, re-write this list more neatly). It’s a great way to stay organized and to remember things. It’s a great way to become overwhelmed.

Then I realized that my walks had become opportunities for idea generation. As I walked, an idea would pop into my head, an idea I’d flesh out as we continued along the trail. The motion of walking creates motion in the mind. Legs move, energy moves, mind moves, churning up ideas in the wake of all that motion. Granted, ninety percent of these ideas never made it out of my head (How feasible would it be for me to continue the cancelled soap operas but in comic book form?) But some, like this web site, came to fruition.

Lately while walking the dogs, rather than try to plan or create (“not that there is anything wrong with that”), I am trying to be present. If you’ve read Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, you know what I’m talking about. Now is all we have. THIS second in time. Everything else is an illusion. Or as John Lennon put it, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” (And for another really confusing perspective on “now,” go here.)

This practice of being in the now allows me to enjoy my dogs, nature, Nantucket, as they are, as I am, in the moment. It allows me to see and hear things that I normally wouldn’t notice: a mushroom, a bird call, the way the dogs jockey for position on the trail. Does an item for my interminable to-do list occasionally pop into my mind? Absolutely. An idea I want to google later? Sure. But more and more I’m able to come back to the present, notice that Makita just left something in the middle of the path that needs my presence, and continue on in the moment.

Taking your dog for a walk, because it’s done on a regular basis, can be a kind of practice, a meditation. Just in the doing of it consistently, whether or not you are watching your breath or chanting “om,” is a practice. It is being done. The very act of doing it is zen.


Nantucket Dog Walk

Walk. Walk Your Dog. Walk Nantucket.