Clay Cockrell, a psychotherapist from New York (where there are so many psychotherapists that they could have their own neighborhood) takes her sessions outdoors. These sessions specifically entail walking, in places like Central Park or Battery Park, or wherever else the client prefers to go, as the location of the consultation is totally flexible. Though her method and fees are relatively similar to any other psychotherapist, the one marked difference is the environment in which the doctor-patient interaction takes place. The typical sofa, leather chair, Persian rug and prop library are all replaced with the street´s pavement, gravel or the park where the patient chooses to go.
Walking is much more than covering a certain distance by foot. It is also one of the most basic tools to achieve what is commonly referred to as “clearing the mind.” Walking is a free resource, easily accessible and almost always available, and facilitates the return to a calmer world where the mind can make connections free of interferences with the body, and the body, in turn, can connect with the ground that it walks on and the environment it is surrounded by.
In a world obsessed with the increasing travel speed of places and things and the instantaneous exchange of a plethora of information, the four kilometres per hour walking speed permits the necessary slowing down required to gain consciousness of the body and reformat one´s head. On reaching a comfortable rhythm and unintentional movements, the mind is freed from routine obligations, permitting rest and a more open environment to roll out ideas or free the thoughts and feelings that build up inside us.
This is the root of “foot” therapy. "Who moves forward lying on a couch?" Cockrell asks on her website. She sees the walking sessions as a means of killing two birds with one stone: the light exercise gained from walking not only allows her to have quality contact with her patients, but it also helps to keep them fit, improve their mood and makes the sessions entertaining, particularly compared with those which usually take place behind closed doors.
Exercise N°1: Gradually give up Pristiq 50mg.
One of the positive aspects of walking is that you don´t need to pay an hour with Dr. Cockrell in order to reap the mental and physical benefits that it offers. The previous section comes from a story written about an interview with Björk, who has one of the most innovative minds in the musical world over the last 30 years. She has always identified the experience of walking alone, in contact with nature, as a fundamental part of her creative process, and as an easy and effective mechanism for keeping her feet on the ground (“I mostly write on my own, walking, outside”). Björk spoke to the Guardian in 2007, about how walking is an activity that comes from her childhood in the suburb of Reikiavik:
I lived next to the last block of flats, and then it was moss and tundra. I used to walk a lot on my own and sing at the top of my lungs. I think a lot of Icelandic people do this. You don’t go to church or a psychotherapist – you go for a walk and feel better.
Exercise N°2: Walk with all your lungs.
There are a number of artists and intellects that turn to walking as a necessary exercise to prepare and maintain the creative process. The objective is not to think and force inspirational ideas, but rather, set the stage for what you might find on fertile soil the moment you sit down and write, compose or design. Walking offers a necessary break from our hyper-communicated and over connected-society. Björk discussed this in a recent interview with Pitchfork.
You can be on Facebook for a long time, and then you get a feeling in your body like you've had three hamburgers. You know its trash. I always advise my friends: just go for a walk for an hour and come back and see how you feel then.
Exercise N° 3 Go for a walk without your phone. If you have it on you, put it on silent, and refrain from looking at it. Try this first for 10 minutes, then 15, and then an hour. It is possible because generally nobody dies trying!
I´m stuck. I go for a walk, as I usually do when I´m stuck. Walks don’t do miracles, nor do they replace psychotherapy for those who need it, but they do help to untangle a few conflicting ideas and bury others that aren´t worth my time. Other ideas can emerge that need their own walk to give them a chance. I return and I listen to a bit of Björk on Spotify. I have never liked her work that much, but this time I hear it with new ears, with ears that have walked.
Follow the conversation with Rodrigo Díaz on Twitter: @pedestre.