The art of walking: How this everyday act can bring you inner peace

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ERLING KAGGE: I think the world has partly turned insane in the sense that we spend, like, three or four hours every day just looking down on a screen. And the whole idea that you can explore the world, get to know people, respect the environment, to love the earth just by sitting and watching a screen is problematic. It’s wrong, and it’s also one of the reasons why people feel so unhappy today. They claim to be very sad. They claim to be lonely and depressed. I think this partly, to a great degree, comes down to us just looking down and not looking up around us and up towards the sky, because that’s what makes life worth living.

I think we’re all born explorers. When I look at kids, they would like to climb before they can walk. Eventually, when they learn how to walk before they can talk, they walk over to the sitting room, across the floor, out through the door, and wondering what’s hidden behind the horizon. And this humans have been doing for 200,000 years. It was not Homo sapiens who invented walking on two legs. It was a possibility, walking on two legs; we invented Homo sapiens. So we have always been discovering the world in a truly physical way. And that’s one of the reasons why walking is so important. Because today, most people are sitting on their arses in a chair looking at the screen to discover and explore the world. And that’s a huge misunderstanding. You’re missing out on some of the greatest things in life.

I’m very curious. Curiosity is a driving force for me. And when I walk-like I walked to the studio here in New York-I try to watch people, do people watching. And of course, their faces pass so quickly in the street. So it’s kind of hard to tell what people are thinking and what’s going on in their mind. I have a longer time to see how they walk. And quite often, you can actually see how they feel by the way they’re walking. You can even sometimes feel what kind of professions they have when you look at them walking.

For instance, like police officers and officers in the army, they walk totally different from other people. A priest also walks, has a different gait. While you can see the homeless people in New York and the beggars, they walk totally different. So somehow, what they’re doing is inscribed in their bodies and inscribed in the way they’re walking. Like a homeless guy, he walks absolutely the opposite way than an officer in the army. He walks bit like this. His knees are sagging down a bit like this. So, you know, the way you walk can actually tell you a lot.

To me, as a Norwegian, the best way to experience silence is to just walk in one direction out of the city where I’m living and to let it get really quiet around me, and stay there for a few days and nights and experience silence. But obviously, if you live in New York, that’s not so simple. So I think you can actually find silence absolutely everywhere, in the sense that you need to invent your own silence. You can’t wait for silence to come to you. You have to start to explore this inner silence-the silence which is inside you at all times and waiting for you. Just try to discover what’s going on in your mind and in your body. You can do meditation to do it. You can do yoga. You can do mindfulness. But to me, you actually don’t need any techniques. I think you can do it by just walking. And if you don’t have time to walk long distances, try to walk the stairs. Try to walk to the metro. Try to walk to your office. And then you will find this inner silence if you’re really interested in it.