I don't know about you, but in my life's journey, time often presents itself as a confounding travel companion – relentlessly marching on, refusing to halt, always seeming a step ahead or just out of reach.
Last fall, Cristina and I traveled to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. Prior to starting our pilgrimage, we spent a week in Madrid visiting family before we set out from Saint Jean Pied de Port, in France. Despite Madrid's allure, I found myself battling against time, feeling as though there wasn't enough time to fully immerse myself in the city's character. At the same time I wanted to get on with walking the Camino. Although I was cognizant of this struggle, it seemed an insurmountable challenge to overcome.
I am often caught up in this eternal pursuit – trying to keep up with time, harness it, or sometimes, escape from it. But what if, instead of running to catch up with time or fighting against it, I was able to walk with it, in sync with its rhythm? Could I sync my rhythms with time's rhythm?
I want to take a you on a word-stroll in this essay and explore the idea of "taking a walk with time."
Walking, in its simplicity, is an act of connection - with our environment, our senses, and ourselves. Each step we take is a statement of being present, being alive. A walk is more than a physical journey; it is an exploration, an observation, and a contemplation of the world around us. And when we take a walk with time, we venture into an even deeper connection - a dialogue between our existence and the very fabric of life.
In my practice of mindful sketching, I've had glimpses of the profound power of being truly present. When I sketch, I merge with what I'm sketching. I tune into the fine details, the complexities, the subtle interplay of light and shadow. This mindfulness, this total immersion in the moment, harmonizes me with time. There's no past, no future, only the now - only the marks I make, the emerging sketch, and my existence as the sketcher; only the scene and my being as the observer. This embodies the true essence of being present in time, not merely moving through it.
I first tapped into this connection with time while sketching in the Parque del Retiro in Madrid, after completing our journey to Santiago de Compostela. I've chronicled this transformative experience in a blog post titled 'A Fresh Eyes Project: And the transformative power of learning new skills'. Since then, I've managed to replicate this sense of unity with time when sketching in various other scenarios.
"Taking a walk with time" invites us into this existential experience of time. It is about aligning our steps with the rhythm of time - not rushing past it, nor lagging behind, but flowing with it. This walk is not about the destination; it is about the journey and the depth of experiences it brings forth.
Often, I transform others' ideas into personal affirmations. Recently, I've been contemplating the philosopher Martin Heidegger's theories about time, leading me to ask myself, "Why not consider time as a willing companion during my morning walk?"
With just a few blocks covered, I found myself in sync, much like my experience on the Camino de Santiago last fall. Back then, it took many days of walking to shed the illusions I carried about time and to immerse myself in that rhythmic flow I discovered on the Camino. However, this time, by consciously inviting time to join me on my walk, I reached that state much faster.
In this contemplative journey, we are not mere spectators; we are active participants. We don't just observe time; we feel it, live it, and breathe it. As we walk, we carry the weight of our past - each memory, each experience, forming the steps we tread. We embrace the present - each moment, a new landscape to explore and appreciate. And we anticipate the future - each step, a movement towards the unseen and the unknown.
This interaction with time isn't about control or management; it's about companionship. It's about acknowledging time as an integral part of our existence, as inseparable from us as we are from it. Time, in this context, isn't a resource we lack, but a reality we live. We are not separate from time; we are time.
"Jacques Réda, the introspective French essayist, would remind himself each Sunday morning, before setting out on his extensive strolls around Paris, to observe one new thing." (Phil Cousineau and Huston Smith, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred)
Consider adopting Jacques Réda's approach: take a leisurely stroll around your city with the intention to 'see one new thing'. This could serve as a compelling prompt to draw you outdoors. As you step out, invite time to accompany you, matching each of your steps.
'Taking a walk with time' extends beyond a mere philosophical concept or mindfulness exercise; it's an invitation to live with authenticity, depth, and presence. It's about savoring the ephemeral nature of life and our constant dance of existence. It serves as a path towards mindfulness, a celebration of 'being', and a tranquil protest against the hustle of contemporary life.
So, shall we take that first step?
Let us go for a walk with time. Let us step in rhythm with its ticking pulse, not in a rushed chase, but in a composed waltz. Let us find beauty in each moment, wisdom in the past, and possibility in the future. And as we walk, together, let us sketch - not on paper, but in our consciousness, capturing the essence of our lived time, together.
¡Viva La Meseta! Where I learned how to walk with time.