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Reviews

The Art of Mindful Walking: Meditations on the path

Martyn Halsall

The Art of Mindful Walking: Meditations on the path

Adam Ford

Ivy Press 144pp

Adam Ford approaches walking differently, as much by type, as by specific destinations. He strides - 15 to 20 miles a day where necessary - into the current preoccupation with 'mindfulness' a headline issue at the Greenbelt festival and subject of varying reactions from derision to incorporation into colouring books. Ford allies Christian and Buddhist teaching in his analysis of how mindfulness can be part of essential healing and cleansing processes, allowing walking to 'let go of thinking', and simply walk off the 'bad business of the day'. This enables, from insights of the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, an essential concentration on the present moment, and through the Christian tradition a renewed emphasis on forgiveness. 'Practising forgiveness is actually a practice of mindfulness, an exercise in letting go, in the manner we manage to overcome the small irritations of the day when we set out for the evening walk. Buddhism and Christianity can both help us in this.' Ford ranges widely, from the ancient stone crosses of West Cumbria that effectively bracket his book, to the vastness of the Australian outback, and the continuing mysteries of Easter Island. Before setting out he considers the theory of mindfulness alongside the practical needs of safe walking; historic Buddhism and a good hat. As a priest, he continues to explore spiritual and geographical territories: 'I remain rooted in the Christian tradition. But with questions and often feeling an urge to move on. Some of my Christian beliefs have been strengthened, while others have dropped away like autumn leaves.' Positives include the sense of gratitude of God he receives when walking, the chance to use time and space for prayer, and revived senses of pilgrimage. He is wary of reducing mystery to the misapprehensions of Biblical fundamentalism. With these books in a rucksack, any walker will find new dimensions to the personal transport that has conditioned most of human history, and to that pace to which increasingly it needs to return.