Walking: Active Meditation and Tool of Inspiration in Photography
Updated: Nov 24
Since antiquity, walking has been considered an exercise that promotes reflection, concentration, and spiritual awakening. From philosophers like Socrates and Thoreau to modern artists, many have found walking to be a source of inspiration and mental well-being.
In this article, I wish to revisit the reasons why walking has always been a form of active meditation that is particularly beneficial for my photography.
I have touched on this subject in other articles, but physical activity has always been of utmost importance to me and holds a significant place in my daily life. After having practiced numerous sports disciplines, I have come to the conclusion that sport walking (outdoors), at an average of 100 km per week, suits me better than any other physical activity.
It triggers liberating psychological mechanisms that instantly transform my thoughts by channeling them. Each training session becomes a moment of deep reflection that I call "active meditation" on the landscapes I pass through or observe. Added to this are the changing weather conditions throughout the seasons, sometimes challenging such as heat, cold, rain, snow, or wind, which also have the ability to make me react differently to these landscapes.
My library: Walking with the Seasons. The Wonder of being in step with Nature.
Walking therefore allows me to maintain a physical and mental balance conducive to creativity and inspiration. Additionally, I have conducted extensive research on this topic over the past 15 years to better understand how the mechanism of walking influences physical and mental health. Below, I briefly summarize these aspects, based on scientific studies and empirical data, across four fundamental criteria.
1. Current State of Research
Several neuroscientific studies conducted in the last 10 years have shown that walking has a direct impact on the brain. A study published in "The Journal of Neuroscience" in 2014 explains that aerobic exercise, such as walking, increases the size of the hippocampus, a region of the brain related to memory and creativity. Furthermore, a meta-analysis published in 2019 in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine" confirmed that regular physical activity can notably improve executive functions, including attention and problem-solving.
My Equipment: GITZO Adventury. The Ultimate Backpack for Adventure and Field Photography.
2. Walking and Awareness
Walking also facilitates greater self-awareness and environmental awareness, which is crucial in photography. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) method, active meditation enhances the ability to focus on the present moment. This focus can be particularly useful for a photographer, as it allows for a more refined observation of details, shadows, and colors, even though the latter may be less relevant in the field of black-and-white photography.
3. Inspiration Through Observation
In a profession like photography where observation is key, walking offers an unparalleled opportunity to see the world from different angles. A slow pace allows the photographer to take the time to notice aspects of the landscape or urban environment that might otherwise be overlooked. The act of walking itself can become a sort of preparatory ritual, facilitating the transition from the everyday mindset to the one required for deep artistic creation.
4. Silence and Isolation
Walking also provides a form of isolation that is often necessary for creativity. In a 2013 study published in "Psychological Science," researchers found that participants who were isolated were better at solving creative problems than those in groups. The silence and isolation afforded by solitary walking can be valuable tools for a photographer looking to immerse themselves in a state of deep reflection.
Folding Hiking Poles made of Aluminum Alloy.
The potential of walking to revitalize the mind and inspire creativity is backed by a multitude of scientific data. Its impact on the hippocampus and executive functions, its role in promoting mindfulness, and its provision of a unique perspective on the world make it an indispensable tool for any photographer seeking inspiration. Whether for better observing the elements of a landscape or for finding a quiet moment for reflection, walking proves to be an extremely beneficial form of active meditation.