So I was reading a collection of essays last week and I highlighted this passage.
“Never think of taking a book with you. The object of walking is to relax the mind. You should therefore not permit yourself to even think while you walk. But divert your attention by the objects surrounding you. Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far . . . .”
I immediately thought about the act of running. Instead of a book, I thought of the music player and headphones that I often see runners sporting. I have never understood the need to have music with you on a run. I think that running is beautiful and that it is a great time to relax the mind.
If Thomas Jefferson had been a runner in the modern world, the quote very likely would have read, “The object of running is to relax the mind. You should never think of bringing any music with you. There is plenty of music surrounding you, if only you pay attention.”
And of course, that’s pretty much how I read that original quote. It’s amazing how we bring our own experiences and understandings into what we read. But I don’t think I’ve stretched his original idea much. Running and walking are very similar activities. I know that going for a run is a great way to clear my mind.
I often come back from a run with a fresh perspective on something. Running can give me good ideas for my writing, or a solution to problem I had in the classroom. It can give me creative ideas. And often, I’m not sure where the ideas come from because I try not to think and just enjoy the run.
So I might not be able to turn off my thinking completely, but sometimes I find myself totally in the moment. Those times are amazing. The beauty of nature and the landscape around me when I run is better than any music I could bring with me. It’s beautiful.
That’s why I don’t understand why people shut the world off around them but blaring music into their ears. I think running should be free of MP3 players. I think it is the best possible exercise because anyone can do it with little or no money involved. And it definitely relaxes the mind. That is, if you can allow yourself to “Never Think.”
– original quotation comes from Jefferson, Thomas, Develop an Honest Heart. in Constructing a Life Philosophy: Opposing Viewpoints, 2002.