Issue No. 1 – Winter, 2018
WELCOME TO THE ISSUE
WHERE WE ARE ON THE TRAIL
A whole toy-box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities…just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.
Guy deBord’s alternative definition of Psychogeography
Padakun began our walkers’ adventure a year ago with a presentation, Two Feet,Deep at the Mind and Life’s International Symposium On Contemplative Studies in San Diego. That presentation was our initial public introduction of our intentions and plans. In walkers’ terms, this was us crossing our threshold, setting out for what will continue to be a structured yet unpredictable, determined and light-hearted wandering through a new and uncharted landscape. We believe deeply that any discussion of contemplation needs to include walking practices. We hold that walking and contemplation are intimately intertwined; that walkers become contemplative and contemplatives set off on foot. We fully endorse deBord’s emphasis on “playfulness” – no trail walker can afford to take themself that seriously. The trail always has a surprise or two for us.
To date, we are the only research centre to focus exclusively on walking as a contemplative activity. There are those who pursue deBord-inspired psychogeography, that examine walking as a health intervention, both physical and mental, that explore and promote walking as a recreational pursuit and that take walking as a sporting competition. We direct our inquiry exclusively to walking as an activity that promotes contemplation, reflection and meditation experiences.
The uniqueness of our pursuit is a two-edged sword. We are breaking new trails and have relative freedom to go where we want. Everything and anything we pursue is filling in the details of what will someday be a much larger map of contemplative walking. The challenge for us is to keep some central ideas in mind. We use the “Five Trails”, which are outlined in this issue, to structure our efforts. On the other hand, we are at the earliest stage of building theory and collaborators. We have many inspirations, like deBord, Muir, the Wordsworths, Virginia Wolff, Walter Benjamin and many more who have and are continuing to look into diverse forms of walking and contemplation. However, we do not yet have specialty research sharing in journals, conferences and the like. Our small size confines us to limited investigation that would benefit from parallel efforts.
That brings us to PADometer. Our friends at the Oxford Dictionary define a pedometer as: An instrument for estimating the distance travelled on foot by recording the number of steps taken. This seems the perfect metaphor to describe this, our new quarterly magazine. In coming issues we will use this publication to “estimate the distance travelled” in our investigation of contemplative walking. Each issue we will use our template of the five trails to push a little deeper into the little explored landscape.
For this issue, we include pieces on:
- Stories – Emily Hladkowicz remembers someone who inspired her to rely on walking as her preferred means of reflection;
- Forms: Frances Garrett describes her students’ experiencing walking in Toronto ;
- Context: Innen wonders about how we rely on dichotomies like city/country and urban /rural to describe contemplative walking;
- Theory : Innen outlines the Five Trails used by Padakun for its research;
- Action: Padakun announces its two main walking projects for the Spring of 2018
Our future walking writer-companions will be some of the principal associates of The Padakun Centre and we aspire to involve writers who are mapping their own trails, independent of, but parallel to Padakun. PADometer will arrive as a mail-out version to our regular community of interest. We are also establishing a WordPress site for current and archived issues. An extended print version is in discussion.
In our progress we recognize we must walk the trail one step at a time. Although we anticipate another publication in the form of a scholarly journal of contemplative walking research, we understand we are not there yet. As always, walkers start out where we are.
We invite all those at any level of involvement in either contemplative or walking studies to join us on this adventure. We would welcome all kinds of contributions and interest. We remind you that PADometer in the array of other media forms we offer. We currently offer two podcasts, two photo galleries and a YouTube channel, as well as a web-blog and Facebook page. All the links for these are available on our website at www.padakun.com
We thank you for accompanying us on this leg of the journey, and hope you will find good reasons to stay with us into the future.
Innen Ray Parchelo
The Padakun Centre
WALKING WITH MY GRANDFATHER: INSPIRATION FOR GRATITUDE
For as long as I can remember, my Grandfather has walked nearly every day – rain or shine, warm or cold, city or country, pain or no pain – or perhaps to manage his pain (emotional and physical). I watched him walk the same 7km route at the cottage for most of my life. He walked this route every morning. I would describe my earlier memories of him walking as though he was walking for exercise and as a part of his every day routine. He would walk at a good pace and if Mom and I would drive by him, he would give us a quick wave in the rear-view mirror. Overtime, his walks have become a little shorter and slower, but he continues to walk every single day. He has moved from using a walking stick for the heck of it to needing it. It became his extra limb. His descriptions of his walks have shifted from simply walking his route to being able to walk his route despite his aging, fatigue, and pain. Now, when I see him walking, I stop and tell him how proud I am of him. I listen to him talk about the beauty he sees along his walks and how grateful he is that he felt well enough to walk that day. We no longer drive by him and wave, but we now take the time to appreciate his love of walking and the way his walking facilitates communication. He takes great pride in talking about his walks. He is captured walking in the photo below. He was 85 in this picture and his stride was strong on this day, I remember it clearly.
Today, at 87 years old, Poppa continues to walk. This past summer, he was still walking at the cottage before heading out around the lake in his kayak (on his good days). I watched in awe (and some nervousness) as Poppa would walk almost 3km, with some challenging hills along the route. Now, he resides in Ottawa with my Grandma and walks the streets in the city. This worries me, but I know it is his goal, joy, and meaning each day. One day, I saw him at the end of his walk in the city and he had icicles on his eyelashes. He never gives up. When the weather is bad, or he is not having a good day, he walks the he walks the hallways in his condominium building.
Poppa is the reason I have endless gratitude for walking. He showed me what walking means to him and now it means something very similar to me – ability, gratitude, beauty, and now, connectivity to the person who has inspired me. I walk his cottage route every time I am at the cottage. Though I often walk for exercise, I also slow my walks down to appreciate my ability to walk these beautiful paths, similarly, to how Poppa’s walks became slower and shorter but so much sweeter.
TEACHING WALKING AT UNIVERSITY
Dr. Frances Garrett (Study of Religion, U of T)
In the fall of 2017 I (Frances Garrett) taught a first-year seminar at the University of Toronto called “On Foot: Cultural Histories of Walking,” which explored how historical, cultural, and spatial contexts shape practices of walking. Our course examined representations of walking in history, religion, and philosophy, and we also spent time investigating connections between walking, thinking, and writing. In readings, discussions and presentations, students learned about knowing place and landscape through movement, religious and secular pilgrimage, walking tours, and political and social uses of walking. Our two central readings were Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking (Penguin Books, 2000) and Frédéric Gros’ A Philosophy of Walking, translated by John Howe (Verso, 2014).
This course was designed around practices of experiential learning, and so coursework combined reading assignments with required time spent walking outside. Students were also required to maintain a walking journal throughout the semester. As a group we went on several historical walking tours around Toronto, we practiced labyrinth walking, and guest speakers held experiential workshops on Buddhist contemplative walking (with Padakun’s Ray Parchelo), Feldenkrais postural movement, and journaling about walking.
Labyrinth near University of Toronto, used by Frances’ students
This course was part of a new initiative at the University of Toronto called U of T Outdoors (UTO). Founded in 2016 by Professors Frances Garrett and Matt Price, UTO designs adventurous programs for place-responsive learning in local and global contexts. In addition to addressing disciplinary concerns in religious studies, history, or environmental studies, for example, these courses focus on developing competencies such as leadership, mastery and autonomy, and social and environmental responsibility, which are taught and practiced through outdoor learning.
In its simplest form, outdoor education is experiential learning that occurs outside. The field is considered to have emerged from the historical context of World War II, when Kurt Hahn, one of the field’s founders, saw learning from outdoor challenges as a way for young men to become more resilient in conditions of conflict and adversity. Still today, research shows that outdoor education can offer transformative learning experiences that prepare students to take on the challenges of their lives (Hill & Brown, 2014; D’Amato & Krasny, 2011; Walter, 2013; Winter & Cotton, 2012).
There is a large body of research on the practice of outdoor education. Some researchers distinguish adventure outdoor education from environmental outdoor education (Priest, 1986). Many argue that outdoor education situating students only in pristine remote places promotes an uncritical view of “nature” (Hill, 2013), making a strong case for outdoor learning in urban spaces. Some researchers have suggested that outdoor education programs should go beyond Hahn’s original focus on personal challenge to address collective challenges, including issues of sustainability, social justice, equity, community, and technology (Beames, Humberstone, and Allin 2017). Recent research argues for outdoor education programs that are accessible, sustainable, and place-responsive (Beames et al. 2017). In addition to drawing on this work in outdoor education, UTO courses have also been influenced by research on place-responsive learning and regenerative sustainability, which emphasize pedagogical frameworks that use observable connections between humans and the environment to help students develop an ethical orientation to their surroundings.
The courses we’ve been teaching are experimental, for us, and so we always feel a bit nervous about how students will experience them. This type of learning is unusual for students too, and some of them can be anxious about trying new things in a university context. I was glad to find that, in the end, the course on walking seemed to have been a success. Student feedback indicated that the outdoor component of the course helped them gain an appreciation of their local environment, empathy for others’ less fortunate circumstances, a personal sense of wellbeing, a tool for self-care and stress management, increased self-awareness, and enthusiasm for school. One student wrote, for example,
“I have also gained in a simplistic sense, a much greater appreciation for the world surrounding me. Not just the small town of Mississauga and Toronto that I live in, although I have learned much more than I could have ever imagines about these as well, but also an appreciation for the entirety of the planet.”
Hours spent walking through the city brought another student to reflect,
“It’s deeply saddening to see the conditions we let others endure because of our selfishness and refusal to act. When looking at those in need, look into their eyes. Replace their space with that of yours or a loved one and imagine the internal complexity of their situation. These people are our family too.”
Although students were skeptical early in the semester about being asked to spend time walking as part of their coursework, by the end of the course their journals were overwhelmingly positive about walking. One student wrote in her last journal entry, “This walk, in fact these collections of walks, contains all that makes me happy; alive. I will continue to walk throughout the next semester – even in snow! And throughout the rest of my life.” Another wrote, “I didn’t realize how such a simple movement can play a large role in the way we feel. I am amazed to think how much this class has changed or developed the way I think.”
And finally, what teacher isn’t happy to hear these words: “I wish I could major in walking.” Perhaps this is something we should consider promoting at the University of Toronto.
With contributions from Dr. Matt Price (Study of Religion, History, New College); Laura Burnett (MA student, Occupational Therapy); Alysse Kennedy (PhD student, OISE); Laila Strazds (MEd student, OISE); and Salina Suri (Undergraduate student, History)
Beames, S., Humberstone, B., & Allin, L. (2017). Adventure revisited: Critically examining the concept of adventure and its relations with contemporary outdoor education and learning. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 17(4): 275–279.
D’Amato, L. G., & Krasny, M. E. (2011). Outdoor adventure education: Applying transformative learning theory to understanding instrumental learning and personal growth in environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 42(4), 237–254.
Hill, A. (2013). The place of experience and the experience of place: Intersections between sustainability education and outdoor learning. Australian Journal Of Environmental Education, 29(1), 18-32.
Hill, A., & Brown, M. (2014). Intersections between place, sustainability and literacy in higher education. Environmental Education Research, 18(6), 783–796.
CITY MOUSE, COUNTRY MOUSE
Innen Ray Parchelo, MSW
A country mouse invited a city-sister of hers to a country feast, where she spared nothing. Now the city-dame was so well bred, as seemingly to take all in good part: but yet exclaimed “Sister why will you lie starving yourself; when going to town ,along with me you might enjoy all the pleasures and plenty that your heart can wish?
This familiar fable even in modern times stands as a representation of a centuries-old dichotomy between city and country. It underlies conflicts that go back into the Old Testament when tribal loyalists condemned those who became entranced by the bright lights of Egypt’s royal city.
In this essay I want to consider how this apparently unbreachable distinction between city and country influences how we understand walking. I would like to present two main points here:
- what exactly are the these apparent contradictory domains of “city” and “country”?, and
- are there preferred landscapes for contemplative walking?
CITY VS COUNTRY
As referenced in the mouse fable, there is an assumed opposition between two boundaried spaces, one we call a city and another we refer to as country. The distinction repeats in the pair of urban/rural and wild/civilized and all have a shared relationship to the variously defined term “Nature” or , less poetically, “the natural world”. The difficulty that confronts immediately when we begin to examine this opposition is that none of the terms has a clear meaning. For example, a widely quoted study in Environment and Behavior by John Zelenski and Elizabeth Nisbet asked people about the relationship between their happiness and the natural world. They conclude a strong relationship but don’t really define what this “natural world “ is. Facetiously, one could propose that everywhere and all places are this natural world, or ask what might be an “un-natural world”? Is that virtual reality or fictional worlds of sci-fi? Most of the similar behavioural science literature assumes we all agree on what is the difference.
However, if we are going to draw a link between certain landscapes and contemplative walking, we need more clarity.
At first glance, the pair of terms “rural/urban” are the most likely to offer some certainty. After all, they are standard categories in urban planning and policy decisions. Unfortunately their is no more consistency in these terms than others. The American USDA dodges the issue with a new pair, called “metro/non-metro” as the standard. Here non-metro means some combination of:
- open countryside,
- rural towns (places with fewer than 2,500 people), and
- urban areas with populations ranging from 2,500 to 49,999 that are not part of larger labour market areas (metropolitan areas).
In Canada, Statistics Canada offers a meaning for rural as primarily low population density, small population size, and distance from high population density and big size. In a study of Czech government statistical definitions, the author concludes “ it is possible to state there is no uniform definition of rural area.” Terms like “country” or “natural world” are not part of the definition. This leaves us with more ambiguity than clarity.
Being in Nature has been privileged for many centuries for many reasons. In my conversations with walkers there is an oft-cited preference for getting out of cities and walking wooded, mountain or ocean-side trails. “Closeness to Nature” seems critical in their reasons for walking. No doubt, some of this is inherited from the Romantic ideology that inspired walkers like Wordsworth and Whitman. It mirrors the writings of Thoreau and activists like Muir. All of these, and more, struck a sharp distinction between what Thoreau called “the wild” and the encroachments of the growing “civilized” world he loved to flee. While there may have been a sharper boundary between city and country in Thoreau’s America, such a boundary is hard to determine today. What seems apparent from my limited investigation of technical terms is that we have little agreement on what we mean by terms like country, rural, natural and so on. For example, I was driving into the city of Ottawa recently on a multi-lane, high-speed highway. On either side of the road were dormant grain-fields and bush. No buildings or settlements were apparent. So would walking along the shoulder of this highway be in the country or in the city? Is walking in a the lush forests of the 400 acre High Park in the heart of Toronto the country or the city? I doubt we could get consistent answers from walkers.
LANDSCAPES FOR CONTEMPLATION
In the process of understanding contemplative walking we have tried to recommend certain landscapes as preferred for contemplative purposes, to confirm the opinions of so many walkers that particular locations foster contemplation over others. However, it may be possible that the distinction city/country (or any other variant) is in fact not pertinent for our purposes. It may be that something other than population density, intensity of built-up infrastructure and presence of non-domesticated wildlife is of greatest importance for contemplation.
For example, in his excellent book, Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life, Colin Ellard describes efforts to create intelligent building walls which could sense our mood and re-configure themselves for curve, colour and texture to foster different moods in us. Perhaps it isn’t the difference between urban and rural but sensitive and interactive presence which influences mood, makes us happy, to return to the study at the outset. We have turned to forests and seashores for this in the past. Perhaps it isn’t cities per se, but their indifference and neutrality which affects us. As generations of psychogeographers have been writing, from deQuincy to Benjamin, deBord and Self, walking in cities may have enormous benefit in helping us find meaning. All over the world, populations are tending to dwell in cities. If we continue value only one-side of city/country or rural/urban, we may be denying ourselves opportunities to meet our selves in our history and landscape. We may have come to the end of the trail for the easy distinction of urban/rural.
This article is drawn from the chapter on Contextual Dynamics in the forthcoming Padakun book: Discovering the Footprints: Towards A Theory and Practice of Contemplative Walking to be published by Sumeru Books in 2019.
THE FIVE TRAILS OF CONTEMPLATIVE WALKING
Innen Ray Parchelo, Coordinator, The Padakun Centre
One of the keys to wandering is to be driven by unending curiosity. Since you don’t have a plan, it’s the questions that emerge from your mind that drive you onward: “What’s that? Where does that lead? What’s that in the window?”
If you’re in a city, streets with little stores can be endlessly intriguing….In the wild, aimless wandering is about what catches your eye—and ear and nose and skin and mouth—in nature.
From “Going Nowhere, Slowly”, Mindful Magazine,October 2017.
Walkers have a love-hate relationship with maps. The map can guide us through the landscape, suggesting what kind of details arise, where we might pause and what we might examine. The more we examine the landscape, the more complex our map becomes and the greater the detail we can apply to it. Then there are times when we want a very simple, stripped-down map, one that allows considerable freedom to wander – or even, no map at all. Other times, we benefit most from a map which includes extensive detail and direction. In our exploration of contemplative walking, we find ourselves with a mix of both kinds of maps. Because our exploration is so preliminary, much of it little-walked territory, we recognize the value in minimally structured exploration. On the other hand, certain structures – routes or trails – are becoming clear and inviting to us as a structure for our process.
Initially, The Padakun Centre’s investigation of contemplative walking was mostly concerned with appreciating the variety of forms. As we acquired more detail about the multiplicity of forms, we were introduced to individuals who practised those forms, and grew curious about their understanding and interpretation of these practised forms. That began to suggest a way of understanding the phenomenon of contemplative walking, in short, a coherent theory.
As we gained some understanding of different theoretical approaches to the phenomenon of contemplative walking, we began to open our examination to the wider context within which contemplative walking has occurred. We came to understand the transformation of walking as a social behaviour throughout the changes of the 17th through to the 20th centuries.
An important understanding we gained in our speculations about theory was an understanding that both contemplation and contemplative walking are not the end in themselves. Rather, we became convinced that both contemplation and contemplative walking are performed with the motive of clarifying personal and social actions which would express the insights from any such contemplative activity. We have come to understand that we do not walk and we do not contemplate simply to perform those actions, but that they are part of a larger process by which we wrestle with the questions of our lives so that we can imagine and prepare for some intentional engagement with the context of our lives.
These five aspects of our learning have formed the framework for the inquisitive process of The Padakun Centre. We call them the Five Trails. They are:
- the stories of walkers themselves and how they identify the contemplative dimension of that activity;
- the “contextual dynamics” of walking, by which we mean elements like the interaction with the living environment, the cultural framework, the historical setting and all those factors outside of our own interior physical and mental experience of our movement;
- the forms through which contemplative walking appears, both in formal religio-spiritual practices and less defined walking practices;
- A coherent theory of why and how humans engage in walking contemplation, including our own “continuum theory”of contemplation; and
- examining the relationship between walking and social action, how we prepare for action through walking and some forms of walking which are themselves social action strategies.
As with any good map and exploration we can expect this set of trails to become re-drawn and refined. We do not strive for the final map, the exclusive route guide. We are excited to see where this map takes us and how it may inspire other explorers to investigate for themselves.
TWO PATHS FOR 2018
The Padakun Centre affirms that the purpose of contemplative walking is to clarify and provide “next steps” for us as people committed to building a wholesome and just society. Although walking can take a form of solitary movement, its purpose is to engage us as positive actors in our world. In the coming months we are offering two walking adventures for our friends and fellow walkers.
- April x.PAD.itionThis series offers a weekend walking adventure, usually within a 200 km radius of our ”base camp” in the Town of Renfrew, Ontario. We try to develop a mix of great walking in a park environment, combined with some structured reflective exercises. We rely on good quality BnB accommodations (no camping) and options for walkers to substitute a few of their own plans in the middle of the planned program. We will travel together to build community and keep costs in an affordable range. Our first x.PAD.ition for 2018 will be an exploration of Frontenac Provincial Park, located about 45 minutes north of Kingston. We are scheduling it for the first weekend in April (Friday, April 6 to Sunday 8) for the best combination of spring temperatures and no bugs. We will announce the accommodation shortly, and invite interested walkers to let us know, so we can aim for a place that allows us to share one accommodation.If you would like to join this trip, please let us know by February 28.
For more on Frontenac Park, visit http://www.frontenacpark.ca/pages/trails.html
For more on Kingston, visit https://www.visitkingston.ca/
- Camino Portuguese Last fall Padakun proposed a group pilgrimage on the fabled Iberian Camino de Santiago. Wisely, we decided to postpone to this Spring, a better time for weather. Our revised Camino plan is the same itinerary, namely the Caminho da Costa, the Coastal Camino, which begins in Porto, Portugal and concludes in Santiago de Compostella, Spain, a total of 280 km. It is primarily a flatish well-marked and supported route which travels along the beautiful Portuguese coast-line, along sandy beaches and board-walks.We plan to leave on May 13. We’re allowing approximately 13 days of self-guided Camino walking at a comfortable 16-20km/day with an additional day in Porto before departure and at least a full day in Santiago for exploring. With a day each way for flight, this will result in an approximately 15 day commitment.There is an option of extending (or even substituting for) the Coastal Walk with a shorter walk from Compostella to Finisterre, the site of the earlier pagan pilgrimage. This is a 5 day walk and will return to Compostella for flights back to Canada.The Padakun Centre is not a tour company and we are not offering a package deal. We are pleased to share information and support whereby each can set up their own Camino as it suits them. We hope our fellow pilgrims will be encouraged to arrange travel and accommodation which allows us to cross paths frequently.We are using Camino Ways, one of the quality camino self-guided trip providers, who arrange 3-star accommodation, transfers and breakfasts and expect a cost of about $2500 CDN. Those who wish to join this kind of tour are welcome. As well, some may prefer the shared spaces of albergues, local hostels dedicated to supporting pilgrims. Those who want to arrange their own variation can take our details and arrange whatever suits their interest, ability and budget. A return flight from Montreal or Toronto will cost between $850-$1,000CDN. Travel insurance is between $100-350, depending on your age and health status.Traditionally, pilgrims receive their pilgrim certificate for completing the final 100 km, so we invite anyone who has at least a week to share with us.If you are interested in this once-in-a-lifetime experience, please contact Ray and we will arrange several group meetings so we can form our plans to fulfill our individual needs and allow for plentiful sharing en route. We will be holding our first planning session in late February in Renfrew for anyone who might like to learn more and to begin their own plans. Please contact Ray if you would like to learn more.
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