When I was in high school one of my favourite things were the mornings when I could walk to school together with my father.
His workplace was about 40 minutes from home and my school was another 15 minutes further so walking with him meant that I had to get up early enough and get ready to leave at least half an hour earlier than usual. In the beginning it was an effort I would rarely make but by the last year on high school this turned into our special ritual.
The morning walk would begin with a competition with him who will run faster down the eight floors of our building and I was extremely proud every time when I managed to get down faster than him. I was sometimes wandering if he was just challenging me to be faster or he would just let me win. We soon started competing up the stairs as well and this is when I basically stopped using the elevator at all.
We could take a few routes on the way to school and whenever I was not too late for classes (which I often was), we would pick the ones going through parks and gardens, going around a little bit more while giving us more time to walk and talk and a much nicer scenery on the way.
I knew that it was both my privilege and responsibility to pick the topic of our conversation on the way. It is important to mention that my father has been walking to work every single day during the last 15 years and it did not matter if the weather is extremely cold, rainy, windy or terribly hot. This was his time to reflect, think through the tasks he has for the day, consider important issues he had to resolve and just be on his own. He used to say that he would do half of his work for the day on the way to and back from work. This was one of his small rituals that helped him to keep his mind clear.
So the opportunity for me to participate in this very special time of the day for him was extremely important. And if I would not pick a topic or ask a question we would just walk together in silence and observe the surroundings. Being quiet was just as comfortable as anything because then I could see my father drifting off in thoughts and inner conversations with himself – often accompanied by hand gestures as if he was explaining something to someone. This was his way of envisioning conversations or exploring different perspectives on a topic.
At the same time, I knew my father was extremely knowledgeable person – he had deep knowledge on economics, politics, finance, art, nature, history, human behaviour, and anything I could really think of at this time of my life. I knew that if I ask him the right questions I could hear his opinion on everything around me, gain understanding of the world or just hear an amazing inspiring story.
He had the ability to view the world in depth and breath, to connect elements together in complex systems and models to figure out creative and unexpected solutions. He could break down and explain any issue in an elegant and simple way, regardless of how complex it was. I knew that any topic we talk about will be presented in an interesting and relevant for me way.
This would mean that in addition to preparing for school (in which, to be honest I didn’t devote that much time, nor much enthusiasm) I would spend time contemplating on the different topics for our conversations. It could be anything from a story I heard on the news and did not quite get, or something from school, or a book I read that made me ask myself questions. I was aspiring to learn from him as much as possible and these conversations with him every morning were probably one of the most inspiring and motivational talks I have ever heard.
He used this time with me to teach me his wisdom, curiosity towards the world and people, life philosophy, share his experience and just enjoy the time with his daughter. He was my first life teacher and mentor and he showed me the importance of morning walks.
In the Autumn, we would often gather chestnuts and play with them – we would throw them in the air, juggle, or explore the smooth surface of the fruit. Dad would call that exercise in dexterity, and I was just enjoying the play. In the other seasons we would watch the trees, the leaves and different plants, while talking about the harmony and interaction between people and nature.
Other times we would talk about the importance of different political ideologies and the way they give the people the opportunity to take better informed and more democratic decisions. And about the idea that there is no universal truth and we need to look at the different alternatives in relation to the context and the specific situation in order to take the best decision.
Whenever we managed to get to his job a little bit earlier, we would get some coffee together and take another fifteen minutes to finish up our conversations. I don’t know how many times I have been late for school because of that but I do not regret any of them.
And about the ritual of making and drinking coffee… some other time. For now I just try to keep up with the practice to take a walk everyday and sometimes share it with a special person I enjoy talking with.
Now tell me, do you have special practice that relaxes you and helps you clear your mind?
Who are the important people in your life with whom you could share similar moments of thoughtful and inspiring conversations?
Maybe there is someone who is just as eager as me to listen to your stories?
What would be the topics that you could share your experience on or that you would like to learn about from them?