‘Simple living and high thinking’ through walking
Raising awareness and public outreach take many forms and for one man this involves walking from one end of the United States to the other.
Bhaktimarga Swami, a Hare Krishna monk, is walking across the country to encourage a healthier way of life through walking more. He said walking is also a meditative practice and a return to a simpler way of life he feels would benefit modern society.
“We were built for walking,” he said, noting humanity seemed to be forgetting how to walk since the invention of automobiles.
Walking also encourages neighborliness, Swami said. He recalled when people pass on foot, they get a better sense of that person and can interact more. He said walking also helps clear the mind and lets a person contemplate on their life, their past and future goals.
“The whole idea is to encourage people more towards … simple living and high thinking,” Swami said.
According to a press release on the venture, “Swami believes that if Americans and Canadians alike put more energy into their personal spiritual development, the world would be a happier and more peaceful place.”
The current walk takes Swami from Boston to San Francisco. He said he’s held mostly to the Lincoln Highway and Highway 50 — this was the best route he considered since it cuts right through the middle of the country.
“It was the oldest highway, the first highway built across the U.S. so I felt it was the best route across the country,” Swami said of the highway.
He has been walking about 20 to 25 miles per day. He starts early in the morning, before the sun rises, then takes a break before continuing in the late afternoon. Swami added they usually operate from a “satellite base” where they have a hotel, camp or other shelter; after resting, or a community meet-up, he’s brought back to where he left off and continues the walk.
“It’s fun because you’ll see some people on their way to work, then on their way back from work they see you again,” he said.
Swami has also enjoyed seeing the natural beauty of the country. He said he’s seen every kind of environment there is in the country as well as plenty of wildlife.
“It’s fun to see the transitions,” Swami said. “The change of terrain and the weather patterns. It’s amazing.”
Swami said some of the best moments of the trip have been personal interactions he’s had with people. Many people have offered rides — which he always refuses — or water, prayers and donations.
Earlier in his trip through Nevada, a sheriff from a Shoshone community pulled over to check on him; after explaining what he was doing, the sheriff performed a short ritual of protection and offering the strength to continue on the road.
“Those kind of sweet encounters happen pretty much all the time,” Swami said. “It gives you a boost for the day. Every day there’s little miracles that happen and give you that extra little push to continue on.”
Not all interactions are positive, however. Swami noted with amusement there have been times where police were called because of his bright orange robes. During the early morning, he has also surprised motorists — he recalled one person said they thought he was a traffic cone until they saw him moving.
The current walk has not been a consecutive run; Swami said he began in 2015 then took a break for a few months before starting again. The timing has worked out so he avoids walking in the deep winter.
Swami has walked across Canada, Ireland, the Fiji Islands, Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana and Israel among other locations.
For more information about Bhaktimarga Swami and his marathon walks, or to follow his blog, look up http://www.TheWalkingMonk.net.