Walking the Road to Creativity

With spring in the air, many of us are taking time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

And it may be that there is good reason to do just that.

I came across a study recently that made me think about a common phrase we often hear in New Thought circles: pray and move your feet.

The study was done at Stanford University, and it involved having college students complete one set of tasks while seated and a second set of tasks while walking on a treadmill.

What was being measured was not spirituality, but creativity – yet to my mind it really is the same thing. After all, what are we doing when we think at a creative level but provide ourselves with access to that Universal One Mind?

The results were remarkable – creative output increased by an average of 60 per cent, simply by having the body in movement. And it also had a carryover effect – with the creativity continuing for a period of time following the walk.

Equally true was that it didn’t matter whether the walking took place outdoors or on a treadmill in a room with virtually no other stimulating features – the creative boost was virtually the same.

The study explored a few types of creative thinking by asking the participants to respond to different prompts – such as ways to use a button for instance. Creativity was measured by uniqueness – with extra points given to those who produced concepts or ideas that no one else in the group had offered.

Where the outdoors did seem to elevate creative thought was when it came to generating complex analogies in response to particular phrases. In that case – 100 per cent of those who were walking outside were able to generate a “high-quality, novel analogy compared to 50 percent of those seated inside.”

As someone who spends considerable time pacing – whether on the stage or in my own backyard – I know that when my body is in movement, I can track my thoughts.

So what’s happening here?

In a way, it’s like letting go. Traditional practitioners of meditations may argue that letting go truly takes place when we fix our body in one place, and in turn fix our thoughts on one object – a candle flame perhaps or a mantra.

However, there are many others who experience profound shifts in their thoughts through the practice of mindful walking – think of those who have walked the Camino, or those who have had the experience of walking through a labyrinth.

Sitting meditation may be a way to bring peaceful stillness to the mind, and to rest in the presence of the One, but if we’re looking for something that will ignite our imaginations – this study suggests that scientifically walking it through helps illuminate a pathway to a new idea.

When we walk, alone, our thoughts move from the clutter of busy-ness into a meditative zone that gives us access to that greater creative mind – that One Mind that expresses itself as the uniqueness of who we are.

And apparently walking is a favored tool by many creative thinkers throughout the centuries – from Charles Darwin right through to the walking meetings of Steve Jobs.

As the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who was one of many influencers of New Thought, wrote “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”

That should put some spring in your step.


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