Sunday, October 3, 2010

So Much Talking, So Little Walking

Yesterday morning I participated in a Health & Peace Walk in and around one of my neighborhood parks. October 2nd is Gandhi’s (and my brother’s) birthday, as well as the International Day of Non-Violence. I had a night of what was sure to be heavy eating and drinking ahead of me, thus it was in my best interests to get as much exercise as I could beforehand.

The event (tardily) kicked off with speeches from random local leaders of color. The formal, “non-competitive” walk itself couldn’t have been more than a mile, and it was excruciatingly slow-paced. I suppose it was physically healthier than sleeping in until noon or sprawling out on my couch drinking coffee and Googling people all morning, but this wasn’t my idea of exercise. I was at the head of the pack, desperately wanting to surge past the small cluster of people in front of me - but they were the crusade’s organizers and at least one foreign dignitary. I knew not to get mixed up with the politics of overtaking them.

At the end of the stroll, we all reconvened to sit in the middle of the park for a hella-nightmarish meditation session, led by a representative from the Art of Living Foundation. It went on forever, and if it hadn’t been Gandhi’s birthday, I might have snuck away and walked (this time, blissfully briskly) back home while everyone’s eyes were closed.

While my own eyes were closed, I kept hearing footsteps crunching around me on the weedy, ill-landscaped grass. I couldn’t tell if this was just an officious apprentice of our maharishi or someone trying to steal my wallet. When I opened one eye, I spied two men skulking around with professional video cameras (the same videographers who fiendishly documented the "walk" earlier in the day).

“As you breathe deeply, be mindful of your surroundings,” the Art of Living lady slowly murmured into her microphone. “Put your hands on your lap and be aware of your left arm, and your right arm, and listen to all the sounds and noises you hear.” At the time, the near-distant sounds and noises ranged from: “You son of a bitch, I said gimmee my money!” and “My nigga, don’t play me like that!” to horns honking and tires screeching. I didn’t want to be mindful of my surroundings, I wanted to find a way to successfully block them out. This drill was only reminding me where I was.

“Peacefulness is contagious,” we were later spiritually advised. “People are more likely to find themselves at peace when they’re in the presence of other peaceful people.” True that.

Peace or no peace, I like a good cardiovascular work-out. If I ever organize a group walk, it’s going to be a competitive one. It will start right on time, the complimentary Gatorade will not be lukewarm, and (most importantly) the locomotion will not be televised.

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