Walking away from the elephant room

Take a walk to new understandings

Walking and hiking can have a strange, but very constructive influence on the things “not talked about” even though nobody really knows why 

Drawing of an elephant room, (the elephant in the room saying)
The paralyzing Elephant Room

Most have tried to be the elephant in the room, some even to be the room, when the walls seems to explode outward and you become the walls, the all encompassing reality – that nobody talks about.

Other times it is not a person, but one or more issues, that is just too challenging to face, so instead everybody try to sit still and hold their breath, or deal with other, smaller and less challenging issues – hoping the elephant will eventually just walk away.

Sometimes we even make up issues or create conflicts that is less frightening, just too avoid looking up at that big, huge reality that hovers above us.

Some call it Taboo, some talk about the elephant in the room that nobody talks about and I just learned that on the Kiriwina island, near Papua New Guinea. They actually have a word: “Mokita” that is short for “truth we all know but agree not to talk about.”

Researchers have lately looked much more into what happen in situations where secrets, stigmatization and silence fill the whole horizon for us, but where these challenges are left out of the picture.

And it seems like many experts agree (more or less) that this is one of the most damaging and paralyzing things that can happen to our minds and relationships – or in a larger scale, to whole communities and cultures.

But both new and ancient knowledge point to that, instead of waiting for the elephant to walk, it is a much better strategy to stand up and – if possible together, including the elephant – go for a walk, where the issues can rest, until they will naturally get smaller and start to be something that can be talked about, reflected upon and seen from many and less challenging sides.

Research show that walking helps us face things not talked about – in at least two ways:
First by simultaneously give distraction and a break from being stocked in a chair, blindly staring down an dead-end path of heavy challenges that actually free both mental and physical resources for creative problem solving.
And second: walking can somehow lift the mood and change the feelings of being stocked and lost, to more accepting and constructive feelings, even innovative perspectives. And of some reason – it helps even more if you walk together, no matter if you talk while walking or walk in silence.

As far as I have been able to research by now nobody really know why walking have this effect on how we experience our challenges, it seems to be a mixture of cognitive, cultural and other reasons… like the change of the (mental) room, the right left, bipolar coordination and rhythm of walking and the benefit of fresh air. But walking apparently does have this strange almost “healing” effect, as people from a lot of backgrounds, facing a lot of different challenges, all have realized.

It doesn’t matter if it is fear of global warming, stress, overload, traumatic experiences, economic bankruptcy, life-threatening crises or unsolvable scientific paradoxes: it is the same (free and available) medicine that works:  To take a walk outdoors!

Research and inspiration links to walk to new understandings:

Here are two examples of websites that use long-distance hiking and walking as a way to create transformation to new understandings:

Warriorhike.org

Facilitate and help veterans deal with harsh experiences from war by using, as WarriorHike write: “the therapeutic effects of long distance hiking” on trails like the Appalachian trail and Pacific Crest trail.

In their Walk of the War program they help veterans both with equipment, supplies, one to one and group-based help on through-hikes both before, under and after the hike to help the transition from military service to civilian life

FeetFirst.org

Organisation promoting walkable communities, map-making, trails and getting people together to walk. Feet first have looked at how to get people in meetings to leave the chairs and instead hold their meetings under a blue sky by going out walking together. Read more in their FeetFirst guide to Walking Meetings

Drawing and text HikingArtist (thoughts and research on the benefits of hiking)

Written by Frits Ahlefeldt

Researching, writing & sketching up thoughts and ideas for a sustainable future, trails, places and technology on http://fritsAhlefeldt.com