Every week I walk part of the Cliff Walk in Newport,RI while my son plays tennis. The walk goes along the ocean starting just above First Beach and winds its way quite a bit around the coast to end of Bellevue Avenue. I get off at Narragansett Avenue, as I only have a limited amount of time to get back to tennis and watching my son play. Yet, I use this short time to reflect upon all the issues that burst into consciousness at the time. The psyche is efficient and makes use of every moment it’s afforded.
Thoughts have a way of making themselves known and violating one’s peace. The most persistent violators are the thoughts associated with current dilemmas, or old unsolved issues. For instance, when money is at issue, finances flood my consciousness. When the issue is health, thoughts of illness and mortality make their presence known. We cannot escape our problems, we have to deal with them, and consciousness has a way of alerting us to our current issues, or perhaps it’s the unconscious.
I am an advocate of psychoadaptation, as my faithful reader knows. Psychoadaptation is about psychological adaptation. Psychoadaptation necessitates adapting to our environments. Once one commits to psychoadaptation, one starts to learn about one’s environment in profound detail, and then seeks to adapt one’s self (including conceptions) to the environment’s constraints in order to achieve equilibrium and perceived success. Knowing the context’s constraints forces one to judge the self in relation to the constraints, turning one’s mind’s eye inward. Once this occurs, it is difficult to not start judging one’s self. However, instead of this being a sign of pathology as self-judgment is often portrayed, this self-scrutiny is a key step towards mental health. One starts identifying gaps between the real and ideal, and seeks to fill said gaps with behaviors and cognitions appropriate to one’s current position.
Walking is a great opportunity to assess one’s standing in relation to the environment and it’s constraints, and the gaps. It’s an escape from reality, literally, as one “walks” away from trouble. However, in freeing one’s self (or one’s conscious mind) from commitments, at least temporarily, the unconscious mind starts exerting it’s influence. Issues unresolved come to the forefront, and we have to deal with them. This is where psychoadaptation differs from meditation and Eastern religion. Instead of chasing away thoughts like birds from a clothes line, we invite them in, and then have the audacity to fire them! This process, what I like to call “The American Zen”, is the Western equivalent of Eastern passivity. In the West, we are active rather than passive. Instead of moving around barriers, we crush them with a tank. I am an American and I advocate this practice. When we see barriers in our path to happiness, we destroy them; I destroy them when they barricade me from my future. Ironically, in the end we (the Buddhists and practitioners of psychoadaptation) achieve similar aims. The Buddhist achieve happiness because the Buddhist eschews all reality. It is difficult to have worldly concerns when one lives (cognitively speaking) outside of the real world. For the Westerner, reality is, well, reality. We are not able to escape it, so we must confront it. If one confronts one’s walls, and knocks them down, there is nothing left to worry about and one has mental peace.
Psychoadaptation works by identifying one’s barriers through listening intently to the self (mindfulness), and then destroying those barriers. Barriers keep appearing when one chooses to actively live in the real world. Walking is a perfect way to identify them. That’s why I walk. The longer the walk the better!