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Walking and the Mind

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 22 December 2013

John McCarthy explores the effects of walking on the mind - on our creative and spiritual well-being.

We all know that a good walk is physically good for us, but we rarely stop to consider its impact on our mental states. Was Friedrich Nietzsche right when he said, "all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking"?

Walking, especially walking in countryside, has been important to many creative artists and writers. Beethoven, Erik Satie and Benjamin Britten all used their daily walks for inspiration, as did William Wordsworth as he tramped the paths of the Lake District with his sister Dorothy.

John McCarthy looks at the act of walking as inspiration and also considers its spiritual function. Why do so many people, from a wide variety of religious beliefs, walk to display their devotion and increase their spiritual understanding? Around the world, millions set out each year along the great pilgrimage routes, and often travel on foot.

John McCarthy talks to the British artist Richard Long, whose work often describes walks he has undertaken or imagined. He also talks to Colin Thubron - one of our finest writers about discovery and place - who recently made the arduous journey on foot around Mount Kailash in Tibet, sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists.

Produced by Anthony Denselow.
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.

Music Played

11 items
  • Wanderlust. Author: Rececca Solnit

    Publisher: Verso.

  • Eric Satie . Author: Mary E Davis

    Publisher: Reaktion Books

  • The Places In Between. Author: Rory Stewart

    Publisher: Picador

  • A Guide to Walking Meditation. Author: Thich Nhat Hanh

    Publisher: Parallax Press

  • The Road Not Taken in ‘The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems’. Edited by Edward Connery Lathem

    Author: Robert Frost. Publisher: Vintage Classics

  • ‘The Old Ways. Author: Robert Macfarlane

    Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (imprint of Penguin Books)

  • Image for Woody Guthrie

    Woody Guthrie This Land Is Your Land

    The Very Best of Woody Guthrie, Music Club

  • Image for Pascal Rogé

    Pascal Rogé Sonatine Bureaucratique

    Piano Dreams The Erik Satie collection, Decca

  • Image for Franz Schubert

    Franz Schubert The Signpost

    Performer: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jorg Demus.

    Winterreise, Decca UMO

  • Image for Johannes Brahms

    Johannes Brahms Horn Trio in E Flat Opus 40: Andante Poco Piu animato

    Performer: Barry Tuckwell, Itzhak Perlman, Vladimir Ashkenazy.

    Franck Violin Sonata Brahms Horn Trio, Decca

  • Image for Talvin Singh, Rakesh Chaurasia

    Talvin Singh, Rakesh Chaurasia Meeting

    Vira, Sona Rupa Limited


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