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Try this in the New Year: s'aérer l'esprit

Wearing wetsuits to walk in the winter sea in La Ciotat

Walking in the sea, mid-January, in La Ciotat, France. Some wore wetsuits, others (as in a man we saw just this morning) wear only an iconic Speedo!

s'aérer l'esprit

    : to clear the mind

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following French words:

S'aérer l'esprit

s'aérer l'esprit. marcher, promener, gambader, sont des bons moyens pour s'aérer l'esprit
clear one's mind. (to) walk, walk, gambol, are good ways to clear the mind.


by Kristi Espinasse

I've always liked the idea of a "tool belt" when it comes to finding relief from a difficult, tricky, painful or otherwise impossible situation. Number one in my toolbag, or belt, as you well know if you have read this journal for a while, is scripture (bilingual is especially helpful). 

The second tool, or outil, I hinted at in the "enchanted" post: a good devotional, or little book of méditations quotidiennes.

And today's tool is the third (hammer? wrench? screwdriver? measuring stick! yes! much more positive-sounding--for we do grow each time we find ourselves gripping for a tool in our trusty belt). Here's that tool, and not necessarily in order of importance (for I have not yet mentioned family and friends--they are essential in our emergency sacoche à outils!)

Walking in Cassis France

LA MARCHE - that's it, Tool Number 3 is walking. What I especially like about walking is the multiple benefits that come from the single act of putting one foot in front of the other. Firstly, it is symbolic: it is a stepping forth. We literally cannot remain in the same (stuck) place when we step forth. Alors, en avant!

Then there is the change of scenery which must, if we open our eyes (for who walks with les yeux fermés?) change the picture (sad, fearful, coléreux?) in our mind. Of course it is possible to walk and remain focused on whatever is eating at us. We can literally see right through the objects coming toward us (such as other walkers). But if we refocus, say, on another ambulating soul, in time to glimpse the expression on their face - we realize we are not alone in our emotions. 

Yesterday, while researching the topic of walking, The title of a YouTube video caught my attention: Walking and Silence. Here's a man that decided, one day, to shut up or se taire (after thinking he knew everything) and walk across America. It was either this or become a monk. This black man with dreadlocks and I have at least two things in common: as a last-ditch effort we have both seriously considered living in a cloister. Pour toujours! And both of us have come to the conclusion that walking might be a more realistic place to start.

To start to find peace (or enlightenment? or resolution? closure? ...You fill in the blank!).

   *    *

Calanque of port d alon
A favorite place to walk is in the calanques or sea-inlets.

I would love to hear about your experiences walking. Tell me all the benefits it brings you, why you do it, where you do it--what you like to do when you're doing it (listen to music? chat with a friend?). Or, if you don't walk, tell me what you do to clear your mind. For that is the word of the day "s'aérer l'esprit). To comment, see the link at the end of this post. 

Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino, click here to order

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris...

Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James

Women's Fitness walking shoes

Lastly, this book: Meet Peace Pilgrim, who crossed the U.S. on foot seven times with only the clothes on her back to spread her message of peace. She lived off the land and the kindness of those she met, sleeping outdoors, on cement floors, in parked cars and, once, on the front seat of a fire engine in Tombstone, Arizona. Whenever she ran into trouble – from blizzards to black eyes – her sole response was love. order here

Flowers at the port of Bandol France

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Jens from Copenhagen

For inspiration:

Bonnie L

I love to walk in the forest, never with headphones/music. The scents! The sounds! birds (an owl!), small animals scurrying, a babbling brook. It is zen: mind clearing, soul enriching.


For many the pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, is the Walk, and it can be as long or short as you need. There are many different ways across Spain. The Camino is even in France with the most popular Chemin de Compostelle starting in Le Puy. It is also known as the GR65 grand randonee. Interesting that you mention to pilgrims who have been on the Camino. Paix.


"only in my dreams" is the title of a poem that I read over 30 years ago (and have never been able to find again!) In my dreams I run along the shore, cavort in meadows, dance until the party's over, and walk hand-in-hand with someone special. They're wonderful and calming dreams that restore me and allow me to get around using my "assistive devices"! Have a wonderful day!!

Suzanne Dunaway

Where was the picture of the black man with dreadlocks?

Sue J.

I started walking three years ago, with an eye to taking a picture every day of something pretty and putting it on Instagram. Have switched to indoor aerobics (the snow and ice finally cracked me!). Btw, I interviewed Peace Pilgrim back in the 70s. Amazing woman.


That should be "to clear the mind" and I think "gambader" means to gambol. I offer this as a constructive observation, not as a nit-picker. Enjoy your stuff enormously.
With best wishes,

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Grant. That is helpful.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

I love to walk too, even if it is just a short walk. I mostly walk in the woods or hike up a small mountain. I love to listen to the sounds of nature. It is a great way to clear the mind and refresh the spirit!


I walk my dog - Yogi twice a day and focus on how his little legs work, what is in bloom in the neighborhood, and visit a mini forest in a nearby park. Also write what Julia Cameron calls morning pages. Three pages stream of consciousness in the morning really gets out the cobwebs for me. I also meditate for ten minutes each morning. Hope you have a lovely day.

Susan Newell

The Japanese call walking in the woods "forest bathing." I try to bath often in my nearby park. I live in NYC but around the corner is the only old growth forest left in Manhattan.It also has the only natural salt marsh in Manhattan! I am fortunate to have this amazing place in my life. If you would like to see this place just google Inwood Hill Park.

Gail Accuardi

I live and walk among giants, Cedar and Fir. They protect me from the wind and searing sun. They clear the air as they perfume the air with their ever green branches, their needles soften the earth, high above, branches hold birds nests and shelter the chipmunks and squirrels and yes they hide Bob Cats that come to smell the Chickens and Ducks and Bears that go into the meadow where the old, old apple trees still stand, rolling on their backs with the pure joy of eating pure apples. And when the earth groans from excessive wind and rain, these giants sometimes fall on the path I walk on.


Hi, Kristi! I walk whenever I get a chance. Where we live, mostly I have to walk where there are sidewalks, or get run over. But I pass orchards and a golf course and fancy houses. Where I'd rather walk is at the beach and in the mountains. One of our favorite summer (no snow and ice) activities is hiking in the mountains. Other than mosquitoes, it's great! So sorry to hear about your loss. Hugs!


For over 20 years I have walked with a friend, every week day, at one time 3 miles, now at my age 89 and friend,75, we walk 2 miles, with my current dog. Sophie is an 82 lb lab mix. On weekends just Sophie and I. Only in the rain we pass. Lately my friend doesn’t walk when in the 20 degrees . I will walk alone the. We did walk at 6:30 am, now start at 7. Last week I had cataract surgery and can’t walk my dog, too big. As a result , I have only taken several short walks with my daughter. Now, my day is lost without the routine! I believe the routine and walk itself keep me both physically and mentally responsible for the good health I enjoy. In Dallas, the summer heat is more of a challenge than cold winters.


beautiful and inspiring!!


I walk where I can walk. It might be a busy street or along the Rio Grande or above on the Mesa. Love the wide open spaces with views of beyond. But I also love walking in town or along that busy road It's amazing what one sees when walking. Of course my wired hair dachshunds love to walk, but it must be w/ my husband as well. Walk, walk, walk!


I have always found walking to be restorative. Sometimes I walk with others, sometimes alone, but it is always a positive experience. This weekend I am headed down to our coast. It doesn't matter if the weather is not mild, a walk on the beach anytime reminds me of what is magical in the world. I also find that walking (especially alone) makes me contemplate my spirituality, which is in ever need of awakening. Thank you for bringing up this topic.

rob t

Walking has been of great benefit to me. I have used it as part of a weight loss program (lost 55 pounds). I have used it at times to de-stress in the middle of a difficult work day. Many mornings, I walk on a treadmill and watch something on Netflix to just begin the day in an enjoyable way. I remember one morning some years ago. I was walking for weight loss and it was very early (maybe 5:30 AM). I had gotten in late the night before, so it was a real chore getting up. But the sky was amazingly clear. At the time, a comet was very visible, and I could observe it throughout my walk. It helped provide the assurance that God is much bigger than any problems I deal with, and it set a great tone for the day.

Linda Williams Rorem

As many of those commenting have suggested, walking is wonderful, but walking with good friends is even better. https://permissionslips.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/just-walk-on-by/


I highly recommend Rebecca Solnit's book on walking, Wanderlust, and the Coast to Coast walk across England that my wife and I did two summers ago. Beautiful and mind-clearing.

Cheryl in STL

I have always loved walking! But for almost a decade the only way I could do it was with the help of steroid shots in my back. I finally decided to deal directly with the problem and I had major back surgery late last summer. Walking was exactly what my surgeon wanted me to do!! Sometimes it was only a block, but now I'm easily walking half an hour or more. It is such therapy, not just for my back and its healing, but for my soul! Your timing with this post is perfect for me. Thank you! I finally have a trip back to Paris scheduled and I can't wait to just wander and not have to always look for a bench where I can sit.

Leslie F

I try to walk daily- it absolutely clears my head and lifts my thinking to a better state. My husband brings a small bag of doggy biscuits and loves to stop and hand them out. Very quickly the dogs recognize him and strain to greet him! Everybody wins!
Your avid fan,


My husband and I have walked it 2 times! From St. Jean Pied du Port to Santiago and most recently this past fall from Lisbon to Santiago. Kristi - you are empty nesters now. Kristi, why don't you and Jean-Paul do it? You could blog (as I did) about your journey. It is a life-changing experience.

barb friedman

I walk every day in my Dallas suburb. I let my mind wander as a form of meditation. Even in the suburbs of a metroplex there is always something nice to see:pretty flowers, a big blue sky, how each house is landscaped. You don't need to live near a park or a forest or in France to enjoy long walks every day


Bonjour, Kristi,
Like many of your readers I also love to walk. Some of my favorite walks are by the ocean, but I also like to walk to the Post Office and the library. I also begin my day with meditative prayer and sometimes I write in a journal. When exploring a new city I like to take historic and literary walks. I like to walk alone, but I also walk with a seniors’ group, and with a friend. Sometimes I ponder a problem while walking, but mostly I like to just notice what is beautiful or interesting on and around my path.

Debbi Schwarz

I marvel at the way you are able to put words together! I have been a follower for many years! I love your blog and I love your books. Debbi

Saint Jivago Desanges

N'oubliez pas une belle promenade en ville. C'est à dire Paris. With my best friend Pillie, I have traveled all over the world and always enjoy walking to discover the delights of something or someplace we have not seen. Once we walked from our friend's home, where we stay on our visits to Paris, by the rue Lepic in Montmartre all the way to the Eiffel Tower. Start in the morning by buying a pastry at the local patisserie or boulangerie, smell the cool fresh air before all the traffic affects it and zigzag down little streets and grand boulevards all the while looking in shop windows, marveling at the 1800s architecture, seeing photo opportunities and being grateful you are in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You could walk across Paris hundreds of times by a different route and it would be a feast for the eyes. We are longtime pro photographers and artists, we always carry a camera everywhere we go and we have thousands of photo memories from our years of walking. Walks with all the visuals along the way sure take one's mind off of the daily frets and worries and stress of life. Don't forget a camera or iPhone.
Jivago & Pillie

Leslie NYC

I think walking is a great balm and treatment for (at least minor)depression and grief. You can’t think your way out of a mental slump, but you can walk your way out. I treasure the dogs I meet en route.


When we moved to a new town after retirement I was lonely. Although I swam 3 times a week, my cholesterol was still above where it should be. My doctor said I needed to exercise more.

When I came home my husband asked what the doctor said and, in a moment of inspiration, I replied "He said I need a dog!" We now walk our two Shelties every, day at least for 30 minutes. Because they are creatures of habit they will even remind us that we need to take them for walks.

Not only is it a restorative time for me individually -- clearing out the "grumps" but it also allows my husband and I to get out of our routines in the house, and to work out any aches or pains before attending to whatever the day holds for us. Sometimes if there is something important to discuss, the walk is when it comes up. We have seen some beautiful sights, and we met people on our walk who are now friends.


Two years ago I walked The Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago), starting in Saint Palais France and walking all the way to Santiago. For seven weeks, I was alone with my thoughts, my fears, my hopes, my reflections. It was a spiritual and physical challenge, but one I would gladly do again. It was a real luxury to have each day be focused on the most basic of needs: mobility, food, sleep. The experience has stayed with me, making me more reflective, more aware, less demanding, more accepting. Here is a wonderful quote someone left in a small chapel on the way, from the Book of Jeremiah (6:16):

Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.


Our dear Kristi,
Your thoughts on walking truly are right on.It can replace whatever discord we might be having at the moment with inner peace.I think it is impossible to NOT find solace if you clear your mind and as it suggests in my favorite meditations,"God Calling",find a reason,any reason,every reason,to say THANK YOU--be it for loved ones,blessings--whatever.
I have a bad back and unfortunately,have had to curtail my longer sojourns with shorter ones;-- most comforting for my old bones is to swim every day.Inner peace can be achieved in the pool,too,if I try.
Thank you for another wonderful,thought provoking post!!
Natalia xo

Pam Horovitz

I walk up and down the aisles of our vineyard. If it is for exercise I have to resist the temptation to pull off a shoot or leaf, or fix a hanging cordon wire. If it's just the daily chores in the vineyard I move much more slowly, depending on the task at hand. But all of the time spent in the vineyard is restorative, because it is only me and the sound of the birds, and my clipper. Sometimes, if I have music playing on earbuds, that's me dancing down the rows of the vineyard.

Devra Long

Walking is one of my greatest pleasures and I so enjoyed reading all the messages above; especially those who have walked the Camino! I hope to walk it one day.
I started walking three miles around a beautiful lake in my neighborhood over 20 years ago with a friend who I had just met. She is now my closest friend and we have added two others to our walking group! The only "requirements " to walk with us are no complaining, no gossip and you must love to laugh! We start our walk with hugs!

Reid Gail

My favorite walk is above the town of Lorgues, not far from you Kristi. It goes along the old Right of Way of the Chemin de Train de Pignes... through the upper Var from Flayosc to Salerne and beyond. The views south toward the Mediterranean are endlessly blue green rolling and dreamy. I am having knee replacement in 6 weeks here in San Francisco so this summer I can once again walk my little JRT along this special spot. Do you know it Kristi?

Jan Hersh

Love this essay and all the comments. And I love to walk more now than I ever did before.

Deborah Frost

Art Garfunkel is probably not the best role model. Other than for singing high harmony.

Deborah Frost

J' suis desolée-- pardon my beyond horrible French. He sounds so sad. But must recover-particularly from this deepest loss- at his own pace.

Ken Curtis

To live well and live long - walk. I was taken by helicopter to Reims when I lived in France after suffering a heart attack. 4 arterial stents and a triple bypass repaired the plumbing, but walking has revolutionized the spirit. Now living on the south coast of Turkey in a remote village on the Mediterranean Sea I walk every morning to drink in the silence, listen to the roaring sound of nature and feast on scenery that would take my breath away - but enhances it instead. No matter your age, condition or location - get outdoors and walk...

Robbie Lane Jackson

I used to walk down a long, dirt path, across a huge tobacco field, and I'd end up under giant sycamore trees, at my Aunt Bibi's and Grandpa's home. There were wild rabbits, squirrels, possum, dogs, lots of pigs, the occas. horse or cow, and sometimes, a cat. And the giat pecan tree, still alive today, easily 100 yrs old. There was a meandering road going through many ancient barns, a real glade, where trees met overhead, truly an enchanted, very peaceful walk. I'd cross a creek, then come out where there were fruit trees, blackberries, wild grapes, a giant Sweet Gum, and an 18 acre field to walk around. It was very safe. About 35-40 yrs later, I went with my aunt Bibi to a mountain named Table Rock, NC, where there was an Outdoor Bound school for young adults, rappelling, films were made there, and a jagged rock path led to the top, quite a journey for me, (asthma). I remember Bibi climbed that path that day, in her late 70s, or early 80s, like it was nothing. She just flew up it, like the angels were lifting her and carrying her right along. That was the best walk I ever had, with that loving woman, who was totally capable of anything, a product of the Great Deoression, Raleigh, NC. (So sorry for your loss. Prayers for the family, espec. Jean Luc and you).


I don't walk all that often, but if I do then I have the abundance of Ireland's countryside right at my doorstep in which to wander. I love to go with my husband or just with the dogs with little distractions - I experienced first-hand how effective walking is in dealing with anger and frustration after an upsetting family confrontation - I literally walked out my frustration and tears in the nearby field which felt a lot better than either breaking something or pulling my hair out (both of which were tempting options). More generally speaking it always clears my mind of the daily stresses and strains and allows space for creative ideas and solutions to problems to arise... It's so easy and effective, I'm definitely going to do more of it!


(p.s. thanks for providing this beautiful forum to enjoy the French language in such a fun way, it's reviving my love of France and all things continental. Please post lots more gorgeous photos!)

Priscilla Pilkington

What an incredible beautiful,restful picture this paints. Thank you .


Mary & MH,
I have been interested in this for so long, now I fear at 73 I may be too old to do it. But, I dream about it! Is it even possible for us older folks? I lost my travel partner of 47 years, two years ago, and am in need of a new travel buddy, so I am pursuing all avenues. Write if you have any advice! Thank you,
Judi [email protected]


A young French friend said that walking changes your point of view. I found this to be true during the time of great stress when she told me this, and I find it true to this day. Even on a normal sort of ho hum day, a walk will always change my point of view because there's always something new to see or to listen to out on my and my dog's usual route. And of course the quiet of listening to one's breath and the chance to have some quiet moments sorting out what's going on inside of one's head are most welcome and calming.

Connie Venskus

Each summer for the last seven years, I have trained to do the Jimmy Fund Boston Marathon Walk. I begin in June and gradually work up my miles over 12 weeks until late September when I am ready to walk 26 miles on the actual route of the Boston Marathon. Depending on the weather, I finish the walk in anywhere between seven and a hlf to eight and a half hours... and I am either exhilarated or totally drained! The best part is that I have gathered donations and the money is donated to the Jimmy Fund for cancer research at the Dana Farber Institute in Boston. I love my training during the summer and love the final challenge in September. Because I live in Maine and winters are cold(4degrees tonight!) I usually must find other ways to get my exercise because I really do NOT like the cold! So when the days grow warmer I look forward to my morning walks accompanied by singing birds or music on my ipod!


I so agree with you Kristi. I love to walk, alone or with anyone, especially in nature. A good walk is a time for praying, it always clears my mind, lifts my spirits and energizes my body and creativity. Most days I take easy walks but I also like more challenging terrain as well and when I finish those walks, in addition to all the other benefits, I also have that gratifying feeling of pushing myself and succeeding. My favorite walks are near water. I was so grateful to be able to walk by the sea every day when I lived in Bormes les Mimosa. There is something very special about walking le Sentier du Littoral.


Kristi, I haven't had a chance to read your update until now. Tardiness sometimes offers a few benefits -- I have enjoyed reading about the diverse experiences of other walkers who left comments above. Earlier this morning, I was thinking about how much I miss the daily walk I enjoy after taking the boys to school. It's summer school holiday time here and our routine has been a bit off. Oh, how I do love to walk, for the physical exercise as well as for the meditative quality of the activity and its relaxing overall effect. I usually head to the beach or walk up a hill, but even a city walk can be enjoyable. Kristi, I am continuing to keep you and your family in my thoughts.


For me walking is a form of meditation. I prefer to walk alone with no music or chatter. It clears my head and refreshes me.

K.J. Laramie

Fond memories come back to me after reading this inspiring topic. We once walked up to Mary Magdalene’s cave above the Hostellerie de la Sainte-Baume. It was incredibly steep but worth it. Stayed there the night before with the Dominicans who were extremely kind. Unforgettable experience. We were told all the Kings of France made this pilgrimage. Another reason to love France! Thank you for reminding me!


What a wonderful and inspiring way to start the new year! Whether walking near or far, the Word in our hearts and lovely devotions will create a grateful spirit! Have a most blessed new year!

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