100 Miles of Dialogue: A Journey of Meaningful Conversations
What is the 100 Miles of Dialogue?
As I reach the 50-mile benchmark of the 100 Miles of Dialogue, I am thrilled to share the invaluable insights and themes I have encountered during this transformative journey of meaningful conversations, along with the data collected from this social experiment. The 100 Miles of Dialogue campaign was born out of a desire to walk, talk, and connect with the individuals who have profoundly influenced my life. Inviting them to choose a location and date for our meaningful walks has brought forth remarkable experiences. As I reflect on these profound moments, I eagerly share the insights and themes that have emerged.
How it All Started:
The adventure began in New York City, where I met up with a friend after the long isolation of COVID. The walk was fueled by friendship and a long time apart due to the pandemic. The sights and sounds of the city, (horses, kids playing, birds singing), all enlivened the walk and gave it the distinct feeling of an adventure. That adventure would never be replicated exactly, but it would serve as the inspiration and template for the 100 Miles of Dialogue journey that I am on today.
In the beginning, the adventure of walking in NYC gave rise to some suspicions that have proven to be true over the last 50+ miles of walking. It turns out that they’re also supported by science. Walking in nature, for instance, has been instrumental in clearing my mind and gaining a broader perspective on life. Moreover, it has enabled me to listen to others’ stories with forgiveness, compassion, and empathy. Scientific studies affirm that walking in nature reduces rumination, the repetitive thoughts that often center around negative aspects of the self (Bratman et al.). Stepping out of my own head through nature walks has allowed me to fully embrace the opportunities for listening that walking with a friend provides.
Opening My Eyes:
After 10 walks and 50+ miles of walking in nature, the thought occurs to me that life’s answers are within the minds of a circle of people from my life experience combined with the message of nature. While useful for exploration, the internet community provides far less intimate impact on my mind and soul. It’s really the people who care enough to know me and help me see what I can’t see. The math is easy to the closest 50 people in my life…
- 100 eyes seeing the world from their unique perspective
- 100 ears listening/hearing sounds in nature and language
- 1000s of steps taken each day experiencing life in precise and sometimes unexpected ways
- Millions of individual moments accumulate to form a collaborative of thoughts I have the great fortune to tap into.
Reflections & Insights:
My walking companions have consistently taught me that true connection thrives on vulnerability and sincerity. Nature, in its grandeur, evokes wonder and awe, emotions that open us up to what researchers call the “small self effect.” This state of being encourages more altruistic behavior and less ego, expanding our capacity for profound thinking and attentive listening (Piff et al.).
The daily grind can be taxing on our sympathetic nervous system, which governs our physiological responses during moments of crisis. Unfortunately, our bodies often perceive the demands of our work lives as ongoing crises. This chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system leads to stress-related issues and thought patterns. However, engaging in honest and unfiltered conversations while stepping away from the daily grind reactivates our parasympathetic nervous system, soothing our breathing, circulation, and thought patterns (Hartig et al.).
Furthermore, walking has always sparked my creativity. In fact, it was during a walk that the idea for this campaign took shape. Science aligns with my personal experience, confirming that walking enhances creative thinking, both in real-time and for a short period following the walk (Oppezzo and Schwartz).
Additionally, there are several themes that have surfaced during these first 50 miles.
- The beauty of nature
- Shared passions, slowing down, and quality time
- Being present together in real-time
- Prioritizing health over wealth
- Seizing opportunities to listen when they arise
- Support during challenging times
- Vulnerable dialogues
- The absence of hierarchy in relationships built on mutual support
- Cultivating transparency and alignment within teams
- Finding comfort in the uncomfortable
- Friendship and respect
These past 50 miles of dialogue have been truly transformative, providing me with invaluable insights and experiences. My appreciation for the power of meaningful conversations has deepened, as I’ve come to understand the impact they can have on personal growth. With great anticipation, I eagerly look forward to the next 50 miles, continuing this journey of discovery and connection.
In creating a safe environment where dialogue leads to impact, I’ve realized the profound influence of both nature and the people in my life. Walking in nature opens my eyes to see the world more clearly, while the close circle of individuals who know and care about me helps me uncover things I wouldn’t see on my own. Even the internet community plays a role in broadening my perspective. However, it is ultimately the genuine connections with those closest to me that truly illuminate my path.
As I embark on the remaining 50 miles of the 100 Miles of Dialogue, I am filled with a renewed sense of curiosity and appreciation. This journey, combining the beauty of nature and the meaningful conversations with my loved ones, has made the world an infinitely more interesting place. I embrace the opportunity to continue walking, conversing, and exploring the possibilities that lie ahead.
- Bratman, Gregory N., et al. “Nature Experience Reduces Rumination and Subgenual Prefrontal Cortex Activation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, no. 28, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 2015, pp. 8567–72. Crossref, doi:10.1073/pnas.1510459112.
- Hartig, Terry, et al. “Tracking Restoration in Natural and Urban Field Settings.” Journal of Environmental Psychology, no. 2, Elsevier BV, June 2003, pp. 109–23. Crossref, doi:10.1016/s0272-4944(02)00109-3.
- Oppezzo, Marily, and Daniel L. Schwartz. “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, no. 4, American Psychological Association (APA), 2014, pp. 1142–52. Crossref, doi:10.1037/a0036577.
- Piff, Paul K., et al. “Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, no. 6, American Psychological Association (APA), 2015, pp. 883–99. Crossref, doi:10.1037/pspi0000018.
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