Walking Monk travels Highway 30.
A Hare Krishna monk known as the Walking Monk, Bhaktimarga Swami has been crossing Nebraska by walking Highway 30 and Thursday arrived in Sidney.
Swami hopes to encourage people towards “an enhanced walking culture.”
“That means, basically, getting out of the house or the office and doing what our bodies are designed for,” he said. “It means greeting the elements and working your machinery, and also going for some reflective downtime, taking some time to process the things that are going on in your life.”
People, Swami said, need to “exhale a little bit.”
“There’s a lot of inhalation, but little exhalation,” he said. “Walking allows that to happen.”
Swami has done many pilgrimages. A native of Ontario, he has crossed Canada from coast to coast four times. He has also walked Ireland and Israel, Guyana, Trinidad, and the Fiji Islands.
Last year, Swami started in New York and has been making the walk to San Francisco. He resumed his travel in Seward, heading toward Wyoming in 20 miles segments.
Highway 30, Swami said, offers both a linear route and a sense of history, as it’s the first highway built across the country.
“It’s also the trail for a lot of migrants who were going for the gold rush,” he said, “and I believe the Mormons had also come from the east and gone to the west to settle where they are in Utah.”
The undertaking of a pilgrimage is an ancient practice, valued by many traditions and peoples.
“It doesn’t matter what strain you come from,” Swami said, “whether it’s a European one or an Eastern one, or a Native one, there seems to be a portion of people’s lives where they would actually go, on an individual basis or as a group, for personal healing, go for a downsized kind of vacation, and go to a destination that means something to the individuals.”
Swami has gained much from his pilgrimages.
“It doesn’t cease to amaze me when I’m walking these vast tracks of land,” he said. “It’s awe inspiring and it’s a very humbling experience. It’s like stepping into infinity, endless fields and beautiful rolling hills and the sky is definitely to no limit. That’s your constitutional position, as our Guru used to put it, to feel small but to do big. It’s taking a humble position and being ready to serve.”
He added, “Walking puts you into that service frame of mind.”
Traveling Nebraska, Swami’s interactions with others have been rarely hostile, sometimes curious and mostly kind.
“A lot of people offer that gesture of a wave. An officer pulled over yesterday. Before he even asked me a question he went to his trunk and gave me two bottles of water,” he said. “That type of kindness is there.”