Walk this way to inner peace, says ex army commandant

Hugh O'Donovan

Residents of a Cork suburb will be the first in the country to experience a new concept in walking which, according to its creator, a former army officer, promotes inner peace and physical wellbeing.

Ireland’s first Mindful Walking group will be established in Bishopstown this summer by author, psychologist, and former army commandant Hugh O’Donovan.

Having spent 23 years in the army, serving on two missions to the Lebanon during the 1980s as well as in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Mr O’Donovan has just published a book, Mindful Walking: Walk Your Way to Mental and Physical Health.

Mindful Walking, he says, is a way of walking with a deliberate intention, focus and attitude, which can promote improved mental and physical health.

The 59-year-old father of two, who is also a qualified chef and sommelier — he ran Kickshaws Food Bar in the West Cork village of Leap after retiring from the army at age 40 — will embark on May 30 on a marathon three-week ‘mindfulness walk’.

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His journey will travel the historic Breifne Way along the Shannon from Castletownbere in West Cork to Leitrim, a trek made famous by O’Sullivan Bere, a renowned Irish chieftain in the 1600s. Accompanied by his adult daughters Aoife and Jean, Mr O’Donovan will walk some 600km from the Mizen Peninsula to Malin Head to raise money for the mental health organisation MyMind Centre for Mental Wellbeing. Donate at www.justgiving.com/mindfulwalking organisation which provides mental health wellbeing services.

He has loved walking since his early teens when he was first introduced to it by a teacher in Colaiste Spioraid Naoimh in Bishopstown, where he was a student.

Mr O’Donovan had originally planned to do a long walk in Patagonia in South America to celebrate his 60th birthday later this year, but afterwards changed his mind and decided to explore Ireland instead, purely “on the basis that we are living in a paradise here”.

“The message of my walk is positive mental and physical health and how everyone can achieve this by simply walking mindfully.”

Following his return from the walk, sometime in early June, he plans to set about organising the Mindfulness Walking group in the suburb of Bishopstown where he lives.

Mr O’Donovan hopes to have the group up and running in early July.

“The walks will simply be around Bishopstown — the idea is to get people out and moving,” he explains.

The idea for mindful walking came after he qualified as a psychologist some years ago: “I became interested in the aspect of mindful walking when I moved into the area of psychology.

“A whole new curiosity in how the mind works brought the concept of mindfulness into walking for me,” he says.

Mr O’Donovan was invited to write his book by after appearing on the John Murray Show to talk about mindful walking.

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