The Mediation Times


Mediation: my mind only works with my legs or solvitur ambulando

by Amanda on February 19, 2010

In an ideal business world I would ban meeting rooms especially those which are in the bowels of buildings or those with no natural light.

In an ideal mediation world, I would definitely ban mediation suites with their “hearing” rooms and “retiring” rooms. I might be more enthusiastic if they were called “listening” rooms. I do know that the very last thing I want is for parties to feel “retiring”  in their own private space! As I am unlikely to reverse the trend for hearing rooms and retiring rooms for the foreseeable future, I would like to at least make a case for something more effective.

Rousseau in a walking pose in a garden

I really don’t believe that people can think creatively when they are confined to a box. I know how I do my own thinking and I find I get to where I need to be much quicker and arguably better, if I go for a walk.

When I came across a post by Craig Mod, a photographer based in Tokyo, I realised that others were having the same thoughts.  In his post about his photography adventure at moonrise at the top of a mountain in Annapurna he talks of the same and revives a glorious quote by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, my mind ceases to think; my mind only works with my legs.

I know there is always a little “bottom wriggling in the chair” whenever the word meditate is in the same conversation as mediate, but I think we just have to get over it and accept that there is so much that each share in practice and in theory. There is some hope on that I have noticed the term “mindfulness” is increasingly used in connection with both the law and mediation. I direct you to some wonderful resources at Stephanie West Allen’s blog.

The quote says it all. I know that the best resolutions to the most difficult mediations I have done have often turned on a walk in the garden, either with one of the parties or when the parties have gone for a walk together and even when I have been for a walk on my own. One of the most satisfying mediations took place in Regent’s Park between two CEOs, one who was adamant he would not mediate because he could not spend all day in a sunless room. For some reason I countered that we didn’t have to hold the meeting in sunless rooms, there was nothing stopping us meeting in the park. He didn’t believe that I could arrange it (and to be fair neither did I!) but fortunately for me his counterpart was willing if not intrigued.

All the meetings, joint and private, were actually walks around the lake. It was the only way I could manage privacy! We started at 10am and we were eating a picnic at 12.30 with a settlement signed.

It was an unusual situation but I still advocate incorporating any elements of a garden or nature in the choice of venue for meetings that require clarity, thinking and creativity. Natural daylight is a must. A garden, park or courtyard close by is important and even pictures of landscapes, seascapes and “views” are better than some of the angry abstract art that is often found in meeting rooms.

Thanks Craig. Firstly for writing about your insight and thank you for reminding me of the Latin for this solvitur ambulando – “it is solved by walking”. Marvellous! Makes a wonderful change from argumentum ad hominem.


I sympathize with the CEO in your example. I despise being locked in an office all day. So, I purposefully schedule walks. This gives me time to think, space to breathe, and reminds me that there is a world outside of the matters that I am working on. Also, on more than one occasion, I have found myself, half-jogging back to my office to get to work on a creative solution that came to me while I was away from my desk.

Also, walking home from work helps the work day fade in a way that driving home never does.

Tammy Lenski
Tammy Lenski

Amanda, there is something about walking that frees the soul and mind, I think. I've mediated outdoors a number of times and I count those cases as among the best -- both in terms of creative problem-solving and collaborative spirit.

Your comment about banning basement rooms and sad, windowless conference rooms reminded of this piece of research I wrote about a couple of years ceiling height influences decisions:

Happy weekend, Amanda!

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