by Ruth DuCharme
published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 10/23/14
I love to take walks, especially during the fall season when the air is crisp and the colors are brilliant. Many evenings after supper, Cass and I will put on our tennis shoes and walk around the lakes of our neighborhood. At other times I will walk alone or walk with my trusty companion, Chip, our mailbox-sniffing pup.
Walks are very soothing to me. Yes, sometimes I walk for exercise. At those times, I will walk faster and further in order to get my heart rate up and my muscles moving. At other times, my walks are slower and more contemplative. During those walks, I try to have a heightened sense of attentiveness and seek to hear and see God’s presence around me.
These walks provide me the chance to see and experience a bit of holiness in my day. Holiness has come to me in watching the two owls that live in the trees near our home. Holiness has come to me in glimpsing a group of geese flying over the lake in a perfect V-shaped formation with a full evening moon shining in the background. Holiness has come to me in the sweet smell of tea olive floating through the fall air. Finding holiness, or glimpses of God, in the simple act of taking a walk requires me to pay attention and to use this simple activity to sense God’s presence.
Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book An Altar in the World, says, “My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention.” It is when we do this that we become aware of God’s presence encouraging us and dwelling with us.
Walks have taken on a holy meaning for me over the past few years when I discovered the sacredness of labyrinth walking. Walking a labyrinth is an ancient spiritual practice. A labyrinth is laid out like a maze. It is a perfect circle with a curling path inside that includes switchbacks and detours. It has one entrance and leads to one center. Though you can walk it for about twenty minutes, you will end up only about twelve feet from where you started. With a labyrinth, the destination is not really the point. The point is the journey. The walking is the spiritual practice.
So take a walk. Put on your tennis shoes, put one foot in front of the other, and pay attention. God may nudge you to notice something that you have never seen before. You may feel the breeze and consider it God wrapping love around you, or you may see a bit of beauty that before now has gone unnoticed. Augustine of Hippo, one of the early theologians of the Christian church said, “It is solved by walking.” Barbara Brown Taylor asks, “What is ‘it’? If you want to find out, then you will have to do your own walking.”