Taking a Walk with God
By Stephanie Gretchen Burgevin. Stephanie is a writer and retreat leader. She is an associate faculty member of Shalem and a graduate of theirLeading Contemplative Prayer Groups and Retreats Program and leads spiritual and secular programs. Stephanie manages Shalem’s blog and is one of the social media coordinators for the Shalem Institute Facebook page.
When I was a child, I remember walking with my mom and my grandmother. I use the term “walking” loosely here since they were power walkers before I think that term had been invented. They were determined and I had to practically run to keep up.
I grew up to be a power walker too, and my children can keep up the pace. My son felt quite accomplished when he could finally outpace me with his long-legged stride. Power walking gives me joy in many ways: I love being outside, the exercise feels great, and I admit I enjoy being able to multitask at times and walk to the grocery store (chore and exercise accomplished).
But what I didn’t realize initially was that I was also clearing my head and heart. As I walked, the debris of life would drop away. More and more often I slowed down and allowed the walk to take me.
The rhythm of my walking falls into place with my breathing and I am in simple presence, just being. At times I find I am repeating a mantra without even trying, the rhythm calls it out of me.
I am aware of my breath, my body, my connection to earth and sky, my feet pressing the earth, and the Holy Spirit in all of it.
As I round the last corner and see home I realize that effortlessly, my heart is full and warm, everything that was jumbled is now clearer. This is meditation in action, a body prayer.
One nice thing about walking meditation is that you can take it just about anywhere. Sneakers are a plus, but I have walked in all manner of shoes as well as barefoot because when the need is there, you can just go. It can be short or long. To the mailbox and back or around the block. If thoughts start to crowd in, you can let them drop by the wayside.
This is spiritual simplicity.
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
Especially the willows and the honey locust,
Equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
They give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
In which I have goodness, and discernment,
And never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
And call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”–Mary Oliver
When’s the last time you took God for a walk? We know breathing can be a spiritual discipline, why not walking too? What has been your experience with body prayer?