The Spirituality of Walking

I love to walk. Ordinarily I walk one or two miles a day. Often I go to a nearby park. Other times I roam the neighborhood. I’ve even learned to walk in the rain—if there’s no thunder and lighting. But if the weather is really bad, I grudgingly use the treadmill in the basement. I walk for the exercise, true. But I also walk because something happens to me when I walk—especially when I walk by myself outside.

When I’m walking outside, I find myself observing nature. I notice the slant of the sunlight, the wind in my hair, the color of the sky, the patterns of the clouds. I spot wildlife—whether geese congregating on the pond, a squirrel scurrying along the ground, or a red-tailed hawk perched in the upper branches of a dead tree. A walk outside forces me to break out of myself, my own little world, my preoccupations and worries. It puts me in touch with a larger world. It highlights my place in the greater scheme of things.

Walking also slows me down. It encourages reflection and inner conversation. When I walk, I find myself talking effortlessly to God. Sometimes my words are few: “What a gorgeous day, God!” Or “Thank you for all this beauty!” Sometimes my words are lengthier. I tell God how I feel, what’s on my mind, what’s in my heart. Other times I simply pray a rosary as I stroll along. Walking and praying naturally go together for me.

As a walker, I’m in good company, for hosts of other individuals (some of them famous) loved to walk. Henry David Thoreau walked several miles each day, just for the sheer pleasure of it. He remarked, “It’s a great art to saunter.” The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Meandering leads to perfection.” St. Jerome wrote, “To solve a problem, walk around.” Writer and poet Jacqueline Schiff gave us yet another reason to walk when she said, “The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk.” Author Raymond Inmon wrote, “If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to us when we go for a walk.”

Jesus walked. A lot. For three years he trod the dusty streets of Galilee teaching, healing, and spreading the good news. Most of the time he probably had company—sometimes his disciples, sometimes huge crowds. But scripture also says he frequently went off by himself to pray—often up into the hills. He had to walk to get there. I imagine he enjoyed the walk there as much as he enjoyed the destination.

If you are a walker, what does walking mean to you?

Are there other occasions when prayer comes effortlessly for you?

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  1. S. Miriam Denis on October 8, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I, too love to walk. But haven’t had the opportunity to lately.
    Just moved in to my new home and am trying to get settled; however,
    when driving to Church I am conscious of the leaves starting to change and it reminds me of all the changes I am now experiencing – and that’s a good thing.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on October 11, 2012 at 5:58 am

      Blessings on your transition to a new house, Miriam–and on all the changes that entails! Melannie

  2. mary james on October 8, 2012 at 11:56 am

    I love walking. My feet are not cooperating, so now I walk IN water ( preposition important) And I can still have the same spiritual experiences except for the beautiful nature. But I’ve got a great imagination. So glad you blogged about it.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on October 8, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      I praise you for your adaptability, James. Walking IN water is still walking! Thank you for your response! Melannie

  3. Annie on October 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I love walking outside and praying. The energy is so alive and the air is different from inside. Nothing else compares to it for me! Thanks for your reflections on this wonderful way to pray.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on October 8, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks for mentioning the energy and the air, Annie Those are vital aspects of walking outdoors! Melannie

  4. Phyllis Chang on October 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I love walking outside especially at evening time with the passage of
    “LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day”. It becomes reality when I feel the breeze kisses my cheeks and blow my clothes. <3

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