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?