Spiritual Walking, Stopping, and Staying

Contributed by: The Very Rev. Dr. Caroline Carson

Walking meditation is meditation while walking. We walk slowly, in a relaxed way, keeping a light smile on our lips. When we practice this way, we feel at ease, and our steps are those of the most secure person on Earth. All our sorrows drop away, and peace and joy fill our hearts. Anyone can do it. It only takes a little time, a little mindfulness, and the wish to be happy.
—Thich Nhat Hanh (10/11/1926 – 01/22-2022) in The Long Road Turns to Joy

The above quote is something that I keep in mind as I walk the many wildlife refuges, conservation areas, and parks of my relatively new state of New Jersey. Walking in a new places gives part of my mind a new adventure and frees me up to set another portion of my mind peacefully on prayer. Prayer for me is a chance to “be”—in and for God, in peace, in rest, in beauty, in request, or in lament. It is both stillness and motion. It is an emptying and a filling. I become a vessel for the Holy Spirit to then fill up to use as God wills. It took me a very long time to get to the point where I was comfortable walking alone and then even being calm enough to deeply ponder while I walk instead of looking over my shoulder and feeling unsafe. One day many years ago in a South Tyrolean Italian forest just outside of Rovereto, it also finally hit me that I can indeed take the time to stop, even in a magical, fern-carpeted and slightly uncomfortably silent wood at dusk between mountains. I began to practice stopping. My love of photography helped me do that often and it also brought me a feeling of closeness to my late father’s presence, as he was a professional photographer. Often, in our busy lives, we forget to include the miniscule moments of silence and serenity. In building a habit of occasional and observational silence we learn to hear in a new way and to listen without expectations. Observational because we are not responsible for all the action or for always “doing.” Without the constraints of expectation, we become open to the nuances and surprises of God’s presence. And here is where we are most vulnerable before God, in our raw form, refreshed again to be ready.

—Photos by The Very Rev. Dr. Caroline Carson