March 2018 (Vol. XXXI, No. 3)

Dear Friends ~ We talk so much about the stress, anxiety, and turmoil of these times and the difficulty of "living in the world but not of it" while that very world pounds on our minds and batters our spirits. Contemplative practices are often done behind closed doors, holding the clamor at bay for a few moments. In The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo said, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door…" But sometimes it's the very act of moving, of going out the door and setting off on a walk that heals, centers, reminds us to be grateful, and brings balance back into our lives. Whether you practice walking meditation, saunter through the woods, or climb mountains one intense step after another, walking has the potential to integrate body, mind, and spirit. It is a simple gift best not taken for granted. "...there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."

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The art of walking

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, — who has a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived "from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going á la Sainte Terre," to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, "There goes a Sainter-Terrer," a Saunterer, — a Holy Lander... Of course it is of no use to direct our steps to the woods, if they do not carry us thither. I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit... The thought of some work will run in my head, and I am not where my body is — I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses…
~ Henry David Thoreau in WALKING
By Henry David Thoreau

My real walk in this world

I walk the wooded path behind my home and create little
towers at this curve and then the next. I think what my heart
is leaning into, the real purpose of creating these stacks of
stones, is to remind me of my true journey, my real walk in
this world, which has little to do with tangles of modern
communication, wormholes of busy, and our culture's call to
do more and more... So each day I build another cairn to
remind myself of a truer path, allowing my eyes to swing from
side to side, looking for signs.

It is possible to enjoy every step we make

It is possible to enjoy every step we make, not only during walking meditation, but at any time, whenever you need to move from one place to another, no matter how short the distance is.

~ from HOW TO WALK

I take this step into the day you have given

O Great, Holy Spirit, I take this step into the day you have given...I hold all those I will meet today, in my journeying and in my work. I try to walk gently on this earth. Let me walk gently through the lives of my work companions and friends. Though they make way for my passing, may they spring back, neither broken nor bruised.
~ from the Plains tribes, "The Way of Three Steps", recorded by Jose Hobday in WOMAN PRAYERS by Mary Ford-Grabowsky

I dance a song of silence

You who move the world
Now move likewise me -
Lifting me up high
From earthly depths to you

I dance a song of silence
To music of the spheres -
And as I set my foot
At heaven's very brink
I feel Your smile
Touch me with joy.

~ Bernard Wosien in JOURNEY OF A DANCER

All attention has to be given the ground step by step

In climbing where the danger is great, all attention has to be given the ground step by step, leaving nothing for beauty by the way. But this care, so keenly and narrowly concentrated, is not without advantages. One is thoroughly aroused. Compared with the alertness of the senses and corresponding precision and power of the muscles on such occasions, one may be said to sleep all the rest of the year. The mind and body remain awake for some time after the dangerous ground is past, so that arriving on the summit with the grand outlook—all the world spread below—one is able to see it better, and brings to the feast a far keener vision, and reaps richer harvest than would have been possible ere the presence of danger summoned him to life.

~ John Muir

Life is a journey sometimes walked in light and sometimes walked in shadow

Grandfather says this: in life there is sadness as well as joy, losing as well as winning, falling as well as standing. I do not say this to make you despair, but to teach you that life is a journey sometimes walked in light and sometimes walked in shadow.
~ from KEEP GOING by Joseph M. Marshall III
Keep Going: The Art of Perseverance
By Joseph M. Marshall III

Walking is a profound tool of healing

Walking is a profound tool of healing. When spirits droop and footsteps falter, walking awakens the healing powers of the human spirit, literally, with chemicals that change the way you feel...Whether the wound is physical, emotional, professional, or spiritual, a walk can ease the grip of hard times, delivering an antidote to despair. But each step requires an act of faith...When I catch my thoughts plowing through fears and doubts or unanswered questions as I walk, I've developed the habit of responding politely but firmly… Thank you, but not now. Right now, I am here and I am walking. Then I return to awareness of my breath or my footsteps. It's a practice that allows me to acknowledge my lively thought processes and then choose to redirect my focus.
~ from HEALING WALKS FOR HARD TIMES by Carolyn Scott Kortge

I Taught Myself To Live Simply

I taught myself
to live simply and wisely
To look at the sky
and pray to God
and to wander long
before evening
to tire my
superfluous worries.

~ Anna Akhmatova

Staggering meditation

I sat and thought about inventing "staggering meditation." I decided that I would go for a walk, and rather than take my "stick" along as a necessary evil and out of anxiety over falling, I would "invite" my cane to be my helper… For so many years, because of my anger, I deprived myself of support I needed to be fully mobile...I have come to an awareness that my companion is a gift that helps connect me not only with the ground, but also with the many others who for a variety of reasons cannot walk easily, but who also stagger. When I am connected with these brothers and sisters, I no longer feel separated or left out. Rather than a reminder of a terrible past, I have uncovered a deep root of present meaning in the "tree" that I hug in my hand.

~ from "Staggering Meditation" by Vietnam vet Alan Cutter, in A JOYFUL PATH by Thich Nhat Hanh and friends

After the sitting

After the sitting
Stand and bow to the Presence
Slowly walk away.

~ Fr. John W. Groff, Jr.

We saunter toward the Holy Land

...So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever... shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn.

~ Henry David Thoreau in WALKING
By Henry David Thoreau

February 2018 (Vol. XXXI, No. 2)

Dear Friends ~ A lawyer, attempting to qualify who he ought to love as himself, asked Jesus: "Who is my neighbor?" After responding with the now well -known parable, Jesus asked in return —"Who acted like a neighbor?" I can still remember an incident at the end of a whole year of working to build community in my class of kindergartners. During field day, one boy refused to partner, even momentarily, with a girl who didn't look like him or play like him. He chose to sit out the game instead, sullenly muttering, "You don't get it. You think we're all friends but we're not." I told him I knew full well that they were not all friends; that was beside the point — the point was they needed to treat each other well whether they were friends or not.

We are being invited to seek a new salvation

In what sense can individual strands be torn from the one fabric of reality and be considered complete? My well-being will come only in relationship to our well-being and the well-being of all things. We are being invited to seek a new salvation. It will come through and with one another, not in separation from one another.

~ from CHRIST OF THE CELTS by J. Philip Newell

The Realization of Oneness

True communication is communion —the realization of oneness, which is love.

~ Eckhart Tolle

Building on the Mistakes of the Past

It is not "forgive and forget" as if nothing wrong had ever happened, but "forgive and go forward," building on the mistakes of the past and the energy generated by reconciliation to create a new future.

~ Alan Paton

For Lost Friends

Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
Of our cherished hurt
And chosen distance
We may be able to
Celebrate the gifts they brought,
Learn and grow from the pain,
And Prosper into difference,
Wishing them the peace
Where spirit can summon
Beauty from wounded space. 

~ from "For Lost Friends" by John O'Donohue


Did the two sides reach agreement… Doubtlessly not. Yet something more profound happened: They saw each other as people. This is an increasingly rare occurrence in our country; we have become skilled at avoiding practically all interaction with those with whom we disagree...we have the ingredients for a culture polarized by the perception that we are good and virtuous, while they are inhuman and evil. The law professor John A. Powell...calls this "othering" and has shown that it leads to hatred and discrimination. But on the odd occasion that people are exposed to each other as people...othering is hard to maintain. And that is the rare moment when human compassion and empathy can break out.

~ from "Empathize With Your Political Foe" by Arthur C. Brooks, THE NEW YORK TIMES, Jan. 21, 2018

To say that it is not our fault does not relieve us of responsibility

To say that it is not our fault does not relieve us of responsibility... we may not have polluted the air, but we need to take responsibility, along with others, for cleaning it up. Each of us needs to look at our own behavior. Am I perpetuating and reinforcing the negative messages so pervasive in our culture, or am I seeking to challenge them? 

~ Beverly Daniel Tatum

One of the Faces of God

I am not in charge of this House, and never will be. I have no say about who is in and who is out. I do not get to make the rules...I am a guest here, charged with serving other guests—even those who present themselves as my enemies. I am allowed to resist them, but as long as I trust in one God who made us all, I cannot act as if they are no kin to me. There is only one House. Human beings will either learn to live in it together or we will not survive to hear its sigh of relief when our numbered days are done...

Reverence for creation comes fairly easily for most people. Reverence for other people presents more of a challenge, especially if those people's lives happen to impinge upon your own...I have an easier time loving humankind than I do loving particular human beings...Particular human beings rarely do things the way I think they should do them, and when they prevent me from doing what I think I should be doing, then I can run short on reverence for them...

~ Barbara Brown Taylor in AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD

School Prayer

In the name of daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery
as a messenger of wonder
as an architect of peace.

~ from "School Prayer" by Diane Ackerman
I Praise My Destroyer: Poems
By Diane Ackerman

Kindness softens

Kindness softens and opens up the heart, as oil opens a rusty lock.

~ Elder Paision
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