Awakening A Weekly publication of The Awakening Institute for Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Directi
Hi Everyone, I pray blessings upon you, that you are experiencing the presence of God in every moment of your days. Now is a good time to be still and let God speak in your heart. Over the past four months I have once again taken up the practice of walking 31/2 miles every morning, except Sunday. I have done this for two reasons 1) for the exercise and 2) because I missed the contemplative nature that walking can take on. Before I walk I stop to recollect myself so as to become aware of God’s presence with me. During my walk I attempt to simply listen, often preceded by a few minutes of simply saying, “Lord Jesus have mercy” at the outset of the walk. After walking, which I usually finish with a jog over the last half mile of so, while I cool down, I often journal anything I feel God may have spoken to me during my walk. This week I would like to share how journaling a contemplative walk, may be a practice you may wish to consider.
Journaling A Contemplative Walk1 When journaling a contemplative walk you may decide to journal as you walk, or you may decide to journal at various times during your walk (e.g. every 15 minutes). Or, you may decide to journal after you have finished your walk. The important thing is to find and to practice what works best for you. A contemplative journal is not a diary or a verbatim. A contemplative journal is your recordings of a particular awareness of God’s presence that, for you, seems particularly vivid or memorable. Your journal might also include any physical senses, thoughts, or feelings of transcendence that you may experience as you walk along. This does not necessarily mean an earth shaking experience of God’s presence as much as it is, more often, a peaceful sense of the Lord’s touch, or a quiet experience of God’s still small voice. The key is to be open to the moment. You are not trying to record every possible moment that God is present, as that would leave an infinite amount of possibilities in every moment. Simply prepare yourself as given below and allow your senses to be open to the Lord who is peacefully speaking, showing, touching, and providing an aroma or taste, as we walk along. Also, you will want to be aware of physical sensations of warmth, cold, or fatigue, as well as inner sensations of well-being, happiness, as well as distractions or disquiet. Sensations of worry, or anxiety, as well any feeling of being emotionally uplifted, or joyful are all good things to journal. That being said we want to go into our walk without an agenda, as the only thing we seek is an awareness of God’s presence. Openness, with a non-defensive heart and an in-the-moment perspective is all we seek to do. The rest is up to God. We are, in essence, simply recording the sacramental nature of what God places before us in the gift of that particular moment. A plant, an animal, a person, a beautiful scene, a special sense of goodness and an infinite realm of other possibilities become, for us, in that moment, a sign of God’s presence in our midst. Each of these is a gift to be received and to be recorded for future contemplation. Preparation: 1) Start by acquiring a journal. Go to a local bookstore and allow yourself to be drawn to the journal that the Lord has for you. Or, you may create a journal for yourself from craft materials or simply by decorating or embellishing a simple note pad. Whichever way you acquire your journal simply become open to the Lord’s guidance as you purchase or create it. 2) Name or label your journal. I usually write a single word on the cover or first page of my journals. My current journal is simply called “Stillness”. Pray about this, and seek God’s guidance in naming your journal. 3) Pray about the location of your walk. This may be the same place every day, alternating places or different every day. Contrary to popular belief it does not have to be a quiet park, woods or beach front location. These are fine but sometimes it may be the mall, the heart of town, a museum, or just about anywhere. The important thing is to allow the Lord to lead you and to allow yourself to be open to God’s presence during your walk.
4) Just before starting your walk, stop and listen to your own breath and your own heartbeat. Take a physical inventory. If necessary do a body-scan to identify any tension. If you find tension in your body intentionally flex and then relax that part of your body until you are relaxed. With regard to distracting thoughts take a moment to center and collect yourself in God’s presence. A brief time of centering prayer may be helpful if this occurs. 5) Date your page; write down your location, and record the time. Then walk with awareness. Be open to all that is around you. Judge nothing. Simply be in the moment and watch for God’s presence. Then simply record your experience in your journal, describing, as best you can, your awareness of God’s presence. Be open to sights, sounds, tastes, what or who you touch or touches you, and/or smells that bring you beyond yourself and give you a sense of God’s presence. Don’t work at this, just let it happen. Your contemplative walk is not so much doing something or trying to see God as much as it is being receptive to God who always is in our midst. 1 This exercise is excerpted from “Choosing Joy” a retreat experience offered by The Awakening Institute for Spiritual Formation. If you would like further information about this retreat or any of the many other spiritual development experiences offered by The Awakening Institute please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.theawakeninginstitute.com