Ever since I fell and broke my elbow last May, I have walked outside with extreme care. I try not to talk while walking, needing all my concentration to avoid the various cracks, holes and other dangers waiting for me.
Not talking is bad enough, but it would be a real catastrophe if I fell on my arm again while we continue through the rehab process. I felt like the stereotyped old lady, head down and poking along the sidewalk. This made me even more self-conscious and aware of my limitations. It was a negative in my life.
Then, in a sure moment of grace, I began to read the book “Anger” by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk. The idea of “mindful breathing” was familiar already, thanks to years of trying to slow down both my breath and my mind. I hadn’t heard of “mindful walking” before. This reminded me at once of all those old movies of hooded Christian monks, eyes downcast, praying as they walked.
Thich Nhat Hanh recommends mindful walking as part of a peaceful, centered life. He promises that once one becomes more adept at this, one will be “practicing walking meditation all day long.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever quite achieve that, but it does fit in with the Christian idea of being wholly present to our God and our world, in order to better love and serve both. More to the point in my life, this idea has also shown me that having to take extra care when I venture outside, far from being a negative, can be turned into another opportunity to pray. So I pray as I walk now. The subject of my praying is, yes, “God, help me not to fall,” but that is fading into the background as I offer this new way of walking as prayer for all those who can’t walk, not even a little.
This can be dangerous territory, threatening to our middle-class white bread life. The more we pray, the more often we also are pricked by Scripture to remember that “just praying” is never enough. James wrote with strong words that if we recognize a need and then say “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but then do not help meet that need, our faith is dead.
I read that and I shudder. The need is so big. What can one little old me do?
I’m not too sure. It is reassuring that Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Our world is hungry for all kinds of sustenance. Who am I to feed and how?
I’ll need to take a lot of long, long walks to pray this out. Time when I walk, but also when I listen to God in a new way.