Walking along a country road , I was nearing the synagogue for Shabbat services, having almost completed my usual Saturday morning walk to and from Shul. Up ahead another early morning walker was coming my way. We exchanged morning greetings. He paused and added:” I’ve never seen a morning walker in a suit and tie before.”
Caught somewhat off guard but not entirely surprised, (I did in fact cut a strange figure in my dark suit and tie when every other walker was casually dressed) I searched for a quick answer that wouldn’t involve a lengthy explanation of my being a rabbi and on my way to Shabbat services.
He declared flatteringly, “ You certainly are a walker with class!”
I laughed, thanked him for his compliment and for not considering me in a negative light, and we each went our separate ways.
I love to walk. Where I walk greatly influences my sense of joy. An urban walk fills me with the energy of the city, stimulating senses and mind. A country walk opens my mind and heart to the soft, silent spaciousness of our natural home. I confess that a walk in the suburbs is least rewarding.
Walking is a gift of many delights. I need not point out the medical benefits reiterated almost ad nauseam by the media and countless publications and studies. Simply “getting out” is a joy in itself. Each step that we take is reason enough for gratitude.
For me, walking becomes an exercise in meditation. Having experienced “walking meditations” while on spiritual retreat not long ago, each walk I take is becomes an encounter with the unexpected and with the attentive awareness of life’s endless aspects of unfolding.
Invariably, without planning or pre-meditation, my awareness of things heightens and sharpens. The chirping of birds, the colors of leaves, the warmth of the sun, the bracing breeze in my face, come into a focus of extraordinary clarity.
More surprisingly, indeed mysteriously, is the flow of thoughts and images that courses through my mind, unexpectedly, suddenly, each detail a little gift from somewhere, from an unknown source. Yes, the brain provides the thoughts, the feelings. But, how do we explain their content, their meaning, their unusual clarity and depth of insight? Where do new ideas come from? How can we understand the creative?Why do some memories rise to the surface while so many others remain submerged under layers of the unconscious?
Walking puts me in touch with this process and my heart opens as I witness another, perhaps the greatest gift of life, the wonder of human thought and feeling, of human awareness and consciousness.
Walking thus becomes a total and all-embracing experience, one that engages body, mind and heart and reminds us to be grateful for every step we take.
“ Baruch ata-We bless You – Hameichin mitzaadei gaver- Who guides our everyday the steps.”