As part of our retreat two weeks ago, and as a spiritual formation exercise, my friends and I went on a contemplative walk on the shores of Lake Apo in Bukidnon. After AB had us quietly read through the instructions, we took off for about half an hour to go on our own solitary walks around the lake.
Here’s how it works:
“Contemplative walking can increase our awareness, which can lead to an increase in our ability to notice God, and that is what we are after in this spiritual practice.
A key element of this walk is the practice of “Noticing”, noticing the beauty of God’s created order. David opens and closes Psalm 8 by extolling the majesty of God. His praise of God is rooted in his noticing the glory of creation and the fact that in the midst of such majesty, God notices us humans. The key element in this is that David says, “When I look at the night sky…etc.” David took the time to look at, ponder and notice the created order around him.
Take the time to see, smell, and feel that which is around you. Touch and feel, pick up stones, twigs, earth, leaves and hold them gently. Try to stop thinking and simply to be. Let everything drop away and instead try to be totally present. Begin to notice smell more acutely, the scent of growing things, of the earth itself. Listen to the range of sounds, far off distant sounds, those which are close, your own breathing.
You may want at the end of the walk to bring back something that you have particularly enjoyed. Perhaps you will feel that you must end with a thanksgiving exercise in which you quite consciously list the things you have discovered that God has given to you during the walk.”
I loved this exercise because it’s something I already do on a regular basis. Nearly every night, I go on walks around my city–just let my thoughts go quiet and try to notice everything around me as I do. The beauty of God is in all of His creation, and it’s hard to remain unmoved when you become attuned to the details and are aware of His fingerprints: the glory running through the twigs, the hush in the leaves overhead and in the rocks under my shoes, and even through something like a broken streetlight. You become very aware of His voice, aware that the hands that moves the winds and the light, also holds every breath you breathe in.
He’s just… Everywhere.
And it’s so wonderful, whether I am slowly stepping through green undergrowth, or the concrete sidewalk of my little city. It’s overwhelming.
It places a sense of big-ness in my heart. And smallness too, if that makes sense.
Also, it’s really easy to write poetry when you find God’s beauty everywhere you look, the words and joy just spill out. Heart full, just from walking and reflecting on God in nature.
A quiet worship service.
In the solitude, but not alone.