Stroll for your Soul
Kate Sweet, Pastor of Spiritual Care & Development
After a long Wisconsin winter, most of us eagerly anticipate the start of Spring tomorrow, March 20th. This month on our Practice@People’s blog, I’d like to suggest a way of praying that will help you notice and fully appreciate the new season dawning upon us this week.
“Stroll for your Soul” (adapted from Praying in the Messiness of Life, by Linda Douty)
This is a contemplative prayer practice that invites attention to the details of God’s creation. This can be done anywhere—a garden, around your neighborhood, in the Lerner Conservation Park, even around the grounds of your workplace.
As you begin your stroll, pause for a moment to offer your intention to God:
Gracious God, I offer this stroll to you. Open my senses to receive your presence.
Walk slowly in your chosen environment, noticing how it feels to move your body. After a few moments, take time to focus using your different senses:
Hear: For a few minutes, turn your attention to what you hear—the wind, birds chirping, the sound of your footsteps, etc.
Touch: Next, focus your attention on touch. Run your fingers along a tree branch, stoop down and touch the grass, poke your finger in the mud, etc.
Smell: Next, shift your attention to what you can smell. Breath deeply and become aware of the variety of smells that surround you.
See: Seeing is normally our dominant sense. Take a moment to focus on what you perceive around you. Notice the small variations in buds on trees, look for hidden sprouts, colors of the sky, etc.
Taste: Open your mouth and see if you can detect the taste of the air around you.
To close, offer a word of gratitude:
Thank you for the beauty of creation. May I remain open to your presence today and always.
A few hints and tips:
· Try starting with a 10-minute stroll. You might try to take 2 minutes for each sense, working up into a longer prayerful stroll as you become more comfortable with the process.
· Don’t be surprised if it is hard at first to stay focused on whatever sense you’re using. In our busy world, we don’t often take the time to remain focused on one thing! It is not uncommon to have thoughts, worries, and to-do lists interrupt while you’re trying to pray in this way. If this kind of thought comes across your mind, just acknowledge its presence and let it float away as you return your attention to your senses.
· This kind of prayer works very well for individuals who feel overwhelmed by words, work long hours at a desk or looking at a computer screen, or learn best through hands-on experiences.
· Give this prayer a try in different settings and at different times of day and see how it feels. Customize the prayer of intention and prayer of gratitude to fit with whatever setting you are in, or whatever you bring on your heart into prayer that day.
· This can be a great prayer practice to do with kids. As you walk with your child, prompt them to pay attention to each sense, “What do you hear?” “What do you see?” “What can you touch?” Remind them that God gives us our senses so that we can enjoy God’s good creation. We can be grateful to God for all that we are given.