Ancient cultures and religions for thousands of years worshipped nature as an expression of the divine. With technological progress has come a disconnect with mankind primarily seeing the external world as a means of exploitation and subjugation.
In order to survive as a species we need to reconnect to nature and our spiritual purpose. One of the most underestimated and effective means of realigning body, mind and soul is by taking a walk.
You could either see a walk as a daily physical activity to stay fit or alternatively go for a deep walk with a higher intention. Or, you could go on a meditative pilgrimage walk lasting several weeks with deep spiritual significance.
A hike is generally goal orientated. You are aiming to reach a certain destination, walk a number of steps a day or just carry out a recreational activity.
Over the years on my pilgrimage walks on the Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain it is interesting to observe people starting the 500-mile (800-kilometer) walk as hikers purely as a physical endeavor or adventure and then transitioning into pilgrims.
There is a deep mystery about these ancient pilgrimage paths and walking in the footsteps of people who have walked these paths for hundreds of years. Their collective traces and memories seem etched into the cobblestones, waymarkers, dusty paths, and old chapels.
“It doesn’t take long for the Camino to start walking you,” a pilgrim said to me on one of my first walks.
As you find your natural rhythm and walk off the distractions of the “monkey-mind” caught in thoughts of the past or the future, you become increasingly connected to the natural world around you.
Walking like a pilgrim
You don’t have to walk long distances to walk like a pilgrim. Instead of being goal-orientated it is all about walking with mindfulness, taking in the aroma of herbs along the path through your nostrils, hearing the water of a creek in the distance, enjoying the morning song of a blackbird, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin and opening your eyes to what you see around you.
A pilgrimage walk is a destination with meaning, like walking from the magnificent 14th-century Wells Cathedral, Somerset England, to Glastonbury Tor – a significant spiritual place of worship since the time of the Celtics. But it could also be walking between an ancient oak tree and a bridge crossing a river.
It can also be a walk to resolve a particular question, an unresolved problem, or to say a prayer of gratitude. You could ask the universe for an answer as you do your walking and open yourself to the whispers from the universe in the form of signs and symbols. Sometimes the answer would come in a casual remark made by a stranger.
Many philosophers, writers, artists, and poets have found inspiration while walking. According to legend the Greek philosopher Aristotele taught his students while walking. The composer Johan Sebastian Bach in 1705 walked 205 miles from Arnstadt to Lübeck along the Baltic coast to find inspiration. The great Persian philosopher Rumi said about walking:
“Keep walking, though there is no place to get to. Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not for human beings. Move within. But don’t move the way fear makes you move.”
Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker
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