Getting Spiritual Direction from Intentional Walks in Nature
This year, along with my work in FCB’s CRE program, I am taking a clergy seminar on “Congregationally-based Spiritual Direction.” Spiritual direction or spiritual guidance is about listening for the voice of God – Ultimate Concern, Spirit, Life Force, Love (choose the name that works for you or find another one that resonates in your being) – in our daily lives, especially in times when we are feeling stress, fatigue, loss, etc. While we can do this kind of listening on our own, it is helpful to engage in it with others. In the process of spiritual direction, silence plays a key role. It begins and ends with silence, and there is silence interspersed throughout the process. The group is small, not usually more than 4 people. In the basic outline for group spiritual direction, one person shares without comment or interruption. The others are listening for what shimmers, what arises in their own being. After a period of silence, the listener(s) may speak briefly about what caught their attention; they may ask wondering questions. Silence follows after every time something is spoken. There are variations that include the practice of examining your day, week, year (examen), others that use a reading (lectio divina), and still others that involve creative expression through art, music, and movement. There is no age limit to spiritual direction. Everyone can practice it.
Recently, I read (in one of our texts for the course) about a spiritual practice of intentional walks in nature. It reminded me of an exercise we did at the beginning of my seminary training called a “Beauty Walk.” Simply take a walk – it could be in your neighborhood, in a nature preserve, or in a labyrinth – in silence. Stop every now and then and simply notice your surroundings. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do you see that particularly catches your eye in that moment? In silence. Walk. Stop. Notice. Take some time to write or draw or paint a picture of what you experienced. Share this with another person. What message have you received from the source of your being?
I encourage us all to take a Beauty Walk amidst the mountains of snow that lie all around us. The winter season always brings a special kind of silence into our lives. Listen for it. Notice it. Pay attention. What is being whispered to you out of that snowy silence?