Keep walking, though there ’s 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.

Translated by Coleman Barks

Walking has long been an essential part of my daily life.  It was utilitarian early on, when going on foot was my primary mode of transportation.  In college, it was the best way to get from one classroom to another.  After college, for years I was fortunate enough to live in areas that supported an auto-free lifestyle with ample walkways and public transportation.  I think my feet fell in love with carrying me around because they didn’t want to stop, even at those times when walking was less necessary.

Now, I usually walk just to walk.  But, that freedom to meander has only come about in the past few years.  Prior to that, there have been several varieties of purposeful walking.  There have been phases when it was all about achieving a destination, e.g., if in an urban area, getting to a particular place.  Other versions have been in walking for accomplishment – maximum length, pace, or difficultly, e.g., steepness.  I even recall a period of being a purist where only being the wilderness would qualify as a real walk.  

Exploration has been the most continuous component of my walking.   As a child, I was intrigued with the play of tracing one of my fingers around the globe.   In my imagination, I would pretend my feet, walking around the world, were attached to my finger.  No matter how often I did this, it seemed mystifying that people all over the world were living and walking on the surface of the earth and that I could someday visit them. This eventually happened with a solo sojourn that I took around the world, and other travels.  Equally as fascinating, however, was that no matter how far I walked, if I kept walking in the same direction, I would eventually end up where I began.   

There is a bumper sticker on the rear bumper of a neighbor’s car that says, “happily going nowhere.”  I think that best describes my journey with the process of walking.  Likely my footfall has logged enough miles to have circumambulated the globe.  But, now I realize it is not the number of steps that matter, it is the quality of being present and buoyant within and between every step.  This way of being is visible in dogs and other animals as they move.  They are light-footed and generally conveying a sense of acuity wherever they are, even in the midst of their movements.   

Perhaps all that walking actually has been traversing the secrets in my own heart.  And, perhaps there really have been no footsteps or globetrotting.  Because, after all, as the poet Rumi says, “there is no place to get to.”   I’ll keep walking as long as my feet still are able to caress the earth, but I will let them do the walking while I go along for the ride.  

This short practice invites awareness of the life beneath your feet.

Prepare – 

  • Please find a comfortable standing position, ideally barefoot.   
  • Take a few moments to notice the connection between your feet and the surface beneath them.  Just notice and become aware of the sensations on the soles of your feet. 
    • Invite your mind to pause so that you can truly feel the feedback through your feet without expectation, labeling, or other mental chatter
  • Imagine the surface beneath you is welcoming your presence. 
    • Even if you are not standing directly on soil or sand, invite your awareness of your standing on the Earth, which is a living organism and home to not only you but millions of different life forms. 
  • Still standing in place, slowly bend one knee, then straightening that leg and bending the other knee.  As you do this, notice any changes in the sensations in the soles of your feet without naming or labeling the feeling – just noticing.

Practice – 

  • Slowly begin walking around the area where you are. 
    • Invite your awareness of that you are walking on the Earth, a living organism. 
      • Be aware of the quality and weight of your steps.
      • Pretend you want to leave as light a footprint as you can.
    • Notice the sensations in the soles of your feet.
  • Gradually lengthen the stride of your steps until you are taking giant steps.
    • Take three giant steps.
    • Again, try to leave as light a footprint as possible.
    • Notice the entire movement of stepping into the long stride and placing your foot down.  Notice the sensation in your foot as it connects to the surface beneath you.
  • Return to walking with your normal stride. 
    • Imagine your feet are smiling.
    • Imagine the earth is smiling.
    • Notice the sensations in the soles of your feet.
    • Perhaps notice the quality of your mood without labeling or naming.  Just noticing.
  • Slowly return to standing still.  Smile and thank your feet.  Thank the Earth. 

Transition back into your day – 

  • Sit quietly for a few moments.  
  • When you are ready, return to your day.    

This  verse appears in Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 2, edited by Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt and published by New World Library.  H E A R T H is posted each new and full moon.  KateVogt©2021. 

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