Yom HaShoah and Darfur


Walking meditation usually means walking slowly, deliberately, consciously, allowing the repeated motion to involve the whole body, as breathing does if one pays enough mind. Maybe because I'm a writer, I like the variant which involves heightening mindfulness through naming: "I am moving, stepping, walking, foot-impacting-grass, foot-rising-up, moving, breathing, heart beating..." I like how gerund-intensive it is. Like a song in 6/8 time, the gerunds carry me forward. Nothing is an activity completed; we're always breathing, doing, being.

Reb Nachman of Bratzlav, it is said, made a habit of walking alone in the fields or the woods every day, in order to commune with the divinity he found expressed in nature, and to speak aloud to God in the privacy of the wild. A kind of walking meditation, maybe, though with an added component. Reb Nachman's walks allowed him to feel connected with God through the beauty of the natural world, and gave him a safe space within which to speak directly to his Source. The times I've tried his practice, I've found it makes a real difference to speak aloud. I don't think it matters to God, and anyway I try not to anthropomorphize God to the extent of thinking in terms of what God "hears" or "doesn't hear." But it makes a difference to me. Speech literally embodies my words, in a way that silent prayer doesn't and can't. It makes them more real.

After days of cold damp grey, days of drizzle and dreary cloud, days of wrapping my hands around pot after pot of tea in an effort to get warm, today positively sparkles: the sky is blue, our trees are leafing, and outside the windows the world is a riot of chartreuse and gold. It's the kind of day that makes me want to take a few minutes to walk outside, as Reb Nachman did, and speak my appreciation aloud. It may seem simplistic, but who could doubt the inevitability of renewal, the birth of new possibility, in a world where spring never fails to come?

Prayer of Reb Nachman

Master of the Universe, grant me the ability to be alone; 
may it be my custom to go outdoors each day
among the trees and grass--among all growing things
and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer, to talk with the One to whom I belong.

May I express there everything in my heart,
and may all the foliage of the field--
all grasses, trees, and plants--
awake at my coming,
to send the powers of their life into the words of my prayer
so that my prayer and speech are made whole
through the life and spirit of all growing things,
which are made as one by their transcendent Source.