Friday, July 26, 2013

The Power of Walking

The Sk-Ryu-Ni trail in Jejudo is background for the article, which appeared recently in the magazine With Bible, on combining the benefits of spirituality and walking  The writer, a priest who has studied spirituality and has walked the Sk-Ryu-Ni trail, tells us what he finds sacred about such a common activity and how it can refresh both body and mind. Walking even when one knows it will rain is a common experience of those who love to walk, he says, and the fragrance coming from nature, permeating the whole body, is a memory they want to return to often. They would also like to see, he adds,  the construction of more walking trails in the future.

In the past, there was no need for this kind of effort but today many of these paths have disappeared. They remain, for the most part, because of the interests of tourists. When they began to disappear, he doesn't know, but laments the fact that all the beautiful places seem to have turned into golf courses or other recreational facilities. People who now want to take a leisurely walk can do so only on asphalt or concrete roads. This can be seen by some as progress, by others as destruction of our environment, and as a breakdown of the vital connection between humans and nature, and between the natural world and its inhabitants. And we become, the priest says, like secondary elements, cogs on a wheel.

The Chinese character used for path or road also refers to the truths necessary for life, for self-improvement.  Those who are walking for the sake of walking are communicating with themselves, and are aligning their bodies, he says, with the rhythms of nature. Those who use their cars to arrive at their destination do not have this communication or rapport. Only those who walk are able to hear the internal voice and become one with nature. The sounds, sights and smells of those in cars cannot be compared, he says, with the sounds surrounding  someone walking in a natural environment.

He laments that with the improvement of our transportation system and the ability to arrive faster to our destinations, we have also, in his eyes, become more isolated and alienated. He refers to how Le Breton expresses it in his book In Praise of Walking, "When we walk we are set free from the original requirements of our gaze and not only from the space that we occupy; it also allows us to go inside to search for the way." To walk this way we are improving our lives, seeing the internal  map, and seeking the right way, the priest says.

There are many different roads, different ways presented in the Scriptures. There is the way of the Samaritan who helped the person lying on the side of the road, and the way of the priest and the Levite who both walked past him. There is the way of the 11 disciples and the way of Judas. There is the way of parents who can choose among multiple ways to raise their children--good ways and bad ways. When we ignore the right way or walk the wrong way, there will be confusion and suffering.

He concludes with the ways our Blessed Mother took. Right after the annunciation she quickly walked the  mountainous  road to the home of Elizabeth. Because of Herod, Mary and Joesph took the road to Egypt to live in exile. They took the wandering road to find Jesus in the temple. During the public life of Jesus, Mary walked the roads in search of her son, and finally, the road to  the cross. She walked the ways that God had spoken to her in her heart.

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