Bruce Epperly sends along his sixth postcard from his stay in Claremont, California, where he is serving as a visiting professor of theology at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University. In this missive Bruce speaks of the value of walking -- to pray, to center one's self, to consider life -- both past and present, as well as future. I invite you to walk with God guided by Bruce's meditation.
Postcards from Claremont – 6 –
It will be solved in the walking
This fall in Claremont I have a lot of time on my hands. The life of a seminary professor and scholar is an interesting one, especially on my teaching sabbatical here at Claremont. I live in a simple one bedroom apartment on campus. I have no television, so I catch the news on NPR and listen to a handful of programs, “The Prairie Home Companion” and “The Big Broadcast” of old-time radio shows on WAMU 88.5. Yes, it is an interesting life – some would call it boring! But, I have chosen to live on foot and as simply in possible while I’m here at Claremont. It feels a lot like my graduate school days here in the mid-seventies and that brings back a lot of memories and possibilities.
I love to walk and one of my goals at Claremont was to walk wherever I went, at least, within three miles of my apartment. Usually, this means about six miles a day, spread out in morning, afternoon, and evening strolls. I have discovered that in this transitional time in my professional life, many of my questions are solved in the walking. Solvitur ambulando!
I believe movement transforms our minds and spirits – our emotions – as well as our bodies. When we move, our thoughts move, too! When I walk, I’m moving with the Spirit – I let her flood my mind with ideas, feeling tones, and the simple perception of beauty in everyday sights, sounds, and persons. Some of the time, typically when I take a predawn walk to the village for coffee and reading, I take time for prayer and centering. The practice I use involves focusing on energy centers from head to toe and joining each moment of energizing with the use of affirmations. As I do this, I also focus love and energy on those for whom I pray. There are lots of ways to pray, but I like imagining a lively, healing energy joining me with others in which I see myself opening a door for greater divine energy and presence in their lives.
Sometimes, I just let my mind and senses wander with no particular object in mind. I go with the flow of senses, thoughts, and emotions. I may let the light of a sliver moon fill my whole being or follow the path of lizard on the sidewalk; I may rejoice in the fragrance of roses as I walk by a garden; my mind may drift back to a young woman I dated as I walk through Scripps College; and every morning when I walk past the McAllister Religious Center of the Claremont Colleges, I remember a day almost thirty-four years ago, when Kate and I were married among a group of graduate school friends, teachers, and family members. I give thanks for enduring love embodied in a marriage and friendships still important after three decades. Yesterday becomes today – fresh in memory – in the walking!
Often, I plant an idea in my mind and let it bubble, and by the time I return to my apartment, thoughts cascade from my mind to my fingers in lectures, blogs, and books. Inspired by the walking!
There is a lot of movement here at Claremont. It is the movement of lively minds and hearts – seminarians and graduate students embracing a global interreligious world and making a commitment to be part of the world’s healing. It is the movement of creative ideas in theological education and graduate studies. It is the movement of the imagination, no longer tethered to outworn ways of thought and practice.
So, I have my students move. I invite them to go on “walking prayers noticing beauty all around.” We practice lectio divina, holy reading that looks for insight in scripture or other texts, and wander about the campus open to fresh ideas from the Spirit. When bodies move, so do our spirits, and my classes are moving with the spirit this semester.
With each day, the world unfolds in new ways and I experience possibilities simply in the walking. Solvitur ambulando, it will be solved – or perhaps better – experienced and advanced on a never-ending journey. May we with the First Americans pray each day’s beginning that we walk in a sacred way with beauty all around us!
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty two books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith Lectionary and Patheos.com. He is currently serving as Visiting Professor of Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Lincoln University. He may be reached at email@example.com for lectures, workshops, and retreats.