We take so many things for granted. The air we breathe. The sights and sounds around us as we walk through our day. We’re so used to them being there that we don’t even think about them…or the gift that they are.
At least here in the Twin Cities, this is a good time of year for taking walks (not too hot, not too cold, just right). And so I encourage you, as I often encourage retreatants, to take some time engaging in a walk of conscious awareness of your sense experiences. The instructions I generally give retreatants are taken from A Walk of Thanksgiving and Praise, by Sr. Thelma Hall, RC.
Sr. Thelma writes, that “[s]ome of God’s richest gifts to us we tend to accept as “standard equipment” somehow rightfully ours as fully equipped human beings. It may prove a revelation to consciously cancel this presumption in an experience we call ‘A Walk of Thanksgiving and Praise,’ and rediscover, under the plenitude of God’s goodness to us the unique gifts of love He has made to us, in each of our 5 senses.”
She suggests a walk of about half an hour. To be conscious of the time as a time of prayer, she instructs one to begin the walk as one would begin any prayer period, taking time to be aware of God’s presence.
As you begin your walk, she encourages you to “take a deep breath of fresh air, and reflect upon how rarely you consider it to be the sustainer of your life, day and night, the unceasing providence of God whose love holds you in existence, and is continually creating you.”
Then, as you walk, spend time consciously experiencing the use of each of your senses, starting with the sense of sight. “Use your vision to revel in, caress, enjoy, discern: colour, shape, depth, texture, movement, etc. in everything around you. Reflect upon all that sight has contributed to your life experience to enrich it; beauty, non-verbal communication with others, knowledge through reading and observation, protection, happiness, pleasure, etc. Try to realise, how different your life, and you would be, had you been born without this sense gift, or had lost it. Recognising in all these reflections the loving gift of God, express ALOUD to Him your thanksgiving and praise.”
After sight, engage in a similar conscious process with the sense of hearing. “Stop for a while and really LISTEN, even to the seeming silence, in all reality teeming with sounds. Again, reflect upon all this sense of hearing has contributed to your life experience to enrich it, the sound of human voices, music etc. and how different your life and you would be without it. Recognising in these reflections another loving and personal gift of God, express ALOUD to Him your thanksgiving and praise.”
And then engage in the same process for touch…taste…smell. Finally, conclude your walk by expressing thanksgiving and praise to God for all of these wonderful gifts that we tend so often to ignore.