We practice presence so that we might cultivate our ability to really hear the voice of nature speaking to us
This morning my pre-ordered copy of Christine Valter-Paintner’s new book “Earth, Our Original Monastery” arrived on my Kindle. In the very first chapter she advises getting out in nature, “simply walking, listening, and pausing”. Of course I was immediately drawn in. On Camino this practice of being present so that “we might cultivate our ability to really hear the voice of nature speaking to us” is easier than at home, but still not as natural to we technology-focused moderns as you would hope or think. One day on the Via Podiensis I came across a French woman sitting on the grass staring out at the panorama of mountains and valleys. Beyond the cows grazing on spring pastures, the old open-cut mines carved out a niche for Decazeville. Steep-sided slurry mounds towered over the surrounding rolling hills. Trees burst into blossom along fence lines and creek banks. The scent of spring wafted up to us on the ridge. She greeted me with a single sweep of the hand and murmured, “C’est magnifique!” When I looked back from the other side of the valley an hour later, she was still there, drinking in every flower, tree and shepherd’s refuge.
Such stillness is illuminated by movement. I discovered that the more strenuous the movement the greater the sensation of stillness when I paused. Pausing after walking, and especially after climbing, allowed me to truly see what was before me. Because time falls away on pilgrimage, I could linger over a cup of coffee or a field of wildflowers for an hour or more. If a stained glass window in a chapel took my eye I would sit and take in every luminous detail. Before I moved on I was fully centred and connected to my self and my surroundings again.