“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
My dog, Ziggy, loves to power sniff through town. Random tufts of grass, low-hanging bushes, and granite curbs grab his smelling fancy. When we go to the local dog park, he doesn’t play with other dogs. Instead he indulges himself with an intense investigation of all the local aromas. If he finds something particularly pungent, he will roll around in it with much delight. He puts his whole being into the experience.
In a way, he was the inspiration for my new spiritual practice. I call it “awe walking.”
As a commercial writer, I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. This can become deadening to my soul. So, during the day, I take time to go outside for a walk with Ziggy and get some fresh air. Besides working out writer’s block, it opens me up to more creative flow.
I use the walk to reach my daily goal of ten thousand steps. Okay, maybe five thousand steps. I can pray while I am walking. At the same time, I can put my whole being into the experience so that I engage things with a new perspective. That’s what makes it an awe walk.
Normally when people mention awe, they speak of getting lost in the grandeur of a sweeping vista. Perhaps they feel overwhelmed with the color palate of a stunning sunset. Maybe they look at the immensity of the ocean or the night sky and realize their small part in the universe.
All that is amazing, but I don’t have those experiences every day. What I have is more mundane.
Or is it?
Have you ever noticed how the grains of beach sand are as different as the flakes of snow? Or did you know that the bark on a maple tree feels silky when wet? When I get lost in these details, it detoxes me from my electronic existence. It re-tunes my soul. And Ziggy is there to remind me how much I might be missing if I don’t pay more attention.
I think the Apostle John understood this. In 1 John 1:1 he writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life …”
John’s spirituality was very earthy. He used his whole being to connect with life in the Spirit. I think that is what made him so open to mystical experiences. His writing is filled with passion as well as principle.
When I am meeting with someone for spiritual direction, I help them find ways to put their whole being into their spiritual experience. I might ask, “How do you touch God?” or perhaps, “Do you notice any spiritual bread crumbs God leaves behind for you to follow?”
Sometimes I share Ziggy’s methodology with them. Then we go power sniffing together to catch the aroma of God in their lives. They come into the fullness of the Spirit, and I see them blossom as they reveal their story.
It is beautiful to watch and I savor the sweet aroma of the Spirit. There is a deposit left behind in the room and it’s a lot nicer than what Ziggy rolls around in.
Jim Leach is the director of development for Spirit Wind Center in Stonington, Connecticut, USA. A former forest ranger, he felt the call of God to come out of the wilderness and into ministry. Trained as a spiritual director through Desert Calls Ministries, Jim treasures the wonder of nature and awe of God exhibited by Celtic mystics. He is a dream interpreter, mystic, writer, retreat leader, and lay pastor with the Anglican Church of North America.