Cmdr. Kim Donahue, Group Chaplain for USS Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Strike Group TWELVE, reflects on mindfulness and reconnecting with spirituality through labyrinth walking. To find a labyrinth near you, go to www.labyrinthsociety.org and enter your zip code. Like @NavStress on Facebook and follow us Twitter for more resources to strengthen your Spiritual Fitness as part of the 21 Days of Total Sailor FITmas, now through January 3, 2016.
Have you ever started down a path and suddenly realized you had no idea where you might end up? Or maybe you thought you knew where the journey was leading and then all the signs lead you to know that you got it all wrong. Reflection and meditation are as old as the hills, and as seldom visited by most.
Recently, I have started to practice mindful walking. Having just served on board a nuclear aircraft carrier, walking is like a sport. You have to avoid knee-knockers, electrical outlets on the bulkhead, low overheads, other people who are transiting with a mission-paced walk, etc. With a mission in the back of my mind—and places to get to—much of my walking time is spent literally just transporting my body from one location to another. Quick “Hey, how ‘ya doin’s?” fly out of my mouth, answers noted, smiles and eyes lock, and I am off. I am a pretty fast walker!
There was a time about ten years ago—after some extensive surgery—that I had a “smell the roses” pace to my walk. It was absolutely imperative that I had a destination in mind before I began to walk, but along the way I had time to engage the dust bunnies in my path. I still remember the drastic change and the lessons learned as I had to take time moving from place to place. On a carrier, however, that would be dangerous.
As an action-oriented person, walking slowly helps me to slow my mind. Initially, I am most aware of my feet touching the ground, my breathing and heart rate as they slow down, too. Then the quieter prayers, thoughts, whispers of truth begin. One of my favorite places to do such mindful walks is in the comfort of a labyrinth. Labyrinths are excellent tools for such quiet walks, with a single path leading to the center and back out again, no decisions to be made and no traffic to avoid.
Mindful walking is really quite simple. It makes every journey longer. One has the time to notice and pay attention to surroundings—even time to stop and pause. Insights and thoughts come pouring over you, offering a level of awareness that might otherwise be missed when one is walking with arrival being the only goal. The world seems new and different each time you set out, even if the path is the same. Wonder is reinstated as a soul state. The song “I wonder as I wander” speaks to this kind of journey of wonderment related to God’s purposes in our lives. An anonymous author wrote, reflecting on the Christmas story: “If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things… If we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each of us, there is a desert to travel—a star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.”
This holiday season, I invite you to become more mindful of life’s sacredness, brought to life in you. Give yourself the chance to discover beneath all the hustle and bustle—to experience wonder along with the gathering of gifts. Reflect on mysteries as well as accomplishment.
Many Advent blessings to you!
Cmdr. Kim Donahue
Group Chaplain for USS Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Strike Group TWELVE