Most mornings for the better part of 16 years, I’d get up and go for a walk with my yellow Labs, Molly and Codi. Many days my neighbor’s coonhound Delilah waited for us at the top of the hill and joined us for part of the walk.
Some mornings I didn’t want to go out. It was too dark, too cold, too rainy, too hot, too something. But Molly and Codi’s eager, expectant faces would convince me to get going, and off we’d go.
At first, these walks were my morning routine. I wanted to be a good dog owner and this meant regular walks. At some point – after many, many walks – I understood these walks were a ritual not a routine.
Nothing changed on the outside when I started calling my walks my morning ritual.
The shift was internal.
My experience deepened when I acknowledged how much my walks actually fed my soul.
These walks were a kind of time-out. Not the kind where a child is sent to her room to calm down and consider her actions or words. More like time suspended. A transition between sleep and warm bed and the day’s list of appointments and to-do’s.
Molly and Codi chased tennis balls and California quail, lugged branches down the road, sniffed individual blades of grass until they understood the mysteries therein. In between, they dipped into almost every puddle, beaver pond, and stream we passed. They were so clearly in the present that they taught me to be, too.
I waved to drivers on their way to work. I stopped and chatted with my neighbors. I nibbled on blackberries, watched hummingbirds zip around, and listened to the wind tickle the trees. I was content doing exactly what the dogs and I were doing and in no hurry to be somewhere else.
I paid attention to the changes in the light, in the weather, in what was blooming and growing, and what was dying. Tuning into the seasonal changes and the rhythms of the natural world, these walks connected me with something greater, with the divine.
My walks with Molly and Codi grounded me and set the tone for the day. When I didn’t walk for one reason or another, I felt off kilter.
I looked up ritual in the Merriam Webster online dictionary and found the definitions lacking. The walks were neither a ceremony, nor a ceremonial act. They were very ordinary. The definition that comes closest is an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner. I agree with the regularly repeated part, but a set, precise manner sounds too rigid for my experience. More importantly, the definition misses the sacred quality of my walks.
Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest, writes, The most ordinary things are drenched in divine possibility. Pronouncing blessings on them is the least we can do.
My morning walks taught me that ordinary routines are also drenched in divine possibility. The things you do every day – walking the dogs, washing dishes, brushing teeth – support your life and are opportunities to nourish yourself. To quote Barbara Brown Taylor again, If all life is holy, then anything that sustains life has holy dimensions, too.
There is so much sacred potential in everyday life.
My experience walking Molly and Codi taught me it is less about creating ceremony and more about an internal shift. A shift in awareness that allows me to recognize the significance of what I’m doing and helps me understand that specific task’s role in sustaining life. It’s also a shift that values the ordinary, everydayness of regular routines, honors them as opportunities to be present with the task at hand, and opens me to divine connection and possibility.