Barbara Brown Taylor was famously posed the question, “What is saving your life right now?” prior to a speaking engagement. It’s a question I’ve carried with me since reading about it, uncovering unfamiliar sides to its quiet brilliance. And when I think about how to answer that, right now, I think of walking.
Somewhere between spiritual practice and physical intention, exists my morning walks. My mom and aunt are both morning walkers-prone to slipping out the front door while the sky is mostly dark and before the house has stirred at all. It was something I admired and never understood growing up. But I found a warmth in hearing the door click behind them and then slowly crack open about an hour later. When I started making morning walks a part of my daily rhythm, I felt a deep connection to my beloved matriarchs.
They taught me to carry my hopes gently, with an open hand. They taught me to share good recipes, good books, and good leather boots. Greens should be a part of every meal and cinnamon is the secret to the perfect coffee, they instructed. They taught me that growing and changing is beautiful at the same time that it’s gut wrenching. And they taught me the soft magic of morning walks.
Prospect Park is my unofficial backyard, only a few blocks from my apartment. When I set out to begin walking daily, I knew there was no better place to make this practice a habit. Connecting with nature was an accidental epiphany, really. But it’s incredibly moving to step out into the elements, soggy humidity of late summer included, before spending a day indoors.
Morning walks create space to start every day in the way that specific day should start. Some walks, I don’t even bring headphones. I try to incorporate silence in every outing, even if only for a few blocks. This time is almost conversational, allowing for my to sort through my hopes for the day as well as my fears. Other mornings, I call my mom or listen to a podcast. Music can change the entire feeling of a day, too. I walk for twenty minutes or an hour or sometimes just to my neighborhood bakery for a pastry. I don’t count my steps or track the walk in any way other than crossing it off my to do list. And I always return home grateful I did.
Walking is considered the perfect exercise-easy on the joints, strengthening to the digestive system, and a boost to the immune system. But that’s just one side of its benefits. It propels creative thinking, allows for a gentle start to the day, and reminds me of women I love. So maybe give morning walks a try. They just might save your life.