Sandra Cohen, R.N. & Roger Cormier, M.A.

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  There is no necessary one-to-one correlation between our stage of life and the pace of our life. Whatever our age and stage, many of us are running around getting things done and often feeling sleep deprived and spiritually depleted, including Baby Boomers and seniors in their sixties through eighties. How can we slow our pace and refill our personal energy reserves and souls?

  Our language often says more than we intend. For example, how often do we say we are going to run out to the store or jump into the shower? How seldom do we say we are going to saunter, stroll, meander or mosey along outside in the natural world? “Jumping” into the shower seems to suggest that bathing is something to quickly get out of the way so we can start our day. “Stepping” into the shower may imply that we are looking forward to a leisurely ritual of soaking under hot water, lathering up, rinsing and drying off; then pampering ourselves with body lotion, perfume, after shave; and then selecting clothing to match, reinforce and express our feeling for the freshness of a new day. 

  Some of us squeeze in walks before or after we run around all day, but the walks may be fast-paced to benefit our health and to get it over with before our next round of activities. When was the last time we actually sauntered along aimlessly, free of all worldly engagements, communing with nature by contemplating and breathing it in, as if we had all the time in the world, as if we are indeed part of the natural world, rather than running through it as if on a treadmill? When was the last time we planted our feet in the sand  along a body of water, or wound our way through a wooded area, or just stood still with wonder and awe at the sight of blossoming plants? If we take walks in our neighborhood, do we ever stop and, as they say, smell a rose?

  John Muir and Henry David Thoreau liked to use the term “saunter” referring to their walks in pristine nature. Although the derivation of this word is uncertain, they followed the tradition that it originated from the words “holy” or “sacred” and “ground,” “earth” or “land.” Thoreau sauntered several hours each day in woods, fields and hillsides and spiritually connected with and drew upon the wild, free and independent essence of nature.

  Whether we are engaged in and committed to, or driven and oppressed by our busy pursuits and activities, isn’t there within each of us a deep, natural need and desire to stop the running and allow ourselves to saunter along, in familiar domestic venues or exotic natural settings? We can do that today and we can make it a habit to step into a shower of spiritual cleansing and adornment, to saunter along on sacred earth, slowly with open eyes and heart.