Nearly two decades ago, I was introduced to the concept of an “unhurried life” by a very wise spiritual director. The simple challenge to live in an unhurried way—actually, not theoretically—nearly melted my brain and stopped my neurons from firing. As a Strategic-Activator personality, unhurried seemed synonymous with unproductive. Lazy even. During that season of my life, in the middle of raising teenagers and starting graduate school, I had two modes: stop or go. Go fast, go hard, go to the edges of me in the care and service of others. Or stop. Read that: crash each night in bed. Unhurried? “Um, sounds like a good thing for retirees and monks to do, but not realistic for this wife, mom, and student.”
And yet, in the midst of that dichotomous place of either go-go-go or drop dead, the longing for stillness and quiet was screaming loudly. I found myself going more and more frequently to a desert prayer garden in our city, just for some peace and quiet. And in one of my mornings in that quiet place, God invited me to “saunter” with Him. To just stroll the perimeter of the garden, noticing each step. Breathing in. Breathing out. Step-by-step. Synchronizing my steps to the natural rhythms of my breath and the slow speech of God. Unhurried. Simple.
Do you know the origin of the word saunter? Henry David Thoreau, in his famous essay Walking, written in 1862, tells us:
…sauntering: which word is beautifully derived from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going “à la Sainte Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a saunterer – a Holy-Lander… Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.
So in that hurry-flurry season of my life, the concept of sacred-sauntering—soul-sauntering—was birthed for me as a regular spiritual discipline.
Yes, yes, there is the wonderful, actual experience of being in some beautiful location and intentionally slowing down and sauntering along—kicking up fall leaves in a stroll through a cool forest. Or slowly walking barefoot along a beach at low tide, dipping in and out of the waves. But soul-sauntering is a dis-anchoring to the things I grasp for in my own human need for clarity and security. To, instead, open my hands as a pilgrim and wander in the “holy lands” in which God invites me. To explore the perimeters of my life, synchronizing my heart with His. Lingering. Listening. Unhurried. Simple.
ACTION: Take a walk today—perhaps you have some woods nearby. Or a quiet path in your neighborhood. As you adjust each step to meet the rhythm of your breath, what do you notice? As you linger and listen, what “holy lands” is God inviting you to explore? Where do you find yourself longing to linger? To saunter with God. Or is there some path you find yourself hurrying along, not wishing to explore? Offer both to God as a simple act of worshipful truth.