I walked out the door into late morning sunshine. The soft ground, soaked by overnight storms, gave way beneath my bare feet. Attending an all-day retreat as part of a Mindfulness and Self Compassion course, we’d been sent outside for a Sense and Savor Walk. The goal was to practice mindfulness in every detail of our direct experience, using all of our senses, allowing ourselves to pause when we noticed a pleasant sensation, fully savoring the richness of the experience before moving on to the next thing that caught our attention. I noticed the way the wet grass and dirt squished between my toes, noticed I did not particularly enjoy the sensation. No surprise there – my mom tells stories of me as a little girl insisting on changing clothes anytime they got the least bit wet or dirty.
I kept walking until I stood at the edge of a wooded area, drawn by the movement of leaves playfully waving in the breeze. Planting my feet and lifting my face, I savored the bursts of cool air across my cheeks, felt the edge of my dress lift and swirl around my legs, dancing while standing still. Time passed as I took in the myriad of details clamoring for attention – the sounds of several distinct birdcalls, the contrast in leaves from smooth, deep green to wrinkly, mottled yellow-green, the sunlight filtering through the canopy of trees, the dainty wildflowers tenaciously blooming amongst the thorny groundcover.
Holding my body still against the gusts of wind, I imagined my yoga teacher reminding me to “Root down to rise up.” The feet are our primary embodied connection to the earth, a point of contact easily forgotten until mindfully called back to awareness. Firmly anchoring my toes into the earth, I recalled a snippet of words about being “rooted in love.” Though I couldn’t remember all the words in the moment, I felt a prickly awareness run through my body, calling me to pay attention.
I focused my gaze more intently into the dense woods, longing for visible confirmation of the Spirit’s nearness. My heart ached with a deep loneliness, still feeling the tender rawness of wracking sobs released the night before. “Could you bring back that fawn we saw a couple weeks ago, God? Please? That would be so incredible! Then I would really know you are here, really feel your presence and love.” I waited, breath held, for something to happen, my suspended breath evidence of expectant hope. I waited and watched, eagerly scanning my field of view.
Finally, I exhaled, the reality of my body’s need for oxygen taking precedent over my heart’s hope – hope that was beginning to feel foolish. Feeling a bit deflated, I sat down in the grass, resting my chin on my knees. Recalling the intention of this time to sense and savor, I reminded myself to bring my attention back to my present experience. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the flutter of tiny wings on some sort of miniature dragonfly-like creature. I noticed the delicateness of its wings, the iridescent shimmer of its body as it perched on a blade of grass. “It’s just a bug,” I thought. Nothing spectacular or particularly pleasant. And yet I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
I watched, transfixed, as it lifted and landed, lifted and landed, ever closer. Finally, it touched down ever so briefly on my hand, just long enough for my brain to register that I was holding my breath again. And then it was gone. A momentary, quiet encounter with a tiny bug.
A miraculous encounter with Divine Love, with a playful Spirit who isn’t bound by human imagination.
An encounter I only experienced when I took the time to sense and savor, open to whatever came. Love came for me as that tiny, winged bug, reminding me again of the Universal Christ who is Love, Love that can be found anywhere.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. –Ephesians 3: 17-19
Janet Stark is a woman learning to bless her depth and sensitivity. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband, Chris, and their kids and grandkids. Janet loves curling up with a good book, trying new recipes on her friends and family, and enjoying long conversations with friends over a cup of really good coffee. She is a life-long lover of words and writes about her experiences here.