Devotions can be accomplished in front of an altar, a shrine, the rising sun, or many different places. I recently discovered that I could do my devotional work in 8/10s of a mile (4/5s for those who wish to reduce to the lowest common denominator).
As a part of my morning devotional prayers to Angus Mac Og, I always asked for help “to exercise”. After many years of saying the words, I decided to do the work and so I headed out on the road, or path, in my case.
There is a local Metro Park, as parks are called here, that I had often walked in, but never had done much else. I found a list of trails, mostly birding trails, and the distance ranged from .56 mile to 1.3 miles, to 2.56 miles, to 3 miles, and finally to 3.1 miles (5k).
On the Trail
These trails were labeled as colours and that fact made me rather happy, for some odd reason. I decided to run the Blue Trail, at 1.3 miles, for starters, and I found the distance not only do-able, but a relaxing journey through the trees with a trail that varied from gravel to grass and various points in between.
I typically do my morning devotionals as soon as I get in my vehicle in the morning, but I found that the park was too close to finish my devotion before I hit the trail for my run. So, one day, as I was running, an idea came to me: why don’t I try doing my devotional work while I am running?
The very next morning, I set out on the path and once I reached the .2 mile marker I started in on my devotional work. It seemed somewhat appropriate to speak to the Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and the Goddesses and Gods while running through the trees, sheltered from the outside world, with just the land, the sky, and the forest defining my world.
I typically hit the trail around 7am, just after the park opens. The wonderous thing about being out early, or relatively early, is that one gains an appreciation of the sky view, or the view of the heavens just before, during, and after sunrise. In addition, while living very near one of the Great Lakes, I have the wonder and magic of seasonal changes.
Sky Above Me
As I run, I see the changes in the heavens above me. As I find one foot falling in front of the other, I hear the forest around me, whether that be wind, or birds, or the rustle off to the side. The world is alive as I recite my prayers. The sky looks down upon me. The trees arch over me. The earth comments with every footfall. The world is alive with devotion.
I tried different things with my devotional prayers. On some days, I let the rhythm of my pace be the tempo of my prayers. This is markedly different that the cadence of my normal prayers. I tried to match my breathing with the prayers to be spoken or whispered whichever might be the case. There are days that I speak my prayers silently. On other days, I want to say my devotions to the world.
Movement and Devotion
Devotional prayers are moving events: there is no need for them to be static, or stagnant. My journey through the forest provided me an opportunity to see the words spoken to the world around me in a different way. From this, I gained some insights through the running, the speaking, and the just-being, on the trail, on the road.
I have witnessed the shortening of days to the point where my runs begin in darkness and running is an act of faith and recollection. I look forward to the days when the light begins to increase again. Remember the days of dry trails and the dust that danced around my footfalls. I run through the mornings where leaves, once scarce, are now more numerous, and they act as a blanket to the dirt of the trail below my feet.
Onwards and Forward
One foot in front of the other, I will keep running, as long as the Gods and the Spirits allow. I will honour the Earth Mother as I run through her and she covers me with blessings and the silence and wonder of the forest. I relish my moments with the forest, my new home, and wonders what lurks and rustles in the pathways beside me as I run by.
How fortunate am I that on those days where I wish to feel the prairie around me as I speak my words I need only cross to the north to find the trails that run through asters and thistles and grasses. Where the trees are smaller and the horizon closer, and the winds speak to me at eye-level as opposed to the canopy of trees.
The Changing Seasons
The trees vault over me. I see their changes that come along through the seasons. I recognize my own changes in my own seasons, superimposed one atop the other. My words are my devotions, yet I know that I am silently thankful that I have the opportunity to watch the world go by as my altar watches and waves as I pass by.
The winds blows, the sun shines, and the clouds move, “I honour and I thank you.” The trees reach out to me. I touch the Earth as I stretch and get ready for the path ahead, be it forest, or life, or points in between, “I honour and I thank you.” My devotions begin with a path, fill 8/10s of a mile and then the end of the trail welcomes me.
I will return tomorrow, Gods willing, one foot in front of the other. One word will follow the next, until all that needs to be said is complete. The path leads ever onwards.