Microscope IIIc: Walking

Gravity is a funny thing. I’ve been listening to a lot of John Mayer recently. Particularly ‘Gravity’. The song itself is like butter – smooth, voluptuous, everything you want but not quite it. It’s not your lifelong treasure of destiny – not mine at least.

But what of gravity itself, not the song, but the concept. That unknown force that keeps us anchored to the ground. I hate gravity. To me, walking is the greatest act of defiance known to man – our ability to walk is our refusal to be weighed down to the ground. The ability to move forwards, backwards, left, and right is what precipitated running, what gave birth to flight. It is the essence of our humanity – to get up and walk.

As you can clearly see, the practice of walking is extremely personal to me – akin to prayer. If kneeling at church is to find your place in the universe, if standing at a temple is singing to the cosmos, then walking is to look for the answer. When you kneel, when you stand, you are a slave to gravity. When you walk, you’re a slave to nothing.

And today, I find myself walking far more than I ever have, probably more in the last 9 weeks than I have in the last 9 months. But do I feel any freer? Not really. I have never used walking to seek freedom, it has always been there.

I have used walking as a contemplative mechanism.

I have needed to find a lot of answers recently. Answers to questions I never thought I would have to ask. Questions about myself, my past, my present, my future. Sometimes, I have had to find the strength to go on, sometimes the quiet to stop my mind racing. None of it has been easy, walking has made it tolerable. One day, perhaps, I’ll get to tell you more about it.

So what are some of the more interesting walks I have been on recently? I could tell you about the time I walked back home from the temple from the last blog along the canals of Little Venice. I could tell you about the walk from my apartment on Wells Street to Regents Park, getting lost near the little waterfall, reminiscing about times past. And what about the numerous walks in Hyde Park? Getting lost in the trees, feeling so fragile in the open.

No.

Let me tell you about the simplest, strangest, and certainly calmest walk I take –

Every morning, after our daily team meeting, I take 15 minutes to walk from my office in America Square to the Starbucks down the street. It is not a glamorous walk, after all, the Tower of London is right around the corner. Perhaps it is the funnel created by the skyscrapers around me but there is a particular direction to the wind as I walk down the street – as if it cuts across me as opposed to into or behind me. I am usually halfway through Gravity at this point where the guitar gently takes over somehow making my head feel lighter. All the anxiety, all the worry, all the thinking from moments ago disappears as I enter the shop.

A friendly face at the counter, with an all too familiar name, welcomes me with a smile,

“Peach green tea lemonade, lite ice?” She asks me, knowingly.

I give her a half smile, a simple nod, and an empty look. I pay and walk to the corner.

I pick up my drink, I take a sip – paradoxically, the cool liquid envelops me like a warm hug. I take one step after another, out into the windy street, back to my office. I look up into the cloudy sky as Mayer croons, 

“Gravity, stay the Hell away from me.”

The thing is you can’t logic your way out of Iman. Gravity can push you down as much as it wants to but it is Iman that makes me look up into that cloudy sky and say,

One day at a time, one step at a time. You’ll get to where you want to go.

Not where I need to go, but where I want to go. Walking on a cloudy day to a Starbucks down the street is enough to remind me that I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Because I have Iman.

Microscope IIIa: Kneeling

All Saints on Margaret Street was, up until a few weeks ago, just another charming and enchanted building I would walk past in London. It is a few feet away from my apartment, opposite a Buddhist Temple, with imposing towers adorned with the Cross. This should be reason enough to use it as shelter when a hurricane hits you. I remember the first time I walked into this old, stone building that looked as heavy as it was. Hallowed ground comes with it’s baggage – not a bad thing in this case.

Its ornate and gilded interior providing the perfect refuge for someone seeking divine intervention. It’s often typical to think of a higher power after an evidently PTSD inducing experience. I remember looking at the giant arch above me – Alpha and Omega adorning its opposing sides. It was 6:35pm on Wednesday, the 21st of June, a scorching day. My shirt was drenched in sweat, my eyes were red with tears. I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I interrupted the typical Low Mass ceremony that takes place at 6:30pm everyday except on Sundays (5:15pm). There were three other people standing in silence facing Father Alan Moses. He looked at me, and said sternly,

“Son, if you’re here to pray, kneel before the Lord, find a seat, and confess your sins.”

For the first time, in ages, I cannot even recall how long it’s been, I bent a knee.

There was a power to the act of kneeling, a foregoing of our human stiffness. Let me clarify something here, I am not saying that I am a born again Christian or a man of the cloth – as always I am respectful and in awe of all faiths, of the strength of belief, of the humility of giving yourself to something greater. I am in awe of Iman.

I rose and took a seat, the first seat on the third row to the right as Father Moses continued,

“May all those who truly repent be forgiven for their sins.”

A little while into Mass, we were all called to receive Communion – non-Baptized folk could receive a blessing. As you would suspect, I went up and asked for one – something I now do every day.

“May the Lord bless you and all the angels pray for you.”

I knelt back down, feeling the power of something greater than me. Perhaps it was a heightened state of emotional reception or perception, perhaps it was the hurricane, but in kneeling, for the slightest moment, I found a sliver of peace. 

I now go to All Saints every morning, and kneel in front of that gilded arch. I don’t say any prayer, I don’t recite any scripture, I just kneel and imagine a hand on my head –

“May the Lord bless you and all the angels pray for you.”

Amen.

Microscope III: The Trilogy of Prayer

In the last 6 weeks, I have found myself engaging a variety of…spiritual pursuits. The kind that you have already read about and some of the more, eclectic variety – God men and mad men, touts and trumpets, fountains and fantasies. I genuinely enjoyed writing the piece on prayer. It was born out of a rather difficult experience, writing about which was even more cathartic than I originally admitted. As such, I thought I would turn the microscope onto the forms of prayer I had mentioned in that post. 

Stay tuned throughout the upcoming week for my Trilogy of Prayer – Kneeling, Standing, and Walking.

V