This Sunday's writing prompt was from How to Walk, by Thich Nhat Hanh: "Make an agreement with the flight of stairs (I don't have stairs so I chose my slate walkway) you use most often. Decide to always practice walking meditation on those stairs, going up and going down; don’t climb those stairs absentmindedly. If you commit to this and then realize you have climbed several steps in forgetfulness, go back down and climb up them again. Over twenty years ago, I signed such an agreement with my stairs, and it has brought me great joy. "
Flagstones are solidly hard suckers. 73 of them make up a path that leads to and from my front door. I walk them dozens of times every day without really noticing them or appreciating them. So out I go to walk the familiar stones in a new way. I am not walking them in proper walking meditation form. I'm not paying attention to my breathing, but rather directing my full attention to the stones beneath my feet. I remember that they were a gift from a long-ago friend, laid down to ease the plentitude of mud that made up my path before the stones came.
The slates I walk so carelessly are really quite beautiful. Blue-gray in color, striated in places, chipped here and there, they are laid end-to-end and side-by-side from my cottage doorstep to that of my landlord in the big house. Various plants—dandelions, chickweed, violets, a few wild strawberries— grow in the dirt between the slates. Ants have their sand hills there, and stray leaves that escaped the rake huddle along the edges.
The path leads me from home to the world and back again. It is a constant in a universe of change, though even it changes under the hand of winter frost and summer rains. The slates themselves harbor the weather, soaking up the sun that burns my bare feet when the temperature rises and sporting a layer of ice when the temperature drops.
Today they are warm to my bare feet and dusty from broom leavings sent carelessly across them when I swept the adjoining patio. I had plans to pull the greenery growing between the slates, to tidy the walk of rooted weeds that, if left alone, overtake the slates; messy, sprawling weeds only because they are unwanted. Today, however, they will get a reprieve. Today they are part of my contract with my path, a reminder to travel mindfully across these 73 stones, my path to and from home, to and from enlightenment.