When we walk in grassland, or in any place where the natural order of things holds a rich array of life together, the quality of our encounter can easily default to a collection of views from hilltop to valley, experiences that may linger on the skin and on the retina but go no deeper. You talk to the friends you came with, and the bubble of ordinariness that surrounds you every day follows you out onto the prairie, protecting you from the persuasions of birdsong and wind.
But then there are those other, too rare times when a walk draws you in and the world takes you down to another kind of awareness. Your friends cannot come so you go alone. The light seems different, the grass, but you too seem more and less than yourself, a hand's span, a breath's free and passing gift away from who you were when you left home.
To get there, Franciscan Richard Rohr suggests that we might try consciousness. He offers the following set of instructions, beginning by "finding or creating a conscious threshold":
Wilderness WanderingGo to a place in nature where you can walk freely and alone, ideally some place where human impact is minimal—a forest, canyon, prairie, bog, mountain. Tell someone where you will be and how long you expect to be there. Take adequate water and clothing for the conditions.
Begin your wandering by finding or creating a conscious threshold (perhaps an arched branch overhead or a narrow passage between rocks). Here offer a voiced prayer of your intention and desire for this time. Step across the threshold quite deliberately and, on this side of your sacred boundary, speak no words, but only expect!
Let the land, plants, and creatures lead your feet and eyes. Let yourself be drawn, rather than walking with a destination or purpose in mind. If you are called to a particular place or thing, stop and be still, letting yourself be known and know, through silent communion with the Other. Before you leave, offer some gesture or token of gratitude for the gift the wild has given you.
When it is time to return to the human world, find again your threshold and cross over. But now you have learned to expect God in all things.Richard Rohr