Epilogue – May 16, 2016

A Walk Across Iowa on the Old Lincoln Highway: Epilogue

by Mark Minear

photo credit: Beckie Minear, Mark’s sister-in-law, taken on day 9 of Mark’s walk

Greetings!  Here is the last entry to the blog of my Walk.

If there was a book to emerge from this experience (and I don’t anticipate that there will be—but if there was), I can’t decide whether it should be called…

Walking on Holy Uneven Ground

or

Walking on Uneven Holy Ground.

I think the former.  My experience was both—human and sacred.  I clearly had the sense of how temporal the event was in my life… earthy, uncomfortable, unpredictable, weary-making, uneven, etc.  (Of the estimated three-quarters of a million steps from river to river, I would guess that over half of them was on uneven ground—a tapered shoulder off the road, portions that were not graded, various sizes and shapes of rocks, etc.)  It was an experience that stretched my human capabilities to some of its limits…  however, it was also a spiritual opportunity to catch some “glimpses” of the holy… the beauty of creation, humility amidst the Mystery, the sense of Presence, moments of awe and joy and wonder and reverence, Light for the path, a calling to something deeper and higher, etc.  It was a sacred experience that surprised and renewed me with hope and transformation amidst the importance of gratitude and generosity.  I think the former, Walking on Holy Uneven Ground, because it connotes both the sacred and the human with the sacred over all the experience, including the human (and, surprise… even if we are unaware).

Such is the case for these earthly journeys we have been privileged to take.  There is certainly an unevenness to our daily challenges and the way is rough at times, and one certainly knows that they are alive as their bodies remind them step by step on the pilgrimage.  But there is also an available sacredness that gives us pause to open our lives to the Holy Other—to have moments, not where we escape the realities of the earthly journey, but to bring great meaning out of life’s temporal experiences when we transcend and know that there is Something More to the journey than the superficial, the humdrum, the same old same old, the painful, etc. (you get the idea).

We are given opportunities to go deeper to understand that our individual lives are gifts… and, out of that sense of gratitude, we in turn spontaneously become more generous and cheerful as givers (as we understand that we are only stewards and not owners of all that is in our lives).  Can you think of anything in life—including how we think of “love” or “faith” or “joy” or whatever—that is not based in this experience and growing cycle of gratitude and generosity?

And here’s the good news: we can choose to nurture this spirit of gratitude in our lives!  We are not helpless even amidst our seasons of emotional pain and despair—we can gently but intentionally “look” for and embrace with thanksgiving the many gifts around our lives every day.  Mindfulness is about awareness—paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.  Gratitude would simply be a response to what we “notice” in and around our lives… of course, along with the observation of other matters—many of which might be unpleasant or even painful.  When we hold in our awareness the human as well as the holy, something happens within our heads and our hearts!  Thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable are certainly there—but that is not all!  We also find wonder, curiosity, reverence, gratitude, generosity, etc. on the path to becoming transformed by the sacred in and around our lives.  And this ability to observe our inner experience becomes an opportunity to see more clearly the Light of God’s love and forgiveness and grace for our lives!

In fact, I would dare to push this a little further.  Many folks I know are closer to what might be considered agnostic; they find it difficult to wrap their heads and/or their hearts around a Creator, let alone a specific expression of a Heavenly Parent or Christ as Friend.  But, even if there wasn’t a God, this path of living and growing with gratitude and generosity is still a noble, magnanimous life to live.  For those who believe that we are alone without a Holy Other, is there a higher way to walk through this earthly journey?

We can pay attention to both the internal and external realms of life, and we find this inner path to be our portal to experience the transformational holy in our lives… to attend within and listen.  Thomas Keating wrote: “Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.  In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.”  Consider doing what it takes to pay attention, not just to the beauty of the external world around you though the five senses, but to the inner spiritual intimations of God’s Light and Presence that are already there!

So… I returned home to my loving wife, the people in my life of family and friends, the tasks and responsibilities waiting for me (boy, did the yard need to be mowed!), etc.… and, though I was still most certainly “Mark”, I also was given the privilege to be “Mark with a little more awareness of both the human and the divine”…  a “Mark who could be a little more grateful and a little more generous!”

Mark Minear

Mark Minear

“And the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started…

And know the place for the first time.”  (T.S. Eliot)

Peace, Mark

P.S.  My walk across Iowa resulted in opportunities to stir up some awareness about mental health care for males as well as raise over $12,500 for boys and men who need counseling assistance financial support if they are uninsured or are inadequately covered by insurance.  Once again… my heartfelt and humble “THANK YOU” to all of you who donated to this fund!

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For more information on Mark’s walk across Iowa: dmpcc.org/WalkwithMark

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