Walking in Another’s Footsteps

If you would like, please enjoy this short audio clip about an experience I had walking in the snow yesterday.

Or if you prefer, you may read it here:

Yesterday we had our first snow of the winter here in Berlin. And because it was Sunday many people headed outside to enjoy a good time, to go walking, jogging, even building snow figures in a park nearby. I also went to the park and decided to enjoy the moment by practicing walking meditation, taking very small, slow steps, trying to fully arrive with my whole body and mind each time I placed my foot on the earth.

It was about midday and many people had already passed through the park and the open areas were crisscrossed by their tracks in the fresh snow.

After practicing walking meditation for some time, I noticed that I was about to step exactly into an existing footprint in front of me. I began to change my pace and started to follow in the steps appearing before me one by one. The distance between them was larger than I could comfortably stride, perhaps because the person had been hurrying or maybe he or she was quite tall.

I kept following the footprints without losing my mindful focus on each step and I had an experience of connecting with that person who had walked here before me. I kept breathing mindfully and with each deliberate step, I invited this stranger a little bit closer to me until it seemed we were walking and breathing as one.

This was a lovely experience, even though as I look back, it could have felt a bit uncomfortable to invite a stranger to be so close. But it felt good and joyful, like meeting an old friend.

I wondered how this person was doing as he or she walked past here. What was the person thinking, feeling? Not knowing the answer, I began to get in touch with a range of human emotions and mind states: joy, excitement, anticipation, anger, frustration, anxiety, emotions and states that we are all familiar with, that bind us together. And I began to sense a strong energy of compassion and affection flowing through my body.

Retracing each step was like saying “hi” to that person, and “how are you” and “I’m here”, “I’m listening to you”, “feeling you”, “you are familiar and I recognize you“, “you are a brother, a sister of mine.” Through a simple practice of walking mindfully in somebody’s footprints, I was getting to meet this person as well as myself in a quite deep, spiritual, heartfelt way. What would have happened if by following these footsteps further I had eventually caught up with the person printing them onto the snow? Though I couldn’t be sure, I imagined I would wish to bow to that person, look him or her in the eyes and express my gratitude to them for letting me walk in their tracks for a bit, for leaving me this opening into their life, their being. And to say to them “how are you?”, “I see you” and “I’m listening.”

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