A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of leading an Ignatian Retreat and I was touched by the engagement level of the retreatants, especially with our conversations around discernment. Usually, my retreats begin Friday afternoon and end Sunday morning. This one, however, was Thursday through Sunday, which gave us an opportunity for extended conversations and time for reflection.
Sadly, one of the Ignatian practices I wanted to discuss but ran out of time was Ignatius’s Rules For Eating. When I was going through the version of the Spiritual Exercises called the Retreat in Everyday Life (lasting about 30 weeks), my Director told me about these rules/guidelines because I had recently been diagnosed with Type II diabetes.
Because Ignatius referred to himself as “the pilgrim” in his autobiography, I linked the rules for eating with the idea of being a pilgrim. This is a very providential decision, and throughout the retreat, I chose to go all in on three key disciplines: praying throughout the day, closely monitoring what I ate , and walking twice a day, every day.
At the end of the retreat, I was like a new person! I had lost 65 pounds, which led to me testing outside the diabetes range, and my prayer life had never been better. The funny thing was, as I encountered people who knew me well, they asked if I was sick! Here I was, in the best shape I had been in a long time in all areas of my life (body, mind, and spirit), and people assumed I must be sick. Back to walking…
Centuries ago, St. Augustine coined the term “solvitur ambulando” which means “it is solved by walking.” Now, St. Augustine was talking about solving a problem by thinking it through while walking, maybe very long walks, but for me, I realized I didn’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment to improve my health. I just needed a good pair of walking shoes and the discipline of walking in the morning and afternoon/evening every day without fail. If it was raining, I was in the mall. If it was sunny, I was out walking in my neighborhood or on local walking trails. I brought friends with me whenever I could, and soon, others were having success similar to my own.
Well, those initial experiences were several years ago now, and I have to admit that I’m not as fit as I was in those initial days. But Ignatius would remind us that everyday can be a fresh start, so just this morning, I got out and walked a route I hadn’t been on for months. This trail, on an old golf course, took me about 45 minutes. It was a cool morning, and it felt great to be out in nature once again. I had some things to think through on this walk, and although there was no resolution quite yet, I did feel like I was closer to solving the situation.