Chirping and chattering. Squeaking and scolding. Various birds and small scurrying rodents like the chipmunk in this photo call to one another all along my morning route. It struck me today that what I think of as simply my daily walk, my exercise and meditation, is an intrusion to others. Every morning I disrupt the lives and routines of these creatures. It’s not my intent to cause alarm or anxiety, but I do just the same. For a few minutes they all go on high alert. Chipmunks run for cover in last fall’s leaves or an old hollow log. Birds fly higher up or farther away. Squirrels scramble up trees and leap to safety. I stride on, intent on raising my heart rate as well as theirs. I rarely stop along the way except perhaps to snap a few photos. But I’ve learned that when I do stop, the atmosphere slowly changes. As I stop walking, slow my breathing, and eventually become still and silent, the creatures around me gradually begin to relax as well. At first they remain on alert, carefully observing me. But as I remain quiet, only listening and breathing, they begin to resume their normal activities. They start to feel safe. That they can be what they are and do what they do. And as long as I am at rest we can all just be. Eventually I have to continue my walk and the stillness is broken again. As I walk on I think about how my presence makes an impact, and it’s not always the impact that I intend. I move too abruptly, speak too much, walk too fast. I stir things up, producing anxiety and alarm. May i be a purposefully peaceful presence, helping calm minds and contributing to an atmosphere of trust where everyone can simply be who they are.

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