[Maria Rosa Galter is a core owner of the Walk2Connect Cooperative and the owner of Walking Inspiritus.]
One of the reasons I love to walk or hike is that when I’m walking with someone else, I go into deeper relationship with that person. The conversation is not superficial. Walking has always been a place of deep connection and healing for me. There’s a beauty in walking with another person, but there’s also a beauty in walking by yourself. I love to do walking as a contemplative spiritual practice, and I create walking retreats. I think one of the things we’ve lost is our connection with the sacredness of the earth upon which we walk, the sacredness of the spaces we travel through. We’ve lost the idea that everything around us is sacred, including the air we breathe. I like to think of the sacred as a river that runs through every aspect of life: everything we touch, everything we see, everything we smell. Our body is immersed in a sacred experience. We can reconnect with that by walking in nature and experiencing the holy in everything we see.
I came to the United States 36 years ago. My father was from Spain, and my mother was from Ecuador. I lived for many years in Central and South America and in Europe. When I came here, my whole first name – Maria Rosa – didn’t fit into the boxes on any forms. “Rosa” became the middle initial “R”. I finally started speaking up and saying, Maria Rosa is my first name. I don’t have to fit into the choices you’re giving me. I can make other choices to be who I am. Once I spoke up, people listened. Empowerment comes from taking ownership of our own identity, our own body knowledge. We can move from our perception that the external choices that are given to us are the only choices we have, to knowing that we can create our own choices and voice them. That involves a lot of understanding and giving ourselves permission to not limit ourselves. Walking facilitates that process. It allows us to go deeper and develop more self-compassion and compassion for others.