Natchez walks inspire book about spiritual mindfulness
Published 8:13 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015
What started for one man as a daily effort to get in a little cardio exercise on the streets of Natchez ended in spiritual revelation.
Now, James Wallace has distilled the moments of clarity from his early morning walks during 2014 into written form and is sharing them with the world with the newly published book “Walking with God: How a Simple Daily Habit Can Change Your Life.”
The book, available from Southern River Publishing, can be purchased on Amazon.com and is free for Kindle readers through Friday.
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The book explores how physical exercise — in this case, walking — mindfulness meditation and Christianity can converge to “create spiritual endorphins” and give people a sense of renewal every day, Wallace said.
The experiences that shaped the book began shortly after Wallace moved to Natchez in 2014, returning to his mother’s hometown. He resumed a habit he already had in place, taking a daily walk, but something different happened as he would walk through Natchez.
“I started walking from a house we had on the edge of the garden district at Martin Luther King Jr. and State streets, walking down to the bluff through downtown and then along it, about a 45-minute walk,” Wallace said. “What I noticed fairly soon into the walks was something else was happening. I had a greater awareness, a greater feeling of God’s presence. I would notice things that I had never noticed before — it was totally in the moment.”
The result of those moment-to-moment clarities was “this realization that every day God gives us is a blessing that we should look and be thankful for,” Wallace said.
“I would see the sun come up, and it is like God paints a picture for us every morning that, to me, says, here I am, I am near. That was a spiritual moment that repeated itself to me every day.”
Wallace said he discovered that the practice of making an effort to be completely aware in the moment was known as “mindfulness” after he finished the initial manuscript. In his own life, it took the form of praying — “asking, ‘God, why am I here, what do I do, and how do I use my talents to glorify your purpose?’” — as he walked along the Natchez bluff.
“It was such a remarkable set of experiences, I felt compelled to share it,” he said. “This was a natural, no drugs needed, completely God-given experience when things and distractions were eliminated.
“It was almost as if I had this static-free communication line with God.”
Since reading up on mindfulness, Wallace said he has found some studies that say the practice of mindfulness has been shown in some studies to improve brain function and life span.
“With the walking, which is good for your heart, and the mindfulness, which is good for your mind, I call it Benjamin Button for your life,” he said. “Each step you get younger.
“The coup de gråce is the spiritual element. You have this channel open and you talk to God and hear his voice.”
The book’s chapters explore different aspects of grace, renewal and God’s control, drawing inspiration from the Natchez walks — for example, using the Mississippi River as a real-world metaphor a river of blessings.
“I really end it with a message to go out there and make a difference, that there is nobody like you — we are all given unique abilities,” Wallace said. “You have one life to life, and it talks about what will you do with the rest of your life. I hope the book inspires people to start their own unique walks with God.”
Kindle and print copies of the book can be found online at amzn.to/1Qn8YDq.
A free sample chapter is available online at southernriverpublishing.com.