“Most people will talk the talk, few will walk the walk; be amongst those few.” – Dr. Steve Maraboli
I love to attend yoga classes with a certain teacher each summer when I’m at the beach. Because Bill doesn’t teach the same kind of yoga that I typically practice, some of the students I’ve sent to him have wondered what it is about his classes that keeps me going back for more. Interestingly, though I enjoy the series he puts together, it’s actually not that.
The lure for me is much less tangible. Even a few minutes into my first class with him, I knew Bill was the “real deal.” I remember looking at the friend who was with me and saying, “He’s not just talking the talk. He’s walking the walk.” In other words, I’d found a man who was clearly teaching something he loved passionately, something that had changed him for the better. More than just knowing a great deal about the practice, it was obvious that he was living his yoga. Such authenticity is absolutely magnetic in a teacher.
Upon reflection, when I meet someone who is really, truly “walking the walk” it is always profoundly appealing. I’m thinking about the older woman who works in the deli at the place we frequent for quick, affordable and delicious sandwiches. No matter how busy, she always recognizes me, smiles and seems happy to say hello. She clearly cares that our order is filled correctly and is proud that her service has created “regular” customers.
My kids especially adored one of our friends when they were very little. He always squatted to get eye to eye with them, and spoke to them just like he spoke to us. No baby talk or silliness. He was genuinely interested in what they were thinking and what was happening in their lives. He wasn’t “talking the talk” of a “cool, fun dad,” he was “walking the walk” and my kids knew it. I’m sure they would have argued that he was their friend, not ours. You know what? He would have agreed!
The owner of our local bookstore is another great example. She is obviously a voracious reader. She is thoughtful and clear in the little handwritten reviews she posts beneath recommended titles. She is willing to spend time with me as I search for my next favorite book and can single-handedly convince me to stretch to try something way out of my comfort zone. She never, ever seems to be selling me books (although she clearly is). It mostly feels like I’m talking books with a friend, which is one of my favorite activities. Again, because she is “walking the walk,” it is easy to trust her and even easier to send fellow readers her way.
Just this week, in an uncanny series of coincidences (if you believe in those) this topic has bubbled up over and over again. First, one of my favorite spirituality writers (Richard Rohr) wrote an essay about how critical it is that religious people shift from thinking and talking about what they believe to figuring out how to live their beliefs in the world. In other words, they (we) need to “walk the walk” in order for faith to make a difference in our own lives and to the world around us.
A day later, while teaching my Yoga and Philosophy class at Villanova, a student asked why I had decided to include the physical practice of yoga in a philosophy class. I didn’t even need to take a breath. “While we could easily talk about yoga philosophy for a full semester, we would never be able to grasp what it has to teach us if we didn’t practice ‘doing’ it too.” The man who founded Ashtanga yoga, Pattabhi Jois, was famous for saying “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.” In other words, we get on our mats to give ourselves a safe, easy place to work with its philosophical teachings. With all that practice, it is much more likely that, when we head back out into our lives, we will “walk the walk” of our yoga.
Finally, on Sunday morning the preacher at our church gave a sermon on this very topic. Again, the message was that for faith to be sustaining in hard times and good, we need to do a whole lot more than just think and talk about it. We have to put it into practice in every aspect of our lives. Trust me when I tell you that I had a hard time not jumping up and shouting “Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk!”
And (please believe me that this actually happened), just now, as I searched for a St. Francis of Assisi quote I love so that I didn’t mangle it (“Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”), up popped the following quote that I had never heard before:
Message received. And forwarded on to you, dear friends. “Walk the walk.”