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My thanks to Mark for an entertaining and extremely interesting guide to a Wander. The Wander was so effective, the answers to two questions came to my mind on the session. A powerful technique that will prove hugely beneficial going forward. Some parts were challenging, though so worthwhile in the end.
At 2.20 am on the morning of the walk, my friend Kotie Odendaal, slipped out of this world into the next after a long battle with bone cancer. I went on the walk anyway and noticing how birds and nature go about their business unperturbed about the hustle and bustle around them, made me realise that life goes on, even though our hearts need time to pause and grieve after losing someone we love.I realized too that every gravestone has a date of birth - a long dash - and the date on which the person died. The important bit is the DASH. How are we living our DASH? What are we saying "Yes!" to? What are we saying "No" to? What do we need to do differently?I saw a property board on which these words appeared: A PLACE FOR EVERYONE.I was reminded that even though the world and our city is filled with people of so many nationalities, languages, cultures and creeds, there is a place for us all; we all have a contribution to make; we all matter; our stories matter and together we are crafting the world we live in day by day.We need to create more times to wander mindfully, quietly and receptive.It is amazing what one notices when you slow down!
In Fresno, California, 16 mindfulness walkers began at the clock tower on Downtown Fresno’s Fulton Street on a beautiful blue-sky day. Walkers enjoyed the 4 mini-walks, describing discoveries and pleasant surprises. One walker took 10 minutes to walk just one block, and while she noticed many more details, she also described feeling unstable and vulnerable, empathizing with people who are unable to move at a full pace. Walkers described architectural details on historic buildings that they had never noticed. Walkers marveled at the beauty of public art, old doorways, cacti, fencing, and even light and shadows dancing on the sidewalks.After the quest, walkers shared insights and answers that were revealed on the walk. Here are some highlights:A photographer and artist is inspired to create an art exhibit for a museum she walked through on the walk.An elementary teacher discovered a solution when her students are restless in the afternoons - mini mindfulness walks with a question or prompt.A life-long Fresno resident remembered important moments with her family, and how meaningful downtown Fresno is to her history. She plans to bring her children and grandchildren here often to continue the family legacy and make more memories.A walker with available time for the first time in decades considers how she can serve in the best ways for Fresno, either volunteering or serving for community organizations.A walker realizes the value of ‘just wandering’ and decides to make more time for herself as a way to improve mental/emotional/physical health.A walker looking for ideas of how to help her elderly mother happens upon three senior citizens sitting on the patio of the Salvation Amy Senior Residential Complex. They talk about what is important to them and what they appreciate most - which is having other people for daily conversation and fun events. During the sharing time, the group helped the walker brainstorm ideas about how to create these opportunities for her mother.At least three walkers agreed that downtown Fresno is a place they want to come to more often and bring their families and friends. They were reminded of the joy of walking and getting out of their usual routines and neighborhoods.
So I took part in a Street Wisdom event yesterday in Chester and it was even more powerful than I hoped. It’s hard to explain how it all works but it really helps you process the important questions we often find we can’t answer. It empowers you to reach within while also breaking out of that paralysing chatter in our heads. It’s clarity.You know that feeling of presence you feel when on holiday, when you're taking in a wondrous moment, when your mind seems to clear and you find inspiration? It's getting that feeling from an environment that's easily accessible to you.I used it to answer a creative question and hope to employ the same techniques and mindset regularly in the future.And this wasn’t some dream like experience from start to end, there were frustrating and tedious moments filled with doubt before I had that eureka moment.On the surface, the concept of Street Wisdom sounds a little strange but, once you do it, you see how it works and the results can be profound.
If we are lucky, streets are where we really live, as in becoming fully alive – and where we have the opportunity to really get to know ourselves - make that our Selves. And the ‘knowing’ is on a different plane – much more than ‘data’ or ‘information’, more in the realm of full-on wisdom, tapping all our senses, and tapping into our deepest sensibilities.Streets are where we can get out of our small selves, and into our large Selves; getting out, to get inside. Streets are also places where we commune with a comparative diversity and intensity of humanity; they are where we relate, with other people mainly (rather than with the vehicles that dominate our ‘roads’). We gain perspective on ourselves; we get to put ourselves in context; we experience our inter-being-ness.Perhaps it begins with wondering about a better/larger sense of ‘me’, beyond the narrowly self-referential, beyond a too comfortable and possibly too complacent core or base. Mustering the courage to engage beyond personality with some identity-work, as in I-dentity exploration, pushing out into some wondering about the ‘I’ that transcends the mere ‘me’. This had me wondering/wandering around ‘my leading edge’. An ‘edge’, out on a ledge, beyond self-serving and self-centred. More about my sense of ‘leadership as service’, of being in service - to others, and the wider world.This was the general terrain of my operative ‘self-leading’ question, in my August 11th Street Wisdom experience in Glasgow City Centre. After the first hour of initial sensing practices (four exercises to attune our senses), there was a second hour of a more full-on, essentially solo, exploration my leading/learning edge. But – interestingly - nothing seemed to be crystallizing while I was operating on my own; I couldn’t bring anything ‘home’. I was more like a lonely tourist, taking in various ‘attractions’, in my current corner of our lonely planet. But when it came to the final hour of dedicated sharing with, and by, my fellow wisdom-seekers some revelation began to emerge; I needed the community of ‘the street’.Following on from a career in professional (planning) practice and education, I happen to be very interested (as part of my ‘re-firement’) in transformational professional learning - and this has been taking me into interesting territory. It includes, for instance, a sensed challenge around ‘presencing awareness’ (encountered especially in recent U Lab work). As I listened to the stories being shared (in the café of St George’s Tron church, just off Buchanan Street), I noticed an emerging framing for myself, for shaping my learning from the Street Wisdom experience, for better presencing my awareness.The stories that really registered in our sharing included others’ encounters with ‘street-persons’. In my interpretation, one particularly colourful presence on the street surrounded themselves in identification with a famous Glasgow football team - that was clearly a personal source of belonging, and cherished identity. Another, more reserved and more retiring presence, revealed himself – rather unexpectedly - to be very worldly-wise, and well-read! Much more than met the eye initially; a person – rather than simply an individual, with a strong sense of identity.There was also a story about an activist ‘street-campaigner’, for an international cause that initially seemed at odds with their own ethnic/religious identity. But he was clearly motivated by something I could only characterize as a greater sense of a shared ‘we-ness’; a larger I-dentity, with a larger community of interest that mattered more than any tribal or religious identity. I had earlier passed him by, but had also noticed his engagement and enthusiasm – the story yielded insights on his ‘in-goings’ – his inner-goings-on - that helped to make sense of the ‘out-comings’ he might have been yearning for, through his campaigning.Out of these sensings I began to wonder about my own ‘me-ness’, in relation to my ‘I-ness’, in relation to my ‘We-ness’; my Self was an amalgam, an integration, of all three. It seems that these also define key ‘transformation’ territories, for lay-persons as well as professionals, for some ‘inner work’: from me to I, from I to We, and from We to the All in All of Us. It makes sense to pursue these transformations in company, in relationship, with at least a sample of the ‘All of All of Us’.A street may serve well to get ‘us’ on our way, together – but other settings may also serve to help each of us go deeper into our ‘am-ness’, conferring a greater grounding and centering. In this respect I noticed a surfacing of my attraction to labyrinth walking, as a possible complement. Here the ‘street’ is less linear, more of a spiral, with unexpected twists and turns, deflections and disruptions. It is an occasion for practiced solitude, to balance off the otherwise communing.In Scottish settings I am seeing a labyrinth walk as an occasion for a ‘wee dauner’, for a ‘wee think’, and a ‘wee blether’ – “wi’ ma’sel, aboot ma’sel”. A good street would have some good labyrinth walking opportunities nearby, such as in the church where we enjoyed our sharing tea and coffee, or in some adjacent green-space (my ‘campaign’ would be for a labyrinth in a corner of every major public park). An opportunity to reflect on ‘me, my Self, and I’… and the We-ness I help constitute.These are my leading edges, my Self-leading edges – on the streets where I live, on the labyrinths I walk – as I wander and wonder.
I entered this experience ready to enjoy 3 hours of reflection on my next professional steps to take while walking a part of London I had not experienced. I left with an uplifting perspective. During my walk I found myself looking up and noticing the colors of the context and found myself pondering what colors I was finding and adding to my own corner of the world.I would recommend this experience for anyone -- particularly those who are feeling in transition!
Taught me to slow down, to take in and appreciate surroundings. Get out of the office and walk the streets to think through challenges.
A great introduction to Street Wisdom. I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to see things differently and just go with the flow. And to find out that we have our own answers, and all it takes is some external reassurance to confirm this.
I'm amazed at the transformative power this session has generated for me! I feel liberated to move in whatever direction, without the fear of failing, because it is clear to me where I'm heading.
I did the Street Wisdom event with Jo in Chester yesterday. From noticing the Van sign that reminded everyone to drink water, to the statue of a baby elephant that really stood out for me, I really did feel the streets were teaching me things. It was great to share with other people. I feel my question was like a Russian Doll, at one level quite simple but with other questions within it. I got the answer I needed anyway! I'm looking forward to doing it again, both as a participant and a leader, it's a lovely way to get to know yourself, other people and the place you do it in, a lot better.