Lisboa: finding beauty in the after-party debris

street wisdom cafe lisboa

It’s a sign of either sheer naivety or incurable optimism that I chose to host Lisbon’s first Street Wisdom on a Saturday morning at 9am sharp, starting from Mercado da Ribeira’s garden. It’d only been three to four hours since the night’s revellers left for their beds and the signs were everywhere; sticky pavements, abandoned beer bottles, Lisboa lazily waking up to the weekend.

street wisdom slow right down lisboa

And so it felt incredibly special that six humans and one dog turned up to find fresh answers to their questions (the dog does not do social media, and had been tipped off by its human master. Phew).

Despite the enormous differences that make Southern and Northern European folk their own cultural breeds, urban life in the West is made of very similar trappings. Once the group had opened up about their questions, it became obvious that there is no foreign land when it comes to being human in the city.

‘Am I ready to move to the country?’, ‘Does it still make sense to run my business?’, ‘What’s next for me?’ were the sorts of very universal matters we discussed. One of our participants had no questions at all, but appreciated learning how to switch the mindful toolkit on. The majority of participants were on corporate careers, trying to navigate their true sense of self within those structures.

And if you can see beauty in everything, when surrounded by the after-party debris of the biggest outdoor urban rave in Europe (p.s. it happens every Friday and Saturday), then you’re really jamming it when it comes to the tune up. We spotted happiness in a group of drunks wearing less-than-flattering nylon fancy dress onesies, saw jigsaw patterns in the mash of cigarette butts on the pavements, and looked slightly differently onto the groups of pigeons hanging out by the park benches.

street wisdom pigeons lisboa

I always feel blessed and privileged to witness what participants are willing to share at the end of the Quest. Connection is part of what makes us human and yet, somehow, we’ve been socialised into walking anonymously in the city. We swapped tips about where to grow vegetable patches in Lisbon (before checking out to the countryside), learnt about the joy of talking to complete strangers, and opened up about very personal struggles. And we did it without hesitation, before a group of strangers, our only armour being strong expressos and the stunning late Spring Lisbon sunshine.

Lisbon, get ready. We’ve only just started with you.


A Portal to Awesomeness

The greatest thing about becoming a certified, bona-fide Street Wizard is the ability to go out into the world and share this incredible tool with other humans.

I found myself in Bali over December and January, pursuing a writing project. I had joined a group of brilliant minds and giving hearts at Tribewanted Bali. The programme offers accountability, mentoring, and goal setting to their members, who are working on a variety of projects, from start-up businesses to career changes.

Importantly, tribe is surrounded by a community of people who are bursting at the seams with inspiration and creativity.

Hosted in Hubud, one of the most exciting and carefully curated co-working places in the world, tribe allowed me to quickly connect with a range of people who, to some extent, have thrown themselves into massive quests. They’ve left their jobs, countries and families to come to Ubud to — in the midst of this ancient, spiritual town of 30,000 inhabitants — begin to look for answers on work-life balance and their true talent and calling.

All in all, the perfect playground for Street Wisdom.

I ran two sessions over two days, with 16 people in total taking part. Most of the participants were either established entrepreneurs or on their way to become so. A few others were living the digital nomad lifestyle by running a mix of freelance projects.

To most of these folk mindfulness is familiar territory; yoga just another language.

What was surprising was that even for people who are fluent in these forms of connection, Street Wisdom is still as powerful. You can have a couple years of deep meditation practice in the bag and still be as illuminated as a beginner in the art of slowing down, tuning up and listening to the true self within.

We settled early in the morning to avoid the tropical midday heat and picked a location which had all sorts of magic going for it: independent stores, the busy local market, plenty of cafés, a variety of temples and plenty of quieter little side streets and alleyways.

The group was happy to share their breakthroughs. One of the members came back from the quest overwhelmed with emotion; not only he had found a whole new side to Ubud he had never noticed (despite living there for a number of months) he also confirmed in those two sacred hours what he suspected all along was his gift to mankind. Two women came back deliriously happy; their much happier and serene body language had attracted the attention of strangers of the opposite sex, and an invitation for dinner.

To some others, the quest opened up a whole new set of questions, and more time required for reflection. One member realised that even though he was now living in paradise, he’d stopped noticing the environment around him as much as he would have in the beginning. He wrote back saying he was going to slow down and improve on his ability to observe.

I felt incredibly blessed for being a facilitator of these moments.

For two days only, I was a portal to awesomeness.

I can’t wait for the next Street Wisdom event.

Claudia Monteiro is on @montyclaudia