Mindful Market

Over the last months, Spitalfields has become a favourite starting point for Street Wisdom, particularly for our session introducing Street Wisdom to business people.

For hundreds of years it was a wholesale food market with traders shouting out their wares and engaging customers in the argy-bargy of sales banter. Today it’s a hive of hipster stores, pop-up restaurants and bars. But there’s some connection missing. There’s a crowd of people but they are not really interacting. At least that was a feeling that Millie (pictured) had.

So, on her Street Wisdom walk, she decided to set up her own stall – offering free conversations. And her first customers were three (“slightly scary-looking”) older men. Turns out they weren’t East End hoods. They all used to work in the market, were visiting their old workplace and wanted to talk about it.

It was something that all our business participants noticed in their different ways. How we can be in a crowd and yet feel very separate from those around us.  Shopping used to be an excuse to connect. And now it’s a substitute. Maybe we need more ‘marketing’ like Millie’s. Turn shopping back into conversations.

by David Pearl.

Photo by Ines Alonso.

Outdoors and upwards with the RSA

It was the perfect day for the September 21st event facilitated by our three volunteers Millie Baker, Justine Clements and Susannah Tresilian. Our thanks to them for giving their time and to the RSA for once again organising a successful and enjoyable event.

30 wanderers set out and there were many stories of breakthroughs, synchronicity and fun times.

We discovered medieval streets unnoticed in years of walking past; a chalk drawing reading ‘Be happy spending time doing the things you like’; one wanderer bumped into an old friend and chatted for hours; as we were wandering, Susannah received an email from the RSA titles ‘Do you talk to strangers?’

One of the highlights for me was to meet with Cath Prisk again who helps run an organisation called Outdoor People. After a Street Wisdom event last year she made a big decision to open an outdoor shop in Hackney to support their mission to provide city dwelling young people with opportunities to experience life in the country. Check out the shop here.

Thanks to everyone for taking part and please add any more comments or feedback here. Just two of the responses we have so far;

‘I can honestly say the Street Wisdom technology is one of the most effective I have experienced.  It provided me with a completely new lens on everything!’

‘I had no idea what to expect in Street Wisdom aside from a recommendation from a friend and I can honestly say that it changed my life, I left a different person. Walking the mental streets of London offered me a state of calm that I’ve never experienced and I was able to think clearer and more productively than ever before. The technology you use is simple but so incredibly powerful and it’s changed my outlook to pretty much everything.

I’ve not stopped telling people about Street Wisdom ever since, I am really keen to get involved and facilitate in the future and will be sending everyone I can along to the next event.

Thank you for creating and sharing such a wonderful thing.’

Modern ballets and the magic in a brick wall

20 February 2016. Things don’t look good. It’s 5 minutes before my first Street Wisdom event is due to start. Of the 14 sign-ups, not one has arrived. It’s pouring with rain. It’s cold. The church yard I’d carefully chosen in Covent Garden as a meeting point (with rain cover) is unexpectedly closed for renovation. I’m starting to despair – but then Fatima arrives. And suddenly a whole bunch of people appear from nowhere – all smiles, good nature, and curiosity. We’re a group!

And the event went really well.

There were two things that took me by surprise.

The first was how very differently each individual related with the Street Wisdom tasks. From timing, to the interpretation of specific words like “beauty” and “patterns”, to the way of engaging with the Street Quest – I was reminded that despite all that we share as human beings, every individual is a different universe.

The second thing that I really wasn’t prepared for, was how powerfully I became attuned to the street myself. The minute the group had left and I was on my own, I found myself utterly captivated by the texture, colours and smell (!) of the brick wall I was standing by. I saw a multitude of tiny magical details I would normally be unaware of. Then, behind the back of the Savoy, the hotel staff were coming and going, dragging laundry carts, smoking, talking on mobiles. I would normally dismiss these as utterly uninteresting everyday activities, but they now appeared to me like a modern ballet, randomly and beautifully orchestrated. I was silent with wonder.

Alongside this heightened sense of perception, another joy was meeting the participants after their quests. They were simply glowing with warmth, interest, and an openness to connect with each other, and they had a mix of colourful and inspiring stories to tell.

I was touched by one participant’s simple but profound experience: “I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow during the event I came back to myself and started seeing the world more gently and kindly.” Another was relieved to discover that the question she’d been struggling with in her life turned out not to be so important after all. And one guy, who works for a homelessness charity, had spent his quest time sitting on the street begging – and got a whole new perspective on his work.

We were enjoying each other’s company so much, it was genuinely difficult to leave at the end of the day. And just to say – the rain actually added to the experience, so don’t ever let that put you off!

Millie Baker