Breda: Cake, love and dancing in the rain

Although I’d been looking forward excitedly to my first Street Wisdom experience, the day began with sadness and a heavy heart. It was 14th November and we’d woken to the news that terrorist attacks in Paris had claimed over a hundred lives the night before. It seemed inevitable that this would cast dark shadows over our reflections as we wandered the streets of Breda. By the end of the afternoon it seemed that I’d underestimated the power of reflection, conversation and children.

We had agreed to assemble in a small courtyard off one of the side streets. A wise decision, as our walk coincided with the arrival of St Nicholas in the Netherlands. The city centre was becoming crowded with families accompanied by small children, many of them dressed as De Sint (the Saint) or his side-kick, Peter. Even this was tinged with negativity
given angry debates across the Netherlands over the tradition of people blackening their faces in the role of Black Peter.
Curiosity seemed to be the pervading feeling among the group as we started on our tuning-in excursions. What exactly would we be doing? What would be the consequences? Could something as ordinary as walking through the streets really give a new insight into the questions which we had for ourselves?

It’s not for me to speak to the questions and the outcomes for the others on the quest. For me the question was “how can I make time for what’s important?” I found myself heading away from the shops and into the park, which itself was important. Material things seem to matter less than they used to and being among trees matters more. A statue brought o mind my children who, as they become young women, need less hands on care and more of a support and guide.

Street Wisdom Bar DancingHeading back towards the centre, I spotted the sign “Bar-Dancing” and realised how important it is to me to make more opportunities to dance. Seeing the children excitedly waiting for the man who brings all the presents reminded me of the days when we had taken our girls to see him arrive and how time passes so quickly. At that point I felt very clearly that cleaning the house and ironing seemed less worthy of my time than spending time with my family and that somehow I would need to negotiate doing less of it.
Finally, in the tea room where we met to share our adventures there was a sign. “All you need is love and
cake”. I love to bake and the words seemed to legitimise the time I spend doing it. If legitimising is necessary. Which it isn’t.

These were all ideas that had been simmering in my conscious brain and which had popped up from time to time in recent months. The experience of Street Wisdom helped to connect them and, in making the c
onnections, strengthened them and my resolve to act on them.
Having shared our stories over coffee and cake we reflected on our experience of Street Wisdom. One of the group said how surprised she was that something as simple as walking around and discussing what she’d experienced could be so rewarding. Some of us had conversed with complete strangers during our wanderings – something which would generally never happen during our usual trips to the city.

Street Wisdom Group PhotoIf we have any advice for anyone starting their Street Wisdom quest it would be to have your question in mind and then let it go. It’s tempting to actively look for things which might seem to fit but more rewarding to just notice what you see or do and how that makes you feel.

By the time we gathered in the cosy tea room to share our experiences and our learning it was chilly and raining quite heavily. The children who had been waiting for Sinterklaas didn’t seem to mind. They played and smiled and did their thing. And it occurred to me that we shouldn’t wait for the right climate to start doing the things that are important. Just get on with it. And that might just mean dancing in the rain.

Sarah Storm

 

Walk on Water

  The RSA is on a mission.  A big one.  21st Century Enlightenment.   So we’re delighted and honoured that they are partnering with Street Wisdom.  On Dec 3, while David Attenborough was giving his vision for tackling climate change upstairs, we were out in the streets, seeing how we could bring the local environment alive and harvest insights from the urban landscape.

For over two centuries, the RSA has been a home for innovation.  So it was appropriate that this Street Wisdom ended in a way we have never tried before.   On the water.

Not in the water, you’ll be relieved to know, but on a former Thames passenger steamer transformed into a floating bar.

45 participants showed up.  46 if you include this member of the public parking their car that got involved in Vali’s group:

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If you attended the event and want to share anything you learned/enjoyed/decided, then please leave a comment below.

Street Hug for Mark and Kenny for being top RSA wizards.  And special thanks to Vali and Adam, by the way for being such great Street Leaders.  Neither of them has led a group before.  They just loved their Street Wisdom experience and wanted to pass it on.   If you’d like to do the same, just let us know and we’ll make sure you have all you need.

Have a wander-ful weekend!

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David Pearl

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Peace Wisdom

 

Every day we hear disturbing news from conflict regions.  But what can we do about it? That’s a question often asked by the 15 entrepreneurial young peacemakers from places such as Israel, Palestine and Pakistan who were chosen to be the first ever GATHER Fellows.

GATHER, which focuses on supporting those taking practical action, is the brainchild of Seeds of Peace – a transformational initiative set up 25 years ago to develop the leadership potential of young Israelis and Arabs. GATHER chose London as the venue for its inaugural fellowship program. And asked Street Wisdom to kick it off!

Mohamed Rahmy, Director of Graduate Programs, explains what he had in mind: “GATHER Fellows come from completely different backgrounds; they speak different languages, and are working across different sectors on a variety of social change issues. I couldn’t have imagined a better exercise that would meet such a diverse group’s needs than Street Wisdom. Everyone of us, no matter what we do for a living, no matter how caught up we are in what our lives throw our way, deserve the mental space that Street Wisdom offers. It allows us to pause and reflect on the questions – big and small, practical and existential – that somehow get lost in the craziness of our day-to-day routine. Street Wisdom’s methodology is simple, accessible and easily applicable – practically anywhere around the world.”

IMG_9264We were honoured to be involved.  And excited!   It was inspiring to watch GATHER fellows heading out into the Autumn sunshine of Trafalgar Square in search of fresh answers to some world-sized questions. Some came back with fresh thinking about their projects. Others with insight into how they can sustain themselves as they seek to support others. One participant was stopped on her quest by someone trying to sell her a London bus tour.  “I’ll talk to you,” she said, “provided at the end I can ask you a question”.  “A question about me?”, asked the bus guy, taken off guard by the role reversal.  “No, about me and my work in Ramallah” she replied.  She didn’t buy the tour ticket but the conversation yielded fascinating insights from this wise stranger (”Stop talking about Israel, start talking about Palestinians!”).

Mohammed Rahmy reflects on the lasting effects of Street Wisdom on the participants: “It opened a new world of opportunities for self and professional betterment and revealed new places to seek advice, reassurance or even straight-on answers to some of life’s questions – a world of possibilities for our Fellows to ponder on over the coming weeks. I’m so happy we opened our GATHER Fellowship’s leadership accelerator with Street Wisdom and I am keen to always have it as a key ingredient in future programs. The impact of Street Wisdom is truly limitless.’’

IMG_9283The GATHER fellows are dispersing back to their regions.  But they are taking Street Wisdom with them and several are planning to run their own with their teams and communities.  It would be wonderful if they do.  It would bring us a step closer to our goal of bringing inspiration to every street in the world.  Now there’s a seed to plant!

David Pearl

With thanks to Street Wizards David Micklem and Scott Morrison for facilitating.     

 

 

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Sofia’s sophists and the virtue in a Vespa

In September, innovation consultant, writer and speaker Georgi Kamov led a Street Wisdom event as part of a conference focused on ‘How to achieve quality of life in Sofia.’ It was organised by the Wellbeing Sofia project run by the Bagra Foundation in the framework of the Europe Program of the Sofia Municipality. 

Sofia was an interesting venue for holding a Street Wisdom event, given that the name of Bulgaria’s capital comes from the word “Sophia”, meaning “wisdom” in Greek.

The forecast for the day predicted rain and clouds – and it was indeed so for the first half of the day. Right before the event started, the skies cleared up and we had a lovely, sunny autumn afternoon. The group was comprised of 13 people with diverse backgrounds – City Council members, university professors, NGO activists, entrepreneurs, students. All of them went enthusiastically through the process, starting with a bit of skepticism. It quickly wore off after the first preliminary walks, when participants shared that time went really fast and they started tuning to the rhythm of the city.

Some of the observations of the city environment included “We really don’t realize how noisy it is because of cars and transport”, “We have so many hidden gems that we simply don’t take notice of – old house gates, trees, street signs”, “The streets are in fact divided in two – the lower half is on street and eye level and is full of life, the upper half is totally overlooked and barely noticed by us”.

Some of the stories were connected to questions such as “Should I end a long-standing professional relationship?”, “How can I create solutions for improving the city environment for children?”, “How can we create change more effectively”. Some of the participants did not want to share their questions, but instead shared insights on how Street Wisdom got them to think differently about them.

One participant mentioned that she did not find an exact answer to her question, but met an acquaintance on the street that she hasn’t seen for quite a while and was connected to the issue at hand. Another participant shared that she asked herself a challenging question connected to her professional future and did not find an answer – instead, she came to the conclusion that overthinking the question is not really beneficial and she should live for the moment, enjoy what’s happening right now and stop worrying.

A third participant saw that the communication between parents and children on the streets is limited to trivial matters (“Are you feeling cold?”, “Button up your shirt!”, “Watch out for passing cars!”) – instead, she felt parents should use their commuting time to create shared moments together and discuss the world around them.

A fourth participant (myself) had a really exciting experience. 50 metres from our meeting point found a red Vespa – coincidentally, we had used a photo with a red Vespa taken in Sofia for our “Wellbeing Sofia” quality of life conference. The Street Wisdom event was part of it. I have been seeing red Vespas on the streets of Sofia for a couple of weeks now.

My question was “How can we create change in our cities in a more effective way?” During my walk I decided to talk to a stranger – a saleswoman in a small, independent gift shop. I approached her and asked her to comment on my question, to which she replied: “I can’t really tell you anything, I just woke up” (it was 4 in the afternoon). This was my first insight – some people are just waking up to the idea of city change not driven from above, from city administrators and councillors. The next insight was a old sign on a building with letters made of metal. Usually you can guess what’s written by the remaining letters, but in this case I could not really tell. Second insight – if we help people fill in the missing blanks they might make better sense of the big picture. And the third insight came from the red Vespa – keep going, you are on the right track, follow the white rabbit :-)

Georgi Kamov www.about.me/gkamov

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Hunger for curiosity and support for refugees in Hannover

Martina Amberg recently held a Street Wisdom event to draw attention to a refugee education project in Hannover, Germany. Held at the Katholische Familienbildungsstätte (Catholic Family Education Centre or Fabi ), the project is called ‘Wortfinder‘ and helps refugee children to learn German so they can begin a new life in their adopted country….

“It was the very first Street Wisdom event here in Hannover. As I held it, I was really thrilled in advance. Would people come? Would they like it? There were 14 guests, all of them enthusiastic to discover new things in the well known streets and places. And they really did – already while we were tuning up our senses. Some of them liked so much moving really very slowly that we needed more time to go on. It was such a pleasure to see that. Then we started the quest phase, wandering around in an ancient part of Hannover.

I had my own question with me while I was walking around: ‘How can I have a bit more spice in my daily life?’ I found a narrow and romantic path between the old houses and decided to follow it. But I discovered that it ended up as a dead end – firmly locked by an iron gate and several waste bins beside. ‘How disappointing’, I thought and turned back to the beginning, feeling a bit frustrated. And just there I saw it: a large plaque in front of a restaurant. Somebody had written on it “Neugier macht Appetit” (I would translate it as “Curiosity creates appetite”). The moment I read it, I recognised that this was a really wonderful answer to my question.

With a big smile I went on to reach our second meeting point. There, I could enjoy being curious and listen to the stories the others had found. All of them shared so many experiences although most of them hadn´t known each other before. It was just amazing – like discovering an unexpected treasure. At last, the leader of the center presented some information about the refugee project. My impression was that my guests were much more opened-minded to learn about that project than they would have been without their Street Wisdom experience. I´m really looking forward to the next SW event here in Hannover or anywhere else.”

Martina Amberg

Other comments from Street Wisdom Hannover:

“Normally, I find it so annoying to be in the city – today I really recognized that all theses “obstacles” are human beings too….”

“When I was wandering around with my – really personal – question, I discovered lots of impressions, like the parts of a jigsaw puzzle and now I take them with me to find out how they fit together”

“Normally I´m going the straightest way from A to B – but after I started to slow down, I noticed so many new things around me. Of course I know they have been there for a long time – but I just have seen them for the first time. That encourages me to have more very slow walks in my daily life”

“I came here to learn how I could find more contentedness in my life – and here I got the idea that I don´t have to change my life but maybe only the  way of looking at my daily life”

“In my daily life I often feel annoyed and angry about really small matters. When I was wandering around I heard so many people complaining about this and that – just as I often use to do and I realised how unnecessary this is. I hope I will manage better to stop complaining about such nothings”

 

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Brisbane breakthroughs – Street Wisdom Australia

A couple of weeks ago, we held our first ever Street Wisdom event in Australia. A small group gathered in the centre of Brisbane on a Sunday afternoon to seek answers and inspiration on the sunny springtime streets. This is Caitlin’s story, one of our intrepid first-time participants, who had a revelation about a question she’d been pondering for some time….

‘I went to Street Wisdom with a thousand questions but I suppose it all came down to one very vague question – what is important to me? At 21-years-old, I have excelled through high school and university, and managed to gain full time employment in the entertainment industry just before my 21st birthday. I have always been an over-achiever, but recently I have been questioning what is really important to me – a good job, full time employment, and working really hard, or abandoning my way of living to travel the world and do what really makes me happy, worrying about the money later.

After the first couple of exercises, we realised a few of us were questioning similar things. I found discussing my question with the other participants really useful, as I had so many, and perhaps if they were addressing one of my many, I could focus away from that for myself, and listen to what they found and apply it to myself if it was relevant! With the help of my Street Wisdom guide, we narrowed my question down to: ‘Show me what to focus on’.

As our quest began, I headed for a public bathroom and thought I’d start my walk after that, but sure enough, as I began to wander, I immediately saw a sign that said ‘Travelling the World’. I took a picture of it, but thought the significance was not so grand when I realised there were many similar signs, some saying ‘Dance the Night Away’, ‘Parisian’ and one even saying ‘At Work’. I continued on to the bathroom but suddenly, it was like a lightbulb moment when reflecting on the significance of those signs: ‘Travel The World…..At Work.’

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t had the realisation before! Most of my work is done on the Internet – I don’t even have an office most of the time! I couldn’t believe that when I had the freedom to work absolutely anywhere, I was choosing to work at home when I could also be travelling – fulfilling both of my desires.

My opinion of Street Wisdom is that if you look for something hard enough, you will see it. I think if you dedicate three hours solely to thinking about a question you have, you will probably work it out. The trouble is, in our fast-paced society most people don’t give themselves the opportunity and our attention spans are becoming so short that it is nearly downright impossible for us to do that!

Street Wisdom provides a platform that gives us a few different things to focus on, while all the while pondering that question in the background. The other thing that Street Wisdom is great for, and what I think I benefitted from so much, is seeing what your SUBCONSCIOUS mind wants you to see. I had probably already figured out that I should be travelling while working – because I can! – a long while ago, but not in my conscious mind, only in my subconscious. Taking part in Street Wisdom allowed my subconscious mind to make me see very obvious signs about this, and point me in my heart’s direction!

I’m very happy that I spent three hours of my Sunday doing Street Wisdom. Not only did I have a major breakthrough and lightbulb moment, but I also met some great, creative, friendly people, and got some exercise! You really can’t lose! :)

Caitlin Hultgren

Are you looking for a breakthrough too? More events are taking place in Australia soon. If you’d like to run an event there, or anywhere, get in touch – we send you all the information you need to make it happen.  [email protected]

 

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Wise wanders in the west-country

 

My quest was to find an answer to “How can I remind myself to hold my centre and stay in my true nature at times when I notice myself being pulled into gossip and judgement?”.

On the quest, as I wandered along I noticed a long straight metal groove, a bit like a tram line in the pavement, going through the shopping area. Ignoring the fact that I must have looked like a complete nutter I walked along this line as if balancing on a tightrope and I noticed how I faltered when I heard a dog barking loudly on one side and, a bit later, a child screaming on the other- which related to me about how easy it can be to get distracted and pulled off balance and for things to hook my attention.

As I walked on I noticed a street sign that said “support love or support hate” and after that I was seeing love hearts everywhere!

Then I drifted into an Art Gallery and noticed a series of paintings of birds called Beautiful Birds. There were about six in all and each had the same title with a different number and I thought then how sometimes when we are surrounded by “Beautiful Birds” we want to fit in, so we act like a “Beautiful Bird” to be one of them, (yes my mind works in mysterious ways!).

I noticed a few other things that slip my mind now, but my quest culminated in coming across the painted horse, here in this photograph, painted with the words “Where is my mind” and this seemed like the perfect answer to my question- to use this phrase to check in with myself at regular times during the day.

And it has worked- I have used it regularly since and each time it has brought me back to my centre and away from something negative hooking my attention!

Alison Sutton

(note: Alison runs Street Wisdom walks in Bath and Glastonbury. Check our upcoming events page for more details.)

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Sunny Wanderings, Wisdom and Wizards in the beating heart of London

Blessed by gorgeous weather, 30 seekers of wisdom met on a luminous Sunday afternoon just around the corner from one of London’s most famous byways: Carnaby Street.

Street Wisdom co-founder David Pearl and Street Wizard alumni Scott Morrison gathered us all together on the ancient cobblestones and gave us a taste of the experience that would unfold over the next three hours. Expect the unexpected, look for teachers as well as answers, use the streets as an invisible university.

Perhaps we picked up on the neighbourhood’s reputation for new ideas, open-minded entrepreneurs and leaping into the unknown (in bell-bottomed trousers) but as the group of soon-to-be Street Wizards set off on their wanderings, the air was full of expectation. And a couple of hours later, we were not disappointed – new light had been shed on all sorts of difficult questions, inspiration had been sought and found, and the world was viewed in a new and stimulating way. If you were there, thank you for coming, and please leave your own stories of adventure in the comments below. We’d love to hear them.

Massive thanks also to our other volunteer facilitators: Mark Brown, David Micklem, Ines Alonso and Jo Pearl. And to Stephen Cotterell for the photos.

See you next time….

Street Wisdom London July 2015 © stephen cotterell photography 13118  Street Wisdom London July 2015 © stephen cotterell photography 13115  Street Wisdom London July 2015 © stephen cotterell photography 13117

 

The Wisdom of Reading

I just held a wonderful first Street Wisdom walk in Reading. I was privileged to share the experience with people who were open to trying something new and open to what the streets told them.

What I saw and heard made me smile, laugh, question myself and think differently about who I might be, how I might be. Two young girls sang in astonishingly pure, rich voices: “raise your hopeful voice”. A coffee shop gave me advice about dealing with life’s blows: Frappes: “cool down, perk up”; and the life lesson “take what you need”.

I saw a bicycle made from old pipework; completely misshapen, original and a working machine. I noticed a stand with three hooks….it was the absence of a lifebelt.

A tramp said, “look after yourself”. A girl, said “hate pigeons.”  I think that just meant she hated pigeons. The streets are full of answers…and other stuff!

Louise Ordish

First of all I would like to say a big thank you to Louise Ordish for organising and facilitating the Street Wisdom walk.

The preparation and tuning in process worked really well for me. The practical consequence of this was that all of my senses were engaged during the Street Wisdom walk. This meant that when the more subtle sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings came my way from the streets of Reading I was paying attention. The recurring themes were about reducing resistance (letting go), opening up to opportunities staring me in the face and acting upon them!

Moments after realising all of the above a bus immediately came into view with the message “Get ready to take on the world”!

Stephen Cotterell

 

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