Do you notice the wisdom around you?
How much do you actively look for signs and signals in your environment to help you get resolution on issues you’re pondering or challenges you’re facing? Photography is a way I love being mindful – looking for and noticing what is interesting or beautiful around me.
Last week at the L&D Unconference I went to, we were treated to an adapted version of a concept called Street Wisdom, which is about getting people out and into their local environments to help extract the wisdom around them for problem-solving and inspiration.
Our group of about 10 from the unconference ventured out into the somewhat drizzly London afternoon, taking with us a question that was important to us, and to which we hoped we get some answers to from our 40 minutes or so outside.
The first “challenge” – hardly a challenge, I was already having so much fun! – was to walk toward something that we were drawn to. I headed into Russell Square and found myself at the base of a huge tree. We had 10 minutes then to spend there at the object, and I contemplated the meaning here for me. The tree was grounded, but soaring; rough and imperfect, but smooth and regular; nurturing and protective; wise but vulnerable; regal and gnarled; changing and constant; branched and complex, yet simple. Somehow all of this reminded me of my own tussles with working out how I can embrace all the aspects of myself – the rough with the smooth. It was also such a calm ten minutes or so, quietly reflecting and taking in all this information provided.
The next challenge, after we reconvened and shared what we’d all experienced, was to walk toward another thing we were drawn to, but this time to do it much more slowly. A challenge for many in today’s world – the idea of slowing down. This time I headed toward the bright and warming lights of the café. And then I reminded myself that I didn’t actually have to get there – that if, in the 8 minutes we had, I didn’t actually get to the destination, that was ok. It was amazing what then opened up for me, as I started to notice much more fully the environment around me, that I might have originally considered as only being “on the path” to the destination. I ended up observing a woman feeding walnuts to a squirrel, and eventually chatted to her about nature, freedom, her love of coming out to this park to feed the squirrels. It felt random, but it felt rewarding and more in line with my values to create connection with someone else, as opposed to simply rushing off in pursuit of a shiny destination. I’m sure had I gotten to the café, I might have been able to appreciate and experience something else once there, but wasn’t it a joy to simply go slowly, and take in the serenity without the rush?
Next up was to observe patterns in the environment. I focused on the movement of people, the zigzags and diagonals of direction as people traversed the park, at different speeds and with different intentions. Some were walking as groups, as couples; there were some individual joggers, and people just sitting. It was energy in motion and interesting to observe. Others from our group, when we came back together, had observed much more different patterns – of windows in the nearby buildings, shapes in the bark of the trees, and in patterns in the sky. Intriguing to consider the different interpretations of the same request.
Finally, we had to go out and observe the beauty in everything, which was great to notice when I was initially judging something based on appearance, and where indeed there was beauty from a closer examination. Pulling on colour, juxtaposition, and point of view, I enjoyed seeing what beauty emerged from a traffic cone, the inside of a bin, a strewn bottle cap, a dead leaf.
It was positively wonderful being outside, to take the time to consider, be thoughtful, walk slowly, and notice. It gave me some great answers to the question I had taken out with me at the start, and 110% was an incredible learning experience.
So next time you’re stuck, or unsure of what to do over a challenge or question, get outside. Look around. The answers are all around you – you just need to be willing to look for and see them.