Learning Wisdom From The Street

I came across Street Wisdom a few years ago.

We read about it online and decided to have a go. This was in a church context one Sunday morning in the school holidays, when we tended to try something different each week.

Ever since then, I’ve been meaning to find out more about it, hopefully experience it again, and maybe gather a group to try it.

So a few weeks ago, I went on the Street Wisdom website and signed up to hear about forthcoming events. Then, a couple of weeks later, I had an email about two events. An in person event that was unfortunately too far away to consider, and an online event.

So I signed up for the online event on Zoom. There was just one other participant, and the facilitator, (who decided to take part as well as leading). I’ll describe what happened in a bit, but first, it may be helpful to give you an idea of what a Street Wisdom event is.

I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but basically the Street Wisdom website describes it as “an everyday creative practice you use as you walk. A smart fusion of mindfulness, neuroscience and wellness, it unlocks our minds and unblocks our creativity with every step.”

So how does it work ?

Gather a group together – online or in person. In 3 approximately one hour sessions the group will
Prepare – Get tuned in
Experience – Walk the streets with a question in mind
Reflect – Come back and share the experience.

Stage 1: Prepare – Get tuned in
After some introduction, the group spend the first chunk of time tuning in. There are three questions to help us do this. Participants are invited to do the first short walk (about 10 minutes), and then come back and share.

First question: What am I drawn to ? What am I noticing ?

Second question: Slow down. Walk more slowly; be more aware of your breathing etc.

Third question: Find/Look for the Beauty in everything.. Once more, come back to the gathering point and take time to share if people want to.

Then think about a question that you want to ask the street.
It could be a big question – like considering a job change or a house move – something that isn’t resolved.
Or it could be something like ‘How can I make more time for relaxation ?’

Stage 2: Experience – Walk the streets with a question in mind
Then you have around 45 minutes to take a walk and ask your question, and see what answers or guidance you find as you walk the street.

Stage 3: Reflect – Come back and share the experience.
The final part gives the group an opportunity to share, if they wish to, anything that they have learned … about themselves maybe, or the situation/question they had in their mind.

So at this point I’ll share how it worked for me.

Tuning in
I had been drawn to the colour of summer flowers in the front gardens of the street where I live, and then the shape of the leaves. I looked at the solid edges of the brick walls and the hard tarmac of the street.

I slowed down … and tried concentrating on my breathing.

I went out of the back door and looked at the patch of grass in our back garden. It was covered in weeds and clover. I tried to see something beautiful but struggled. I really want a nice green lawn! I focused on what this brown, weed infested patch might become in time.

Walking the street
Before I went out for the walk, the facilitator asked us if we had a question ready. I was unsure. Maybe a question about community ?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the strength or otherwise of communities, and noting some of the things that have happened during the pandemic that have had an effect on the strength of community.
Forced isolation has made things harder for many which has sometimes resulted in finding ways to overcome this. For example, experimenting with things like Whatsapp groups to keep in touch and support the more vulnerable.

I had the beginnings of a question – ‘What could I do to strengthen community where I live ?’ He suggested I start with ‘what one thing …’ to give some focus to my question.

I refined the question to ask ‘What one thing could I do to help me work out how to connect more with my community ?’

So – off I went with this question. As I walked, I bumped into a couple of neighbours and chatted. We had spoken a bit at our recent street party. They live about 100 yards down on the other side of our street.
I walked on, and pondered my question.

As I walked, I realised that my encounter with my neighbours had helped me with my question. The street had spoken to me! What comes before connecting ? Listening. I need to focus on listening and understanding.

So, I didn’t get an answer to the question, but I did refine the question, reframing it a stage back from the original question.
’What one thing could I do to help me find a way to listen to and understand my community better ?’

Sharing the experience.
So after the walk, we reconvened on Zoom and shared what we had learned. I offered my insight about listening to my community, which another person found helpful in relation to their own question. We talked for a while, encouraging one another to continue the journey of seeking answers to our questions.

Since then
As I think back to the experience of Street Wisdom, part of the answer to my question is simply to be out and about more. I have a spiritual practice of starting each day with some prayer. I have typically done this at home inside or in the garden. I started experimenting with doing my prayer on a walk.

For three weeks I’ve been doing this, combining some listening to a daily podcast – Lectio 365 – with walking quietly and meditating on what I have listened to, and becoming more aware of what’s around me.

It’s a work in progress, like everything – I hope to write more about how this way of praying develops, as well as saying more about community.

Grace and peace.

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