At the centre of Street Wisdom lies the idea that every moment is extraordinary and every street is full of inspiration – that there’s no such thing as an ordinary street, just ordinary thinking.
A morning of inspiration? Yes please. I signed up straightaway.
January 13 arrived and I headed to the designated city center meeting point on a drizzly wet Saturday morning. The weather hadn’t deterred anyone in our group of 12. A few drops of rain weren’t going to overrule a morning of revelation and insights!
While waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, our facilitator Kathryn asked us to take a walk around the block with someone in the group we didn’t know and discuss two questions: 1) our favourite street in the world (2) where we get our breakthroughs
Nice way to warm up feet and minds.
We started with a 10 minute task – wander off and “be drawn to what attracts you”. Off I drifted, letting my steps be guided by whatever caught my eye. No agenda, no rush, no pre-determined destination. So many little visual surprises discovered inside and outside buildings by simply observing: an angel hanging off the side of a church, fluffy puppies hanging out of picture frames, a chubby chef standing over a second storey ventilator, decorative arrangements of ropes and lightbulbs, plants in windows, plants in boxes, lamppost stickers, quirky ornaments everywhere. It's given me a new found appreciation for the creative effort retailers make to attract and surprise passers-by.
The focus of the second 10 minute walk was to…slow...right…down. Walk slower, breathe slower, listen to the sounds of the street, notice smells, be aware of how I feel. Another lovely street wander. In my progressively dreamy state, I enjoyed noticing how many interesting combinations of colour and form reflective surfaces can create.
A few people in the group reported feeling a little self-conscious about walking so slowly. For an impatient speed-walker, I felt surprisingly comfortable slowing to a snail’s pace. Almost a luxury.
Our third 10 minute task was to observe the patterns and rhythms of the streets. So much symmetry to be found in walls, paving, signs and shop fronts. According to Street Wisdom "Few of us give ourselves time or permission to really focus on the signs and signals that we normally ignore, rich stimulus that can help us learn something new.” Here’s a collection of things I noted:
The final 10 minute walk required us to “find the beauty in everything”. While passing a grey building site with bags of cement, cones and wire fencing, a pair of worn out runners, a chewing gum filled pavement or a grey wet sky, I sought out beauty in the shapes, patterns, composition, colour. I also discovered a grace in wear and tear – something continually serving a purpose over time until it finally loses its purpose. Other sights were easier to appreciate: the golden warm glow of a pub interior, the artwork that filled upper floor windows, shop fronts with flower arrangements that match their brand colours, quirky statues in unexpected places. So many little visual details that I miss in my daily rush to get somewhere.
The favourite surprise was turning a corner to see a floating canopy of colourful umbrellas spanning the street like a rainbow.
For the 2nd hour, we embarked on a longer 45 minute quest requiring us to ask ourselves a question (it could be personal or professional) and see what answers the streets provided – there might be words on posters, signs, a snippet of overheard conversation, visual cues that trigger a thought or an association or a memory that may help provide insights.
The focus of this walk was up to us. I didn’t have a question in my head before I started, which proved challenging. What did I want an answer to? After a few minutes of walking, I had stopped observing my surroundings while trying to figure out my question. Kathryn had advised us not to force our thoughts. So I kept reminding myself to pay attention to my surroundings.
I started thinking about what fulfils me and how to incorporate aspects of that into my working day. Each time I shifted my focus from reflecting to observing, a new thought or idea would pop into my head. The power of being present.
We all reconvened at the Oolong Flower Power Café to share observations and learnings. Settling into comfy seats with hot drinks and the aroma of fragrant tea filling the air, it was interesting to hear each member of the group describe their experience. All so unique and personal because of the question you ask yourself, the things you’re drawn to, and the connections you make.
I left feeling energised and inspired. Dublin city is such an incredibly interesting space and so is a stimulated mind. Bringing the two together generates a very rewarding and meaningful experience. Kathryn is planning to facilitate another one on 24th Feb. I’d highly recommend it: https://www.streetwisdom.org/event/street-wisdom-dublin-ireland-2/