Street Wisdom is a non-profit programme run all over the UK, aiming to get us back in touch with the world around us. They describe their work as ‘a technology that allows anyone, anywhere to get unusual inspiration from their everyday surroundings’.
After attending the Mindful Living show and seeing David Pearl speak about Street Wisdom, we instantly knew it was something we had to try! Here’s how we got on…
We meet outside the main entrance of the magnificent Manchester Cathedral at 9.30am, Jess from Shores, myself and Gary who is the kind gentleman running the event.
I have a small understanding of what Street Wisdom is about, because I attended a Mindfulness event a few weeks earlier and Street Wisdom founder David Pearl delivered a hilarious and passionate speech about the free enterprise, but I turn up with an open mind and just aim to see what happens.
Gary introduces himself and explains a bit about Street Wisdom before sending us off on our first 8-10 minute ‘wanders’ – the objective is to just walk around and see what you are drawn to. Simple enough, but off I trot, exploring the city I think I know so well. I think I probably over thought this first session but enjoyed exploring nevertheless. I was particularly drawn to a sign that I hadn’t noticed before that is attached to a museum, it read ‘style, passion, art’ – all the values I believe Shores to be about.
The next 10 minute objective is to slow yourself and your breathing right down and try and notice more and more around you. This one was interesting because what it showed me was how fast everybody else was going about their business.
The very next 10 minute ‘wander’ was where it started to get really interesting. The objective was to notice the patterns all around you. I set off and immediately noticed 8 patterned shields on a metal gate, everywhere else I looked was overwhelmingly filled with patterns. Patterns on the floor, in the windows, in the grids, on the walls, on the décor inside restaurants. Patterns were literally everywhere and I had never noticed them before. Then I kept seeing more and more shields of different sizes and suddenly I noticed a framed picture on the outside wall of Chethams Music School that also had a shield on the top. The picture stated that it was the original site of The Manchester Grammar School, the school I had attended as a boy. I had walked past this place hundreds of times and never seen this picture nor known the real history of my own school. Just a few yards further up the owl crest logo which symbolised the school was chiseled into the wall, worn away by time but evident nonetheless. I was suitably humbled and inspired by this very personal historic connection that had been right in front of me all the time.
The final 10 minute wander was to see beauty all around me. I went into a tea shop opposite to order a tea and use their toilet but as the tea needed 4 minutes to brew I was forced to wait. I was conscious and slightly uptight that my 10 minutes were passing by and I hadn’t even ventured outside yet and then I suddenly stopped for a moment and listened as a piece of beautiful classical music began playing in the tea shop, and I looked outside and saw the flowers in the window in front of me, and I realised that I didn’t need to go far to see beauty, it was all around me.
The final walk was to be an hour of free roaming. No specific objective or agenda, just the freedom to wander wherever took my fancy. I really enjoyed this ‘free pass’ to go nowhere and yet everywhere and I ended up visiting museums, galleries, theatres and shops that I usually pass daily but never venture into. I wandered into an incredible exhibition of forgotten Mancunian artist and suffragette Annie Swynnerton. I ambled around Manchester Central Library, an old childhood haunt and I just wandered wherever my feet wanted to go. It was truly wonderful.
On the last stretch back to the original meeting point, the realisation dawned on me that when you slow down enough and have the eyes to see it you can find the patterns and see the beauty in life, but more poignantly I could see that there were patterns inside of me that I hadn’t noticed before. Patterns of behaviour, patterns of thought, patterns of memories, patterns of language. Loads of interesting patterns. I also realised that there was undiscovered beauty within me too, but that if I slowed down and looked for it, it could always be found.
Meeting back up with Gary and Jess we discussed our findings of the last few hours and shared in each other’s synchronicity and grace. Everyone had discovered something new and interesting about both themselves and the streets around them. Gary pointed out that the wisdom is always there waiting to be seen, it wasn’t put there specially today just for us we just don’t stop often enough to look around us and see the world reflecting us back to ourselves. When we do though it is truly amazing.
Check out your nearest Street Wisdom event and sign up for free here.