The urban wanderer, Baudelaire’s flaneur, observes the world without judgement. Experiencing life through the fives senses. Part of the world, yet detached.
Isn’t that what we’re trying to achieve through mindfulness and meditation? A sense of being in the present?
I read a re-posted article from The Paris Review a few month’s back about the flaneur. Interesting article, and that’s when I realized flanerie, or aimless idle behavior as Wikipedia calls it, is a form of mindfulness.
It reminded of me of one of my trips to Paris.
I had just arrived and wanted to take a stroll after a long flight. Fresh air would do me good. So I began walking with no specific destination in mind.
I rambled for hours, aimlessly.
Listening to couples having conversations along the streets of open patios.
Watching the man in the park leaned against a tree feeding the birds.
A couple kissing beneath the bridge.
A mother leans over to give her child a snack. The garden’s flowers in full bloom.
I’m not thinking of me.
Nor the mother or the child.
Or the man in the park.
I’m not thinking at all.
I walked most of the city that afternoon. Lost. But present. Immensely present.
I interacted with no one, yet experienced everything.
Getting lost is the best way to see Paris, by the way. I highly recommend it.
But back to the matter at hand. Wandering mindlessly. It’s a good thing. We don’t do it enough. It quiets the mind and gives you a little exercise to boot. Work in some deep breathing. It’s all good.
Lesson 1: Wandering mindlessly … do it. It’s good for the soul.
And you don’t have to wander. You can sit. It’s very Parisian – people watching. Or bird watching. Or dust watching as I did as a child.
Dust watching, you say? Yes, it’s a very technical term, indeed.
When I was a kid, we had a room in the front of the house that we didn’t use very much. Or the rest of the family didn’t. I spent many hours there as the scribblings still etched into hidden corners of the wall will attest.
Sometimes I was a strange kid. I’ll admit.
Anyway, the sun would shine through a window at one end of the room. Our house was kind of dusty. Not from a lack of cleaning – it was just in the air.
At certain times there were these amazing beams of light that came through that window. I would lie in the floor underneath the curtains and watch the dust fall through the beams of light. Just drifting. Silently.
I know. Still a weird kid. I own it.
But I love that memory. It brings me feelings of happiness and peacefulness. And you find inner peace where you can, right? Even if its dust falling through sunbeams.
Lesson 2: Inner peace can be found anywhere. Don’t wait to go to the yoga studio.
You know what else happens when you stroll aimlessly? It clears your mind for other things. Yep, that means it can boost your creativity.
There is a book that I may reference often here. I enjoyed it because the theory behind it is so different from the life most of us live today. That book is How to Be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto.
That was one of the first times I had read about how idleness and loafing are good for creativity. Well, maybe not the first, but the one that stuck with me.
I was seeking something to tell me that, I think. I like being lazy. I needed validation that it was OK. That book did it.
But in that book it discusses how idle time allows you to get the creative juices flowing – it opens up the mind for freer thinking. And we’ve all read the stories of genius, novelists and entrepreneurs making daily walks part of their lives.
Lesson 3: Strolling for creativity – the wandering mind expands.
Study after study, article after article, the facts support this. Here are just a few for further reading:
- Stanford study finds walking improves creativity
- Want to Be More Creative? Take a Walk
- Allowing the Mind to Wander Aids Creativity
So, I say get out. Do some wandering. Put on your walking shoes and leave the thinking hat (and the phone) by the door. It will do wonders for your mind and soul. Just saying.