The other day when I was at the book store I stumbled over “The Wander Society”. I read the cover and was immediately drawn to it. “By purchasing this book you are electing to join a secret underground movement.”
The author Keri Smith finds cryptic writing in the margin of a used copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, leading her to an anonymous group that uses wandering and exploring as methods to reconnect with nature, with themselves and the world at large. I was a little bummed to learn that the Society itself isn’t real — at least, it wasn’t until Smith invented it for the book it seems — but that doesn’t diminish its message, or its potential to become a movement.
When we repeat the same activities day in and day out, we limit our ability to have new experiences. Over time our body, senses, and brain start to atrophy. Our world becomes smaller and smaller until we are living in a tiny little box. Deep satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment, new experiences, tangibility, a direct experience of life, connection – these are the things our soul is really seeking. We cannot experience these things by staying in the same little box. We need to push ourselves into new ways of seeing and thinking. Keri Smith says that the wanderer is open to the unknown, to the unexpected, to randomness.
That sounds nice and all but what is in it for me you might think. Well Keri says things that may happen during peak experience are:
- Complete focus and attention.
- Calm, joy, and an absence of fear.
- Feeling of being connected to something greater than yourself, of being connected to your surroundings.
- Flashes of insight: ideas and solutions flow in alteration of time.
- Feelings of deep gratitude for the experience you are having.
For this kind of experience, it is helpful that the wanderer continues wandering for an extended period of time alone in a natural setting, usually a minimum of one hour, but preferably longer than this.
A regular wander practice can be as simple as going out every day and letting the mind wander. But there are times when you might wish to use wandering as a way to foster creative play. How about you try to:
- Sit somewhere during your wander and you write down everything you remember. Or you can document as you go.
- Slow down your pace and feel your feet touching the ground. Look at the ground. How much more do you see at this pace? There is no need to speed up. Everything you need is right here.
- Create a video based on movement, your feet, cracks, street signs, found shapes or secret locations.
- Spend you wandering session tracking one specific colour. Take photos, print them and put them in your journal.
- Record found sounds. Create your own sound library.
- Sit in place for a while and draw whatever comes to mind. I mean what if the earth retained memories of everything that occurred in specific places. It would be possible to sit in a place and sense those memories.
- Create a time log. Document where you are every ten minutes in your wandering. You can also create a map.
- Document the wind.
- Focus on the quality of light and document if you feel moved to do so.
- Walk the same route on purpose and notice different things every time.
This list is endless so feel free to add your own ideas. Turn off your phone, leave your headphones at home and just go wander. Just you. Feel. Listen. See. Look at the ordinary – the things you take for granted, as you fly through your to-do list and other obligations — in a whole new light.
As The Wander Society says, Solvitur Ambulando! (It is solved by walking!)