Practice walking beautifully
The Beauty Walk is a practice for you no matter where you are in relation to untrammeled wilderness. It is designed to help you make the familiar strange and in so doing get a hearty dose of wilderness renewal whether on city sidewalks, on a forest trail, a mountain trek, or a stroll by the surf.
This practice of the Beauty Walk came to Renewal in the Wilderness from a member of our Board of Directors, Sharon Welch, who has used this practice with her students. Sharon shaped the following with inspiration from Animal, Vegetable, & Mineral: The Sacred Connection, an article by Carol Lee Sanchez.
Making the familiar strange
First, think of an outdoor site in your community to explore. Many of us find ourselves observing the world around us through the windshield of our cars. In order to get a real sense of your environment you’ll have to resist the temptation to do a drive-by analysis. Instead, think of a place where you can explore the terrain and its community carefully, slowly. Set aside a good chunk of time - two hours if possible - for exploring your site. It might be a block, a district, a several block radius, or a park.
Your choice should be practical for you. Perhaps you can sit down with a local map and draw out a pattern of a square, or triangle, or something else. Does the site take on different qualities at different times of the day? If so, walk the area during those times, being careful to observe similarities and differences.
If issues of personal safety are present, take a pal along with you on your walk, being careful not to get so involved in your friendship that you fail to notice the subtleties of the surroundings.
If you have not already done so, do a bit of homework about the history of the area you are exploring. When was it formed? Who were the original residents? What were the demographics then and now? What changes have taken place through the past decades? Jot down what you learn.
Dress for the weather, stay hydrated, put on your comfortable shoes and walk! Engage this as a spiritual exercise, as a walking meditation, or time for reflection and imagination.
How do animals experience the area? What can you learn about the place from the plants? How are minerals present?
Who lives here? How do they work or play? How do inhabitants meet their daily needs? How do they relate to the natural world? Where and how do animals live? How are animals, vegetables and minerals interrelated, if at all?
Take a bag along with you to collect artifacts from your walk – found objects, litter, community flyers, and so forth. If you're in a more natural setting you might consider taking some photos to capture scenes, natural artifacts, and other people you encounter (with your subject’s permission, of course).
When you get back home, spread your artifacts out on a table and notice what they say. What story is being told by the artifacts? How has this Beauty Walk opened your spirit to the spirit of this place and its inhabitants?
We would love to hear about your experience! Share thoughts and tag us in photos from your Beauty Walk on Facebook and Instagram.