It is an interesting approach to solving problems to go for a walk on the beach, perhaps with someone else to discuss the issues with. There is comforting background noise of the waves and perhaps wind, big expansive views so your eye lenses can relax a good bit, and the normal distractions of the office or study can be left behind. There is considerable soothing from walking on sand, whether barefoot or shod, and whether you stay dry or dip your toes in the edge of the waves. There is also a sense of expanded time in that there is no clock on the wall, and you can walk as far down the beach as you feel appropriate, before heading back. In fact, in reversing directions and heading back, you sort of indicate to yourself that you are through stating the problem, and are now ready to consider solutions on the way back, in hopes of having something of an action plan by the time you return. And you can walk as slowly as you like out and back.
But … this is NOT Wandering/Seeing. It is bringing your everyday troubles and issues along with you, and using the natural setting as a better locale for addressing them. Clearly a quite valuable approach to solving these problems, but not at all related to the intent of Wandering/Seeing.
Wandering/Seeing means to wander and to see. It means to fully engage your perceptive consciousness and to disengage your conscious judging and classifying. Issues and problems from your normal life, almost all of which are caused by judging, are to be shed along the way as quickly as possible. Until they are, your consciousness will be pre-occupied, and will not be free to wander wherever there is to go and to see what is there to be seen. In shedding your problems, you also shed a good measure of your self-concern and self-focus, which lead you to intensely and continuously judge, evaluate, and classify. These are largely habits you develop in dealing with the civilized world of work, family, and society – but are only habits, which can be set aside. To fully wander and to clearly see, these MUST be set aside.
A corporate retreat can have one of two emphases. In the first, business as usual is transferred from the office to the natural setting. The same relationships and issues are brought along to be addressed in a more comfortable and congenial setting. Team-building, issues clarification, and envisioning are typical objectives for such retreats.
In the second, all business is left behind and forbidden to intrude. Especially, all posturing, positioning, and other personal work-related habits are to be set aside. In their place, there is wandering and seeing. No scheduled and especially no competitive activities are “made available”. The participants instead have some minimal rules, such as meal times, and a few toys, such as hiking sticks, trail maps, and taxonomic guides. But they are encouraged to get out and about, just to look at things as they go by.
There are several concepts involved here.
· Getting back out into the real world is a matter of getting back to one’s roots, EVERYONE’s roots. From the earth we all sprang, and to the earth we will all return. No matter what facades we might erect in our civilized daily lives, these are the basic facts of life. Getting back to nature, in the REAL world where our food and water and energy and resources come from, is a profound reminder to us about from whence we came. Whether you believe we evolved on the plains of Africa or were created in the Garden of Eden, the natural world is our natural habitat. Compare the artificially landscaped urban habitats evident at the zoo and in neighborhoods – are there any significant differences?
· Getting back into the rhythm of the natural world, where, as diurnal animals, we wake at dawn and sleep at dusk, approximately, is to remind ourselves that there are other rhythms that can be adapted besides those typical of civilized culture. There are internal rhythms and clocks that can be re-set to function according to physiological rather than cultural or career needs. Many of us have forgotten about them, or chosen to ignore them. You get up whenever you wake up, eat whenever you feel hunger, relieve yourself whenever you feel the urge, nap whenever you feel sleepy and for as long as you stay asleep, huddle next to the fire or under wraps when you are cold, retire to shade and breeze whenever you are hot, wander and walk about whenever you feel energized and ready, stop and examine whatever strikes your fancy, and retire whenever you are ready to sleep for the night.
· There are as many sensory inputs available in the natural world as in the civilized world, but they do not scream and demand attention. In the civilized world, our consciousness ceaselessly struggles to filter out these inputs, to protect our attention from the hysterical media pressures (“I can’t hear myself think!”). In the natural world, our filtering can and must be set aside so that we can again see what there is to be seen, hear what there is to be heard, smell what there is to be smelled, touch what there is to be touched.
· In wandering and seeing, you wander according to what you find in front of you. There are no conceptual destinations laid out on maps for you to follow blindly, largely relegating the route to mere milestones and landmarks. What you find in front of you IS the destination.
· In wandering and seeing, you see what is in front of you, hear what is around, feel what comes in contact with your skin. There are no artificial realities provided by TV, iPods, and air conditioning.
· In wandering and seeing, you set aside instantaneous mental classification and learn to embrace childlike wonder again. Instead of declaring, “This IS such-and-such”, we pose, “What is this?” Instead of rapidly surveying the setting then acting and accomplishing, we let our eyes linger on what catches our attention, listen for a while to catch intermittent sounds and calls, stoop to pick up and examine, heft and caress with our finger tips, bring to our noses and inhale.
In short, the idea is to return to experiencing the world again, rather than defending ourselves against experiences and barricading ourselves behind artificial experience.