I was reading last week about people’s perspectives and it said that in some cases our perspectives can be really narrow. As a result, sometimes it is easy for other people to influence what we think and do as we are stuck in our narrow thought and forget the bigger picture. One of the examples included in the article was – people are so stuck in their thoughts that they sometimes don’t even look above the ground when they are walking. I found this observation interesting and just like everything else I read, probably stored this somewhere at the back of my mind.
As the first signs of spring started to show last week, I decided to put in some effort to being healthy and soaking up the limited amount of warm weather that we get in London. So I decided to walk part of the way back from work – I had tried this last year and it helped me get rid of some of the calories that I stock up when I eat without thinking. I fixed my daily target at around 5 kms per day which seemed achievable.
In preparation for this, I filled my ipod with the latest songs, packed some extra fruit to nibble while walking, bought new walking shoes, etc. As you can tell, it was like my mini mission to achieve. So off I went on Monday with the help of a print out from google maps to keep me on the right path. I started off quite well and resisted the urge to hop on a bus on the way. I was quite pleased with myself when I got home and felt a sense of achievement. Tuesday was the same, though I didn’t need google maps anymore.
By Wednesday this was part of routine and I didn’t have to think too much about the effort it would take me to walk vs. taking public transport. I called a friend and chatted part of the way and then was lost in my thoughts for a while. It is actually quite therapeutic having time for myself. I didn’t really listen to my ipod as my thoughts kept me busy. I was almost home and something stumbled out of the deposit box in my mind. Yes, it was that thought about people staring at the ground as they walk…
Guess what I had been doing during most of my walk lost in my thoughts – I was looking at the ground!! Oops!! I looked up instantly as I realised this. It was really refreshing when I consciously looked up and tried to notice what all was around me. There was a little chill in the air and I could sense it hitting my eyes as I looked up – how long had I been staring at the ground? I looked around and nobody was staring at me but then I noticed that most of them were staring at the ground as well.
On Thursday I decided to make an effort to look around me as I walked. I walk along the river for the first part of my journey so I was looking at the water flow by, people clicking photos, some just enjoying the view – this all made me smile. I was doing fine so far but then the thoughts took over – at some point I switched off from what was going on around me and went back to my world. It took me a while to realise that I was looking at the ground and I had to correct myself several times. I am not sure how long I avoided staring at the ground but am aware that there were spells when this happened.
Something needed to change …
I thought back to my walk and then remembered the people walking by the river having a good time, taking photos. Photos! Yes, that’s what I can do! I charged my camera and decided to act like a tourist during Friday’s walk. How long had it been since I saw London through the eyes of a tourist? My walk by the river is one of the ‘must do’ things for any tourist and I had been so absent minded walking past for last few days. So Friday will be different!
Needless to say, the walk on Friday was much more enjoyable – I clicked all the pictures you see on this post on Friday and Saturday during my walks ‘as a tourist’. I made it a point to look around, to see the city as if I was seeing it for the first time. There were so many things I saw that I had forgotten existed – changing colour of lights on the bridges as I walked past, the smell of candied peanuts as the vendor freshly prepared them, the flow of the river, the trail of cars passing by on Tower Bridge, Tower of London – all so beautiful!
Yet, I had been passing by all these sights that people spend so much money to travel to London to see. When does great become ordinary in life? That’s what I seemed to have done with these sights around me. Correction – great was still great, I had just stopped looking at it. I had made it ordinary by not paying attention to it.
I have been thinking about this over the weekend and expanded the thought to my life. How many times have I let life pass by me as I was too busy staring at the ground or just getting things done and maybe missed something important? How many times did I not say things that I was meant to say as I was too busy? How many times did I forget my sorrys and thank yous because I had moved on to other things that needed to get done?
Do we sometimes need to stand back and lift our eyes to the reality that is around us? Do we just let life pass by? If we were to live like a tourist in our life for a day, would we consider the same things to be important as the ones we currently think important? Are we just walking past some people because they are always there? Are we taking some relationships too lightly just because they are established and just there?
I don’t have the answers to these questions. I don’t know how different life will look if I was to see it as a tourist, if I was to see it as an outsider, look at it from a different perspective. What I do know is that my city looked very beautiful when I actually stopped to look at it. There were various sights that I had taken for granted but were worth stopping for and taking a picture. I have those memories now captured in my camera and some of them have found their way to this post. What I can also tell you is that the walk when I consciously tried to be aware of the city and life around me was the most pleasurable walk of last week. It will obviously take some practice before I get into the habit of walking around and be fully aware of what is going on around me. I will continue to do this and more importantly take out some time for myself to look at my life and become aware of all the important things and people that I may not be paying full attention to at the moment.
I just remembered that all the meditation, relaxation, etc classes that I have been to generally start with “close your eyes, take a deep breath …” before you get transported to a world of relaxation and calm. Having experienced the last few days of awareness, I think from time to time we probably need a bit of
“Open your eyes, look around …”
This may be my new mantra – at least during my walks.
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Below is a poetic account of how I felt about this experience:
That day I saw something different, in the city that I reside
A new strategy to take me out of my sphere I had to decide
So a tourist I was, trying to soak the atmosphere all
I saw that building hovering over us – so tall!
The diversity, people walking by,
That couple holding hands – oh so shy!
Road side artists, that drum player
One tune after another, who’s watching – he doesn’t care.
Then there are those rushing past, with trains to catch
This is a city none other can match.
Some so busy – alone yet somehow seem alike, together
And oh how can I forget the weather?
The river with its bridges and turns,
The vendor preparing candied peanuts,
There was really a lot that I didn’t see
Until I looked with the eyes of a tourist in my city