Mindfulness and Flânerie

Just another listless dreamer...

New Yorker marginalia by virtualDavis via Flickr

Linda Hollier’s Mindfulness and The Flâneur examines a topic near and dear to my heart, soul and senses: flânerie.

I’m honored to be mentioned and grateful because she inspired me to update my Metro Flaneur post with a list of my favorite flanerie miscellanea. But ego and overdue “housekeeping” are just the tip of the iceberg.

Ms. Hollier (@lindahollier) is positing an insight that intuitively resonates truth to me, but which I’ve never before heard.

Speed, whether online or offline, is a characteristic of the modern world. The flâneur reminds us to set the pace of our own lives.

Cast as a character in the 21st century drama of life, the flâneur thus begins to play the role of consciousness. (here2here)

Amen. The pace and the scope. Flânerie demands an elasticity of time and space. Freedom to meander, to lose oneself in the other, perhaps even to become the other without fully detaching from self. For a while.

Anthropologist Grant McCracken reflection on Joy Walking comes to mind.

It’s a little like joy riding, except we’re not stealing cars, we’re stealing moments. Joy walking happens when we leave the house or office and start walking. We don’t have a plan. We just go… We step in and out of people’s lives. Couples in love, couples at war…  The tiny courtesies and rudenesses of public life… The key is to get out and about. To get away. To see what you can see. Steal a moment. Make it your own. (PsychologyToday.com)

Ms. Hollier’s suggestion that flânerie and conscioussness may overlap is intriguing, an idea worth passing along to my mother who’s a student of Buddhism and a proponent of mindfulness. Let’s see if I can get her to weigh in. Stay tuned.

Off to meander the digital meadow with the mingling masses…

Update:

Great news. My mother, Melissa Davis, shared her impression. Thanks, mom! Here’s what the wise lady thinks:

Mindfulness, flaneuring and turtles

Reading this after an abbreviated mindful yoga session with Jon K-Z (on tape), I am delighted to chime in. Linda Hollier’s reference to turtles on leashes reminds me of walking with a 2- or 3-year old, a great flaneur opportunity. I recently grandparented my 3-year old granddaughter for a week which required walking her to preschool and back in Georgetown, a fascinating place where equipment and men with shovels were digging up the ancient trolley tracks. Took us forever – which was as good as it gets – even better than a turtle because she had a couple of feet more within her purview AND she asked questions!

Years ago I read a NYTimes op ed that shared the unscientific findings of a city dweller observing adults accompanying small children around a neighborhood in Manhattan. She reported that the majority of them pushed strollers which ensured timely arrivals wherever the adult was headed. She contrasted them with the handful of adults who walked – meandered – alongside their youngsters, stopping to examine every interesting flower or bit of flotsam along the way. She pointed out that there was nothing more important for a child that age to do than poke along – and through – every curiosity.

I think flaneuring is like drawing, something we are born with but that schedules and school steal from us. I agree that mindfulness – being totally present in the moment – goes hand in hand (or leash) with flaneuring. I am not surprised that so many people wonder if they ate, lose their keys, forget names, obsess about how stressed they are given the mindless speed that propels them through their days. A little daily flaneuring would sort them right out! (Melissa Davis)

Amen! Way to go, mom. Just goes to show that my decision to meander the digital meadow with the mingling masses yesterday restored the cosmic balance, inspiring my mother to opine. Perhaps I should meander the soggy non-digital meadow this afternoon?

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7 Comments to “Mindfulness and Flânerie”

  1. Victoria Noe says:

    [Reposted] Ah, George, lovely post. I’m reminded of my late father. When my sister and I were little – and later when our children came along – he would suggest we “get in the car and see where it goes.” In retrospect, he sometimes had least vague ideas of a destination. But it always felt random. Upon arriving back home, after a shoeshine, or a walk in the park, or something else unremarkable, he would explain to my mother that we went “monkey-hunting.” My sister and I would request those trips, although we never, ever saw, much less captured, monkeys. Those are the moments we remember.

    • virtualDavis says:

      Wanderful anecdote, Viki! Might head off on a little “monkey-hunting” expedition of my own shortly. The capturing I’ll attempt is more along the lines of a photo safari than the net and gun variety. I suspect your father would understand. Thanks for sharing the story.

  2. [Reposted] Great to hear that Melissa is also of the opinion that mindfulness goes hand in hand with flaneuring. I especially appreciated her reference to walking with toddlers as being a wonderful opportunity to encourage mindfulness in a child as well as an opportunity to practice it oneself. The need to introduce mindfulness practices into school curricula is becoming more and more apparent. A number of schools are already following this route and are reporting remarkable outcomes. But even before school-going age, parents can foster mindfulness by encouraging the natural curiosity of a child. What more wonderful way to do so than by strolling along together without haste and exploring “finds” along the way. Having recently discovered that we are soon to become grandparents for the first time, her reflections were particularly appropriate and encouraging. Thank you George for inviting your mom to stroll along with us in the digital meadows and digital arcades. Thank you Melissa for chiming in!

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