Not all who wander are lost, as J.R.R. Tolkien tells us.
I am definitely a wanderer. My spirit is too restless to sit still. There is too much to see and do in this world, and I want to experience what I can before I depart this physical plane of existence.
As a spiritual practice, wandering can lead to many discoveries, externally and internally. It is a sensory experience designed to propel you into, through, and beyond the physical realm and into an organic, spiritual one. It is an act of discovery and exploration. It reinvigorates the senses, the spirit, the soul, and sanity.
Wandering is an art form like no other. But there are things to understand in order to develop your own set of guidelines to help you wander with the sole purpose of discovering things you may have never known.
In wandering, it’s important to know what you like and don’t like. What areas or things are of greatest interest to you? What types of things are associated with the things that you like? For example, I happen to enjoy wandering through old cemeteries, the older the better. Since cemeteries and churches often go hand-in-hand, I may do some initial research online, or simply look on a map since churches and cemeteries are labeled on them. I don’t like high traffic areas, so I avoid cities and malls if I can. However, if I am in a city or an area with which I am not familiar, being the bookworm that I am, I know that many bookstores can be found near universities. Maps don’t necessarily label bookstores, but they do label universities. Perfect for wandering!
Wandering, as a spiritual practice, enhances your awareness of your surroundings. When I wander, I take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of an area. I stop, close my eyes, breathe deep, and listen. I practice mindfulness in that setting. As you wander through the woods, stop to listen to the different calls of birds, feel the gentleness of the breeze, smell the rich scent of pine. If you’re wandering down cobblestone streets of an old village, listen to villagers speaking in their native tongues, smell the aroma of brewing coffee and baked goods permeating the air. Embrace this awareness and you embrace the spirit of the moment.
To perfect the art of wandering, release any fears that you may have. Practice wandering with the mindset of adventure and discovery and with the mindset of connectedness and Presence. Of course, use caution in questionable areas so no harm comes to you.
As you wander, there’s always the element of surprise. Expect the unexpected. There’s something to discover wherever your wander. Appreciate what you discover. Learn from it. As you make discoveries, allow them to lead you on a series of more adventures that will keep you engaged for as long as you are able.
In wandering, there are no dead ends. New avenues open the more we explore. Not only do we explore places outside of us, but we explore places within us. Our awareness allows us to connect with a greater reality as we place ourselves in the act of wandering and in the moment.
In my practice of wandering, I lose myself in the moment, but I know that I am never lost.