When I travel to a foreign city, I take mystery walks. I leave the guidebook and map in the hotel room, walk out the door, notice something that draws my attention such as a dome climbing skyward, a curving street lined with shops or a bridge spanning a waterway. I move toward what calls me and let the shapes, colors, textures and sounds flow into my senses. I notice how the design supports the activities of people going about their day. I scan the walls and roof eaves for carvings of human faces, animals, plants and geometric patterns. In the forms, I sense the hopes and fears of those who made them and connect with the consciousness of the past flowing through the present into the future.
I explore the first place that called me until I sense a doorway, stairway or some other feature of the city drawing my attention. I engage that place until the next place calls. Wandering from place to place, the city comes alive. It speaks to me directly without the filters of historic names and dates. I enter a personal relationship with the city, one that can’t be encountered through the screen of a guidebook or tour.
After a while, I sit at a café, park bench or stone steps of an old building. I recall the places I’ve just passed through, noticing the images and forms that figure prominently in my awareness. It may be faces or the geometry of circles carved around doorways. I might be signs in shop windows or footsteps on cobblestones. I look for threads connecting these experiences. Weaving back and forth through my awareness, a theme appears. The connecting strand could be threshold crossing, the overlap of nature and architecture, labyrinth-like movement of the path… I see how this theme relates to the questions and concerns I’m currently facing and listen for the insights and guidance it is offering.
I scan at the city before me and perceive the living, speaking consciousness interacting with itself through the people, objects, streets and buildings. I see the walk I just took as a continuation of my journey through this world and appreciate it all as one long mystery walk.