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Not Everyone Who Wanders Is Lost

Flaneuring (from the French word, flaneur ) is an intriguing phenomenon.

Think about aimlessly strolling the boulevards and backstreets of a city, observing whatever it is you might encounter with curiosity, but in a manner that is not attached-- seeing, tasting, smelling, touching, hearing-- but ultimately, passing it all by. Being in the world but not grasping, or struggling to perpetuate the experience. You're flaneuring, or moving in a walking meditation.

Traditionally, meditation is practiced in stillness-- seated, kneeling, lying or standing. But there's a lot to be said for meditative observation while walking, or engaged in other forms of physical movement like long-distance running, rock climbing, yoga or tai chi -- even walking the dog. We can be inwardly silent and still, while our bodies are outwardly active. It may not be traditional meditation, but it is most definitely meditative (more about the difference between the practice of meditation and being meditative, in another post).

C'est quoi un flaneur? To me, a flaneur is a meditator. For anyone else who may be curious, there's a wonderful article entitled, "What is a Flaneur? An incomplete Guide to the Meaning and Philosophy", written by Blake Miner-- I don't know where it was first published, but you can find it on the Internet. There is also a great piece published in the Paris Review and another article on the Internet, written by a woman/man known as "The Brooklyn Flaneur". And don't overlook Erika Owen's book, The Art of Flaneuring.

The piece in The Paris Review is particularly interesting, because of the thoughts offered in response to an opinion editorial in the New York Times which observed that, "[the Internet is] no longer a place for strolling-- it's a place for getting things done". That sentiment resonated with me in a particularly sad way, the reason for which was not immediately apparent.

Being a recently retired lawyer, it suddenly dawned on me: Lawyers (like so many others) are all about getting things done. Making "it" happen. And the ever-growing emphasis on technology (which many people equate with speed), only seems to exacerbate the situation. But technology is not exclusively about speed. Counterintuitively, it might even help us with our flanuering.

As posited by the author of the Paris Review piece, "Our doubled [sped up] lives enable flanerie.... Now that we're comfortably into the era of postmodern, perhaps it's time to take a brief stroll into the past, to simple sights and sounds" (emphasis added). Simple sight and sounds, and aromas, tastes and touches-- indeed!

Flanuering may not be exactly the same, but it shares a lot in common with both mindfulness and meditation!


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