A few days ago, I set out with my husband, Marc, on a wonder walk.
A fresh coat of snow had recently blanketed the hiking trail that snakes its way through our neighborhood forest, carpeting the path with bright-white that sparkled like diamonds as the sun gleamed through the trees. It was a perfect day for a wonder seeker, as I have intended to become.
A wonder walk is all about practicing being a keen noticer. It’s about being poised for wow with an easily-delighted heart. According to Andrea Scher, who inspired this practice, it’s about “putting our attention on what’s good.”
“We can train ourselves to be Wonder Seekers,” Andrea writes in her new book, Wonder Seeker. “We can learn to step out of our ordinary lives—even for just a moment or two each day—to witness the everyday magic. The key is where we put our attention.”
As a Wonder-Seeker-in-Training, I have been practicing deliberately cultivating wow moments and focusing my attention on ‘wonder’ful things.
Like paw prints in the snow (are those from a raccoon or mink?). Or the bizarre, reverberating sound of a single crow far off in the trees. Or the sight of a pair of deer in the distance. Or the bright green edges of fern peeking out of the snow. Again and again I am wowed into the present moment, giddy with delight, cheeks aching from smiles. As we strolled, wonder becomes a gateway to joy and it feels glorious to drop into each moment on a wonder parachute.
And yet this experience is fleeting. I catch myself lost in my thoughts again. In my day-to-day life, I am pulled from the present by countless distractions vying for my attention, most often, by my own monkey mind.
I’ve discovered that to creatively navigate this distraction-filled world, wonderment and awe must be deliberately pursued and shrewdly hunted. And just as meditation can be a tool to steady the mind, a wonder walk is a tool to hone our sense of delight, surprise and amazement about the world we often miss when we’re lost in our thoughts or too busy getting stuff done. Here’s how to wield this tool:
- Choose a location for your walk. It can be in a forest but also through your neighborhood. When you slow down and really look, it’s extraordinary how many new delights you’ll find right in your backyard.
- Set the intention to cultivate wonder. Assume the stance of a diligent researcher, narrow your noticing muscle, and keep your attention keenly focused on your search for surprises.
- When your attention wanders, which it surely will, simply guide it gently back to the task at hand: being a wonder seeker.
- Leave your phone at home and use all your senses to dive deeply into the experience. Take photos with your mind. Go slowly and take the time to marvel.
You can embark on this expedition on your own or with a walking partner. I loved being able to share all the things I was seeing and delighting in with Marc. We both were awash in wonder by the time we returned home an hour later.
I think the thing I loved most about our wonder walk was that instead of simply traveling from point A to point B, which is all about achieving the end of our walk, we were focused on being steeped in the present. At one point, we laid down in the snow and just took in all the sounds, sights and smells around us. We threw snowballs at the trees, bows heavy with big tufts of snow, and we laughed and cheered when we got a direct hit and dumped the snow on the ground below.
I’ve found that there’s something childlike about being in our surroundings in this very special way. It’s pure and simple, innocent and trusting. And for someone who has spent the last two decades working to strengthen my mindfulness muscle, these wonder walks feel like such a playful and whimsical way to practice being present. I can’t tell you exactly how long the feeling lasted, but this “wonder” drug had us buzzed for hours.
P.S. I interviewed Andrea about her book, Wonder Seeker, on my 60 Mindful Minutes podcast. Check out Episode 156: How to be a Wonder Seeker with Andrea Scher.