10 Aug Spiritual Practice of the Month: Curiosity Walk

This month, take a walk, add some pretend play, and see what new things you and yours can discover in familiar places.

Our after-dinner (or, when the days get short, pre-dinner) walk around the block has been a cherished ritual and an integral part of our family spiritual practice for many years—one that started before Audra and I had even married. The elements are nothing special: a stroll over familiar ground at the easy, contemplative speed I’ve come to call “evening pace,” with no destination in mind and no reason to go except to return, in deep gratitude, to each other, to the act of walking, and to the nightly rhythms of the neighborhood we love and know so well.

The elements never really change. And yet, over the last few weeks, we’ve noticed that something is different: more and more often, a new creature is joining us. She looks like our three-and-a-half-year-old son but she speaks in a high, mewling voice and asks questions as though she’s never seen the streets of our neighborhood before—or perhaps ever been outside at all. She is curiosity personified, and she tells us her name is The Yellow Kittycat Who Doesn’t Know About the World.

The Yellow Kittycat Who Doesn’t Know About the World is alternately thrilled and perplexed by many of the things we experienced human beings take for granted. “What’s this?!” she will cry, touching the gray, smooth bark of a roadside tree, the pavement at our feet, a discarded plastic water bottle. “It’s so interesting! Who made it?”

Both sides of this simple, silly game (explore a familiar place by pretending you’ve never been there or, alternately, describe a well-known object or phenomenon to someone as though they’ve never seen or experienced anything like it) have our whole family seeing the world with fresh eyes, actively looking for things that pique our curiosity, appreciating small details we wouldn’t have before.

Would we have noticed, before the arrival of The Yellow Kittycat, the delicate, ghostlike prints left behind when a few autumn once leaves kissed the wet cement? (“What’s this?!”) Would we have seen, close to the shore, the tidy cairn made from stones as small as apple seeds, carefully stacked by some determined, fastidious beachgoer? (“Who made it?!) Likely not. Before, we were so used to our surroundings that these things would have been invisible to us.

Now, thanks to The Yellow Kittycat Who Doesn’t Know About The World, nothing is invisible, and our neighborhood seems new to us again, a place ready to explore. Now we’re walking in a new way, for new reasons: to be surprised, to ask questions, to feel awe at stumbling upon some of the everyday beauties of the world. Now, together, we start out each night with only two tools to help our spirits grow—the only tools we need: three bodies willing to move, three minds willing to marvel.

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