This activity is designed to encourage thinking about the connections we have—direct and indirect, conscious and unconscious, intended and unintended—with other people, places, and things both near and far.
Why do such an activity? We currently are (and of course always have been) connected beyond our individual selves, and today those connections frequently span the globe. Not only is it fascinating to consider all the other people, places, and things with which connect, but it also helps us to be mindful of our places in those webs of connection that reach from our households to the entire world.
For this activity, you should decide on a place in which to situate yourself for some period of time, but plan for at least 30 minutes. As with the Mindful Walking/Wandering activity that we posted a few months ago, this place can really be anywhere (as long as you feel comfortable and safe)—for example, somewhere in your home, a city park, a café, etc. It can also be done alone or in a group. While doing this activity, we’d suggest taking a few notes, making a sketch or two, or taking photographs.
Consider the breadth of connections First, consider all the people, places, and things with which you are connecting, even indirectly. At first it may seem that you’ll have a very short list, but as you look around and think, you’ll probably find that each item you add to this mental list leads to thoughts of even more connections. The idea here in this step is to simply open up your mind to all the connections that “come together” in this particular location where you happen to be in this moment.
As an example, you may recognize your connection with your city if you’re in a public park. This connection may lead to thinking about your connection with the city councilperson who is a strong parks proponent that you voted for in the last election, leading to your thinking about the house in your old neighborhood that you left because you wanted to be in closer proximity to a park. Like an online search, each point of connection may be a “node” for multiple other points of connection. Give it a try!
Focus on just a few connections Next, just focus on one person, place, or thing and let your mind go to just a few (or to many if you're so inclined) of the connections that branch out from that node. You may not know some of these connections for certain, but just use your imagination!
For example, that city park may connect you to both your own city and other locations. Where did the wood and metal come from for the benches and gazebo? Who designed and constructed the park? Are any of the flowers non-native? From/to where do the geese in the pond migrate? Any of these questions could be made even more detailed as well.
Consider how you have been affected Finally, consider how the people, places, and/or things you’ve identified have affected you/your life.
For example, how might your life be different if you weren’t able to bike to this park with your family on Saturday afternoons? Did the roses that were imported from England inspire you to plant your own flower garden? Did the Japanese-style section of the park provide a quiet place to relax after a stressful work day?
Follow up After you’ve pondered your connections, there are a number of ways to follow up with some of your thoughts.
Write down your thoughts or make a sketch.
Draw a map (as real or imaginary as you like) that illustrates some of the connections you’ve identified.
Utilize a pre-made map (see below) to plot connections.
Go online to investigate (or confirm!) the connections you’ve made.
For example, exactly what is the migratory path the geese follow? Which Japanese gardens inspired this park's designer?
Consider using your notes, images, etc. for a tangible or virtual creative project, such as a short story, photo essay, collage, or story map!
Resources Here are a few links to mapping resources:
Map of the world - http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-map-image.html
Map of the US - http://www.mapsofworld.com/usa/
Map of individual US states - http://nationalmap.gov/small_scale/printable/reference.html#list
Photo credits: Author