READING this on the bus or train with your nose in a stranger’s armpit? If so, you’ll probably roll your eyes at the idea that you might be able to find joy, or even moments of peace and quiet, in a bustling metropolis.
Lucy Anna Scott was brought up in the country, moved to London not expecting to stay and then found, after a short spell in a roomy house by the coast, that she was a committed city girl. In a new book, she encourages all of us urbanites to find the moments of peace and mindfulness in the city.
‘So often we don’t appreciate a city or engage with it,’ she says. ‘We idealise the countryside and demonise the city — it’s busy, dirty, people are rude, there’s no nature, no peace. But actually there is — you just have to look for it.’
Lucy Anna Scott explains how…
Master the art of looking
Public transport allows us the freedom to look that I sorely missed in the country, where a set of wheels was fundamental. Always at the wheel, stunning scenery passed me by as I tried to navigate single-track lanes. But when someone else is driving your eyes are free to roam, whether it’s the streets, your fellow commuters or small details of your journey.
Embrace the noise
Noise is inevitable in a city but the trick is to cultivate a positive attachment to it and to avoid taking it personally — perceiving noise as being sent to disrupt you personally makes you first angry, then furious. But it’s also worth seeking out the noises you might think would be drowned out in a city. Waterfalls, rivers, birds — they’re there if you listen.
Let the moment happen
Observing public places can be a wonderful way to connect with your city and just take in the rhythm of comings and goings. The tour group, the couple, the teenagers on their bikes, the woman feeding the pigeons. Notice how the scene effortlessly changes and how these presences emerge then evaporate. Notice how tuning in to this makes you see a pace in the city that is the opposite of hurried. This pace is more akin to a poem, in which each character you observe possesses its own line, its own shape on the page.
Adopt a tree
Applying a touch of humanity to one square metre of the city can be a powerful action that is fulfilling and beneficial for your neighbourhood. Take a newly planted sapling that’s recently appeared near your home or workplace. Water it occasionally, loosen the straps that tether it to its stakes as it gains strength as a service to horticulture — but also to ensure the enduring wellbeing of your city.
Let the weather soothe
It’s all too easy to feel angry about the rain or the wind. But a city offers so many options when the weather isn’t good, whether it’s seeking shelter in a gallery or using it as an excuse to go to the cinema. It’s worth finding ways to view the weather positively: seeing rain as giving life to the plants of the urban jungle or making us grateful for our homes, listening to the wind outside.
■ Mindful Thoughts For City Dwellers by Lucy Anna Scott (Leaping Hare Press) is out now