One element to ponder through your day as you begin to integrate photography as a mindfulness tool; is to take the long view.
If you sit in a silent place in nature or outside your work building, begin to notice when there isn’t a lot going on how much there actually is going on all around you.
If you focus in on each of your senses, begin to key into what connects. What are the smells, the movements you see and the sounds close by and at a distance? The expansion of awareness, (which is essentially what comprises the practice of mindfulness,) will start in your quiet center and radiate outward.
The joy and the adventure of tying photography into meditative awareness through the day is that you are casting your awareness net wide. You are always fishing no matter where you are all day for the juicy bits of life. From one park bench, the world unfolds around you, promising that mindful awareness is always rewarded, and often filled with joy. Taking the inward journey outward is the key. Allow your mind and heart to soften and see what you catch each day in that net of yours. Happy fishing!
Choose one form or species you love before entering a trail or green space such as the Douglas Fir Tree, or anything in bloom including wild flowers.
This time, I will choose the Ginko Tree; which is one of the most interesting of all tree species !
You can also choose rocks or the clouds above (usually the sky is filled with one or multiple cloud formations in a day.) Shoot your chosen natural form as if you are covering it for a magazine article.
Get close. Back up and get it in totality. Get it in abstract. Take the individual parts of it as well as looking at it from below, above and the most common – at eye level.
The ginko tree traces back to the Jurassic period, and is considered a living fossil which can grow for thousands of years. It is resistant to disease as well as fire and it's health properties for humans are vast.
There is a rhythm to walking and a silence. If you carry a stick along, a cadence or metronome effect takes you forward down the road and inward at the same time.
Using the “So Hum” meditation; allow one forward stride of the stick be “So,” and breath in deeply. Allow your next forward stride of the stick with an outward breath of “Hum.”
Once you have established a decent rhythm and you are centered and relaxed into deep breathing, try to find your mindless space between any thoughts that arise. Forward stride “So,” but pause before your stick takes you forward into “Hum,” for as long as you can stay in the gap of quiet stillness. No mind. The place which is called the gap of “Love,” or silence, peace and thought less ness.
Finish the cycle with “Hum,” before you begin again. Breathe through the gap…unless you want to hold your breath; it’s up to you. I find holding my breath before exhaling into "Hum" anchors me to the silent space between, but always play with what works for you.
Finding "the gap" is a powerful tool to access the healing and transformative gifts of meditation. It can act as an anchor as you wonder through mindfulness photography.
In formal meditation, one common technique involves observing the space between thoughts. This can easily be practiced on the mat in your daily sessions, but it can also be used all day long. It’s a great tool to integrate with the wonder compass method.
First of all; what is this space? It is the space between thoughts. There is a gap. This is the place we want to find and expand through formal meditation but also throughout the day.
The steps are easy. You can start to practice and see the benefits of finding your zero point (space of complete silence,) in the gap between right now.
Deepak Chopra provided steps during his 21-Day Meditation Challenge:
Start there, and once you have a nice rhythm with the mantra you can sink into the breath and over time release the mantra all together.
Nature is a fantastic place to practice finding and expanding the gap.
Wayne Dyer writes:
“We are just as much a part of the miraculously creative panorama of nature as the flowers, the sunsets, the seedlings turning into palm trees, the changing of the seasons and everything else. It’s being outside of the gap and listening only to the ego that keeps us fat the level of being able to manifest.”
The reason I chose to combine photography with mindfulness is because meditative photography is an accessible tool in our fast-paced modern day to draw us constantly back to presence awareness and stillness while also admiring the beauty that is always very close in the form of nature.
Watching the film “Accessing the Quantum Gap” with scientist Theresa Bullard, she talks about the 3 stages of manifesting and creating the life you want based on Quantum Physics:
1. Realize there is only Now. Past and future are illusions, and in the present, we have access to all of the universe’s energy to create anything we focus on.
2. Spend time every day working on getting to and expanding your “still point,” or your place of complete silence and quiet, where the mind is 100% at peace. Learn to get to this space quickly and expand it as much as time allows through meditation practices.
Outside of sitting meditation, tune in to silence as much as the day allows. (Wonder Compass “Wondering” is a great tool for this.)
3. Focus in order to create. What you focus on expands into the universe.
I often say “Attention is Intention” – what we put our focus on is what we create. It’s that simple. The right brain, which as a society we all need to develop, involves the creative mind, the intuition and seeing. By focusing on “seeing” deeply into the world while appreciating nature, you can root into each present moment while creating art! How cool is that?
Sitting on a mountain top in a cave isn’t possible or a chosen method …for some of us! Explore, look, find, and get into nature every day in order to shift into peace and the life you have imagined. “Snap!”
While taking creative photography classes for my BS in Photojournalism, one instructor said something that has stuck with me over the years and has been extremely useful:
Get even Closer.”
One of the Wonder Compass “wondering” activities is to set out with the intention of shooting single forms while getting very close.
ONE WONDER: One leaf, one stem, one flower bud, one trunk, one cloud, one rock, one bird, one….
Photography Tip: Get close and frame the image with a very simple background.
It is amazing to see the detail and awesomeness of abstract photography thorough nature which we breeze past every day. However, when we slow down, get close and frame the background simply: WOW.
The Wonder Compass Creative Photography and Mindfulness Activity #1 "One Simple Wonder."
Creative mindfulness nature photography will take you on daily adventures and discoveries.
It does require a practice of observing and photographing in silence.
“Wondering” in Silence
(“Wondering” is the act of feeling wonder in response to nature)
a person can maintain an inner connection and a soft-focus outward.
Spending time in silence has been found in many spiritual practices across time.
One cannot hear while speaking, and in the woods or out in nature it is extremely important to engage in deep listening. As your hearing begins to attune to the birds and the wind, your other senses will soon follow in sharp succession.
At present, silence in our daily lives is a rare commodity. Many of us seek out vacations to “get away” from “IT ALL;” and often “IT ALL” means the noise and commotion of our everyday lives.
Stepping into the woods and onto a beloved trail allows your silent focus to turn inward onto the breath. Something magic begins to unfold. By doing this one act, you may find yourself sinking deeply inward, while observing the colors, forms and textures around you come alive.
The Green Man is found inside churches around the world, but can often be found while taking nature and woods walks in your city. Traditionally the image depicts a male face surrounded by vines and leaves, but it can also be found peering out of the trunks of trees along the trail.
The archetype and symbology of the green man represents re-birth and the coming of spring and summer. It is thought to also symbolize the co-relationship between nature and mankind.
While mindfully taking nature photos; the green man may cross your path. This face appeared up at Mt Tabor in Portland, OR.
What is the definition of Mindfulness & Why should we care about it?
The dictionary definition of “Mindfulness:”
“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”
"The Greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses."
Mindfulness is a state of living consciously and awake within all moments of life through awareness of what the senses are communicating to you.