"Mindfulness or being mindful is being aware of your present moment. You are not judging, reflecting or thinking. You are simply observing the moment in which you find yourself." --- Ozzie Gontag
Do you find yourself juggling multiple demands on your time or multi-tasking several activities at once? You aren't alone. In this fast-paced world so many people are just trying to keep up. You may find yourself doing homework while listening to music and texting friends, or at work taking phone calls while answering and sending emails and also jotting down notes about what else you have to do that day. Or you may be engaged in a conversation with someone but your mind is off thinking about the problems from the other day or future tasks you need to complete. It's hard to concentrate on so many things at once and do a stellar job with any of it. A good example is driving while talking on the cell phone or sending text messages. We all know the dangers of that combination. The examples are endless but in any of them we are being pulled in multiple directions and it can be quite stressful. Stress is very hard on the mind and body and it is linked to physical ailments and some mental illnesses. Neuroscientists are studying the effects of mindfulness and meditation and are finding many benefits. It helps to relieve pain, to manage stress and anxiety, to improve focus and attention, to think better, to see things in a new perspective, to increase creativity, improve mood, and to become more aware of what is happening around you and within you. People who practice mindfulness say that they are calmer and happier. Mindfulness is used more in therapy with patients. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy are 2 examples of therapies used to help patients struggling with mental health problems. When I type the word mindfulness into the google search bar on the internet, it came up with 13,700,000 sites on mindfulness alone, which tells me that many people are interested in how mindfulness can improve health and wellbeing.
Bringing mindfulness into the practice of photography can give you all of the above benefits plus you may discover something very unexpected and extraordinary in the ordinary and mundane. Here is an exercise that I did when I made this photo of vibrant fall coloured leaves hanging from bent branches last weekend. It may not appeal to everyone, but I liked it for a variety of reasons. Think about giving this exercice a try.
Go outside to a park or even your backyard. Dress warm if it is winter where you are. Take your time and become aware of your environment. Feel the breath go in through your nose to your belly and back out. Walk slowly, continuing to notice your breath. Try to relax your muscles, even though you are walking. Or you could sit on a bench if you like. You could even tell yourself to relax, which should help your shoulder muscles to relax. Let your teeth open slightly, your tongue drop, and relax your facial muscles. Continue taking your time focusing on the breath going in and out and notice any smells that may be around you. Notice how the air, perhaps a breeze, feels on your skin. Notice the sounds around you. Notice all of your senses. Your mind is a sense; notice any thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. Don't try to push them away nor encourage them by giving them your attention, but instead just notice each thought and let it go, like you notice a cloud in the sky as it floats away. Become mindful of that moment and concentrate on the senses. What in that environment do you see, that catches your eye? Notice how you feel when you see it. Don't take a picture of it yet. Just notice it. Get closer to it and pay attention to it and what drew your attention to it, the shape, textures, colours, how the light illuminates it, how it smells and feels, shadows, the position of it, and anything else that you may notice about it and how you feel. See it without judgement and without critical thoughts. Just enjoy the moment and if you like, make a photo of it. Don't think about whether it may or may not be something that others will like. Do not rush. Be patient and relaxed. If you find yourself wanting to rush or your mind is wandering off, just notice that and bring your attention back to your breath. This is an example of how we can find beauty and interest in things we may have passed over before, thinking it wasn't worth photographing. Practicing mindfulness in this way can help you to become more mindful at other times in your day as well. If the image you created is something that you enjoy, you may want to print it and hang it on the wall as a reminder to relax and practice mindfulness. I'd be interested in hearing about your mindfulness experience with photography.
And remember to have fun. Enjoy!