Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer
Episode #7 of the course Creative mindfulness: Ten ways to chill out and enjoy creativity by K.C. Finn
In the world of smartphones and digital media, photography is everywhere, and pretty much everyone has some sort of camera at their disposal wherever they are during their day. Today’s exercise looks at photography from a (literally) different angle, to turn those endless snaps into something with a mindful meaning.
Generally speaking, people take most of their photographs for one of two reasons. One is that they are on vacation or visiting somewhere new, and they snap a picture of a nice viewpoint or landmark, taking in a full landscape scene. The second common photograph is that of the portrait, where we take selfies with our friends or pictures of our family at important gatherings, to commemorate how we looked and what we were celebrating that day. These are great ways to make memories, but they don’t require any slowing of thought or mindful consideration to accomplish.
That’s where today’s exercise comes in, and it’s one that can be done at home or outside, if you’re feeling brave enough. The practice of noticing, which our little twist on photography will play on in this activity, comes from meditation and forms of relaxation therapy. When we meditate, practitioners will often ask us to relax our bodies, and if we happen to notice distractions like noises and itches, we have to acknowledge them but not dwell. In our photographic exercise, we will encourage active noticing of those small details as a means of shutting out the rest of the busy world around us for a moment or two.
Doing this activity in the great outdoors will give you more scope for noticing, but if you’re not feeling able to leave the vicinity of the house, I’m certain that there will still be things for you to see from a new angle. Take a walk on any route that you choose, and be sure to have your camera at the ready. As a rule, it’s best to walk in a quiet place where you feel quite safe, away from major traffic so you don’t encounter any problems during your noticing. Walk in comfortable shoes, and try not to have too many bags or heavy things that will weigh you down.
As you walk, you’ll see objects and landmarks that you may have seen before, like lampposts, bus stops, benches, and shop signs. The idea of the exercise is to slowly let your eyes rove over these familiar larger structures until you notice a much smaller detail about them. Does the lamppost have a faded sticker on it from a protest or promotion? Have a pair of lovers graffitied that bench with their names forever? When you find these smaller details, take a close-up photograph so you see only those moments, not the wider world around them. Soon, you’ll have a collection of moments to look back on with a new perspective.
Homing in on the little things can be a damaging practice when we’re talking about emotions and worries, so this exercise is designed to show how you can use those skills to a better and more positive effect. The results of your photographic expedition should also give you an opportunity to combine this exercise with a few of the others that we’ve discussed—for example, incorporating those photos in your storyboarding or using them as a focal point when you’re about to begin a doodle session. Allow your mind to leave its own concerns for a moment, and wonder about the circumstances of how the small details you’ve spotted came to be there. You now have your own little collection of mini mindful escapes!
Tomorrow, we’ll return to the world of drama for another session on the power of speech and emotion. If you’ve been practicing your monologues, then you’ll be ready for a brand-new twist that will allow your personal unwanted emotions to be freed.
Until then, folks!
Mindful photography takes many forms, and there’s much more to explore in this interesting field. Take a look at Jonathan Foust discussing his techniques for National Geographic.
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