I remember showing up rushed, dropping my camera bag on the table a little too loudly as I slunk into the last remaining chair. The class’s title “Mindful Photography” had attracted me. I had done some magazine photography long ago, and my more recent stints had been as the unofficial family photographer, but I hadn’t taken a photography class since college.
As we sat in the dimly lit room, watching beautiful photographs pop up on the screen, the teacher explained the process. She said that traditional photography uses masculine terminology, such as “shooting” or “capturing” an image. What if, she urged us, we instead saw it as “receiving” an image? And what if, instead of focusing on the end product of the photograph, we focused on the process of receiving it and didn’t worry about the rest? With that, she instructed us to go outside, mindfully see what called to us, and then stand there until we were in relationship with it. Then we were to receive the image and move on.
I pushed open the heavy metal door into the spring sunshine, and with curiosity I walked out and simply focused on being present. I crunched on brown leaves mixed with flower petals in the parking lot. I opened to the smell of fresh cut grass. The further I walked, the more expansive I felt. Then my eyes landed on a clump of fern-like plants, soft and fuzzy and slightly shivering in the breeze. I stopped. I recognized myself in them – green, new, slightly shivering with my layers peeled off and the vulnerable insides revealed.
As Christine Valters Painter says in “Eyes of the Heart,” “For me, both art and spirituality are truly about tending to the moments of life: listening deeply, holding space, encountering the sacred and touching eternity. For a few seconds, I touch time beyond time, and in that spacious presence my heart grows wider, my imagination frees, my breath catches, and I am held in awe and wonder. These are the moments that help to make life full of meaning.”
I don’t know how long I stood there with this plant — a plant I would have otherwise walked right by – and reveled in deep joy and open-hearted connection. Finally, I “received” the image with my camera, offered a moment of thanks, and walked back to the classroom.
This is the heart of my creative process, whether it is writing or photography or cooking. It is about slowing down enough to become present to the miracle before me. And when I look and listen, it is always there. And then I translate it – with words, with images, with a grateful heart.
As Marcel Proust says, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” My wish, for me and for you, are new eyes to re-create the world, over and over…
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Carolyn Scarborough is a professionally trained creativity and writing coach. As founder of Backyard Pearls, LLC, she helps coaches and heart-based entrepreneurs to unblock their creativity so they can connect with and express what’s deeply meaningful to them. She leads retreats, telecourses and does private coaching with new writers, experienced writers, and those who simply need a creativity boost to launch business and writing projects. She is the author of “Backyard Pearls: Cultivating Wisdom and Joy in Everyday Life,” and is an award-winning magazine writer who has published more than 500 articles in publications around the world.
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