Last week, I led a wonderful group of people in my contemplative photography retreat. We explored such questions as:
“How do we see now?”
“Might we see differently?”
“In what ways do our inner lives influence our outer vision?”
We referenced medieval mystics, such as St. Francis and Meister Eckhart; modern poets such as Mary Oliver; and photographers like Minor White.
As I do this work, I find that our awareness broadens. We begin to consider our relative degrees of comfort, ability and willingness to really see people (including ourselves), places and things. We begin to ask about empathy and compassion.
I find this remarkable, and, at the same time, not surprising.
When we consider the relationship between our inner lives and how we see the world, a gentle awakening begins. When we adopt an internal posture of curiosity (“I notice…” and “I wonder…”), we slow the mental leap between our seeing and what often comes next – evaluation, judgment, and categorization.
Operations of the primitive brain, like assessing danger, are key for survival. “Will this animal or person do me harm?”. And, as such, they happen in a split-second. Our capacities for evaluation, judgment and categorization drive remarkable discoveries with which medicine, science and other disciplines continue to gift us.
And, yet, in other contexts, these capacities create unhelpful boundaries, close us off, keep us separate.
Hence, I find the simple lead-ins of “I notice” and “I wonder” to be so transformative. And, when I forget to use them, I remember that, though I may not be able to control my first thought, I do have a choice about my second.
These are great techniques to employ in the moment. If you want to create a larger interior spaciousness through a consistent practice, I recommend Centering Prayer and Mindfulness meditation. On the first, you can rad more at Thomas Keating’s website, http://www.centeringprayer.com/ Or, a personal favorite, http://www.contemplative.org/, with Cynthia Bourgeault. On Mindfulness, please see Jon Kabat-Zinn, at http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/