Mindfulness: the act of being present in the moment, of paying attention purposefully, of being here, now.
Mindfulness is a goal, a constant striving. We say that we are “practicing” mindfulness because you can only ever practice, you can never be perfect. Each time you fall away, you simply bring yourself back: to your practice, to your moment, to your life.
I was doing a weekly, guided mindfulness exercise, but what with the bar exam and travel, I fell away from it. I’m starting again now and I plan to keep posting about it. But I have at times struggled with it: I do the exercise at the beginning of the week and on the last day or so as I start thinking about it again, but I often lose it during the middle of the week. I need something more active, more goal driven.
And I’ve found it! I’ve created my own form of mindfulness exercise and I love it. Photography.
If you’re on Instagram, you might have seen the #photoaday posts. Each month, there’s a list of themes for each day and you simply take a picture that goes with the theme and tag it, for example, #marchphotoaday. I started a couple weeks ago and I’ve found that it’s a great way to incorporate mindfulness into every day.
The theme today is “Sign”. So today I’m being mindful of signs. As I walk along or drive down the street I pay attention to the signs that I see. And let me tell you, there are a hell of a lot of signs in a city. Once you start paying attention, they’re everywhere! This is the essence of mindfulness: bringing our mind to the present and seeing the things our eyes normally slide past without seeing.
Yesterday’s theme was fork. I noticed normal forks, of course, but I also saw forks all around, in fence tops and trees and roads. This, too, is a key component of mindfulness: the ability to see things in new ways rather than sitting comfortably within the paradigms that our mind creates for us.
This exercise has also had a nice side effect. As I pay more attention to my surroundings and seek out beautiful or interesting things to take pictures of, I begin to appreciate this city more. In general I don’t think of it as a beautiful city (especially in comparison to Chicago, which I think is an absolutely stunning city). But now I see beauty in unexpected places, and that makes a difference. At least for me.
I wanted to share this exercise for anyone who’s interested in mindfulness and photography. It’s a great way to combine two passions. Enjoy!