Sunday, March 23, 2014

Stillness, Silence and Solitude...

   The great trinity of essential practices for the contemplative photographer, stillness, silence and solitude. 

   When I give workshops in the field I had to come up with a way for people to be guided and to be alone at the same time.  Contemplative photography is not a group activity!

   The journals of guided meditations I design and give to participants allow them to experience the stillness, silence and solitude for themselves while keeping them focused on the essential experience I want them to have.

   Stilling the mind's constant chattering, entering into a companionable silence as one sits in solitude in the landscape, this is foremost in the practice of contemplative photography for me and one I look forward to whenever I go out into the landscape.

   I photographed this scene on a visit to Massachusetts recently where they were far more advanced in the steady progress to spring than we are in Maine.  "Ice out" is a term we use here to signify that moment when the pond comes back to life and sheds its winter blanket of ice.  People even wager on possible dates and great ceremony is attached to this northern rite of Spring.  In this image we can see ice out is well on its way.

    It is also an apt metaphor for the spiritual awakening in all of us...when we melt into a new way of being that more clearly reflects the wonders and love of life.  It is the moment of re-embracing the sunlight that will warm us to the core after our voluntary retreat behind an icy barrier of detachment.

   There is nothing so still as a pond silently re-emerging after a long, long winter.  We can't see the wonders at work beneath the icy covering but it is there.  Slowly and in a splendid solitude it begins its transformation and we can only watch and wait.

   I've begun a new Pinterest board you might like to explore...


Anonymous said...

Patricia, I like your words "companionable silence" and have found that contemplative photography can indeed be a group activity with some simple guidelines (which in the case of my photographer friends are unspoken guidelines.). We go wherever withour cameras, and agree to leisurely contemplate and find photographs to make "in companionaboe silence". I think of it as the same companionable silence one experiences when meditating with a group of people. Thanks for your post! Stacey

Patricia Turner said...

Thank you for your comment Stacy and I agree. If people can agree to sit in "companionable silence" then it can work. It is wonderful that you and your friends have reached that level of unspoken understanding. With groups of strangers, coming together for the first and perhaps only time, I find it helpful to have some guidelines. You may be sitting together but you are still engaging the landscape in a solitary way.