Thursday, April 4, 2013

Walking Meditation...

   I've often talked about photography as a contemplative practice and the role meditation can play preparing the photographers mind but as a meditation practice in and of itself?  Of course, there are many ways people meditate and the state one reaches while meditating can also vary from person to person.  Henry Thoreau practiced walking meditation on the shores of Walden Pond.  I've always wondered what his photographs would have looked like if he'd had a camera.

   Photography has a wonderful way of focusing ones attention which is a primary goal of meditation.  When Thomas Merton received a gift of a camera from a friend he wrote...

A Thin Blue Line Separates Us - Scotland
 What a joy of a thing to work with...
the camera is the most eager and helpful
of all beings, all full of happy suggestions.
"Try this! Do it that way!"  Reminding me
of things I have overlooked and cooperating 
in the creation of new worlds. So Simply.
This is a Zen camera!

   When pulled forward by your camera to look into the spirit of the world around you, it becomes a form of walking meditation.  This meditative state can get you in trouble sometimes as it did for me in Scotland at the time I made this photograph.  Fully engaged in my walking meditation I wandered oblivious to my direction, so involve was I in moment.  When I finally came "out of it" I was completely lost!  It took me over an hour to find my way back to where I had left my car.  I think I should title this image, "Out in Left Field"!  But despite these occasional "strayings", I wouldn't give up my walking meditations. 

   Thomas Merton began exploring photography as a contemplative practice in the early 1960's at the Pleasant Hill Shaker village just an hour away from his home at the Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky.  I will very shortly be able to walk in Merton's footsteps when I visit the village  later this month.  It is a sublimely peaceful and beautiful place...a perfect place to employ photography as a meditation practice and I probably won't have to worry about getting lost this time!

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