Friday, May 31, 2013

Consider Taking a Contemplative Stroll this Summer...

Click here to see the folio of images from the stroll...this photo by Paul Buckley.

   In April, I led a contemplative stroll at the Thoreau Farm.  It was a glorious day and the participants each recorded their unique impressions of the landscape.  For all of them, it was their first such endeavor.  I think they will agree with me that to think "contemplatively" as you photograph opens  up a whole new world for you.  A world where perception is separated from judgement...where seeing becomes beholding and you enter into a true relationship with the landscape.

   I posted the guided meditations we used that day and you can use them for any walk you might take this summer.  Here are some further suggestions.
  •  At the beginning of your stroll, sit and think about your intentions.  Try to clear your mind of expectations.  Pledge to do the stroll without prejudice or judgement. Accept whatever you find.  Be open to what attracts your attention and stay with it for awhile.  Try not to put a time limit on the stroll...let it go slowly and meditatively, as a walking meditation.
  • As you move along your path, take time to sit and experience the landscape through all your senses...what does your ears hear?  What do you smell? What draws your hand to touch?
  • Consider each thing that compels you to photograph it a "breadcrumb".  Let it lead you on.
  • If possible, turn around and retrace your steps back.  Do this to discover all the things you missed on the way out since you will be seeing them from a new perspective.
  • At the end of your stroll, take a few moments to jot down your impressions in your journal.  Did any of your images you received surprise you?  Did you find a "theme" to your series of photographs? Did your time in the environment change your thoughts in any way?
   You could take the same stroll again and not see the same things.  Each time you are, in a very real way, walking in a whole new landscape.  The light won't be the same, or the weather, and you are not the same either.  Brother Paul Quinon at the Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky has been walking and photographing the "same" landscape for over 50 years!  He told me that each walk is an entirely new experience for him.  Henry David Thoreau walked the fields and woods around Walden pond his entire life and never tired of it.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new
 landscapes but in having new eyes.
- Marcel Proust

   So, find your place to take a contemplative stroll this summer.  Perhaps promise yourself to revisit it in each season.  Hmmm....this sounds like the beginning of a new photographic series to me!

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