What Does Meditation Practice Have to do With Photography Anyway?

What Does Meditation Practice Have to do With Photography Anyway?

Last week I attended an intense two and half day Buddhist practice. Practice begins each morning at 5:00 am. There is a 3 hour break in the middle of the day and then practice resumes again at 3:00 pm and ends at about 6:30 or 7:00 pm.

On the first day we practice until about noon, then, lunch is served. Lunch on the first day is precious because it is the last meal eaten until about 7:30 am on the third day. Also, after leaving the table, one may drink only clear fluids until going to bed.

On the second day, there is no eating, no drinking fluids, no talking. This practice is physically grueling because there is the added dimension of preforming many, many prostrations during this two-day period.

I actually love this practice. It seems quite insane but I do. Aside from the spiritual or religious significance of the practice, the opportunity to become inwardly focused for a day or two is refreshing.

But what does meditation practice have to do with photography anyway?

The question should really be what does meditation practice have to do with “professional” photography or “fine art” photography or “documentary” photography anyway?

A meditation practice such as the one I went through last week requires a high level of commitment to see through to the end. That may seem like a statement of the obvious, nevertheless, how else do you get through 36 hours of rigorous physical and mental activity sans food or water without commitment? I am not pointing this out to say that I am special in any way, just that you have to decide at the outset that you will complete the task, no matter what.

It gets tough. And, when it does you will be tempted to quit.

So it goes with professional photography. You know, you are living your dream and “doin your thang” and then a major snafu comes along and the question will be, Are you committed? If so, How much or to what end? Well, we’ve talked about commitment before in other posts so I won’t go on about that topic.

Beyond all that, photography can be meditative practice.

These days with cell phone cameras, digital cameras and the like it is very easy to be snap happy. I, of course, say that with love! I am guilty as charged. I think my cell phone might explode I’ve taken so many pictures on it.

But if you use photography to slow down and really look – you will actually see the world how it is.

So before clicking the shutter next time, take a long, deep breath. I mean, really breathe. Feel the air going into your nose and out again. Close your eyes if you have to and visualize the image you want to capture in your mind. Now, reframe in the viewfinder, zoom with your feet, step left, step right and….



Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape, Background

Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape, Background

This week you are getting a two-fer (is that a real word??)!  I didn’t get to post last week but I had a post all planned out in my mind and then time just got away from me!

I really loved the theme of escape. And then this week the topic of background was equally intriguing. So I figured why not combine them into one! Who says you cannot take the rules and adapt them to your purposes??

So, let’s get to the meat of it!

I am a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to you other than the Buddhist part – this likely evokes images in your mind of a perfectly blissful individual meditating and escaping worldly ills and troubles. It also likely evokes images of exotic lands and people not folks who live in a relatively small city in Upstate New York!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a teaching at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra located in Woodstock, NY. This monastery and Buddhist shrine is the North American home of my lineage’s spiritual leader.

Since I have been in graduate school for the last 4 or so years, I have not been as engaged in my “on the cushion” practice of meditation as I would like to be. So my attendance at teachings and ceremonies has often been like an escape or a mini-vacation.

Certainly there are elements of Buddhist practice that can be perceived to be like that, however, the reality is that spiritual practice, of any kind, is not about escape but rather spiritual practice is about being in touch wholly and sometimes even painfully with reality.

Spiritual practice, in general, and Buddhist practice in particular should bring you closer to what it means to be human. Hmmm, and what does it mean to be human? It means that we all experience suffering and have a desire to ultimately be free from this suffering.

And whether we are “on the cushion” or “in the pew” our practice should be something that engages our whole being creating positive effects upon us and those around us. At the grocery store. At the music concert. At the dinner table. Doing dishes. Doing the laundry.

Our practice is our life. Our life is our practice.

I wanted to share a few photographs from my weekend at the monastery. An escape of sorts but really more of a return. Please Enjoy!