Friday, 14 May 2021
Mindfulness and photography
Why use photography as mindfulness
A brief couple of paragraphs explaining why I have started focusing more on mindfulness and applying it to photography.
Recently I have commenced a new health programme to correct a few imbalances and nutritional issues in my body that may be causing many of the symptoms associated with M.E./Chronic fatigue syndrome which I have had for 14-15 years. My health professional has a wonderful holistic approach despite her main focus and expertise being in nutrition, which is very much in line with my own approaches. As part of the new health plan I spend time outside in nature to compliment my circadian rhythms and aid sleep, follow a complex nutrition and supplement protocol ( gluten free, dairy free, low sugar, low alcohol, low lectins, low oxalates) plus work on practicing mindfulness and stimulating my vagus nerve. In people experiencing M.E./CFS it is thought that a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system (ANS) could be causing many symptoms such as sleep issues, cognitive difficulties, inflammation and pain. People with M.E/CFS are said to have a low vagal tone and increasing this is thought to aid in reducing symptoms. These mainly involve techniques that induce the relaxation response which, over time, affects autonomic nervous system functioning. More in depth info is on the ME association for anyone who is interested. Self help measures that help to increase vagal tone include - Deep breathing exercises ( check out Wim Hoff the ice man - fascinating), Mindfulness, Meditation, gentle aerobic exercise such as yoga, massage, acupuncture, cold (showers), sunlight, laughter, healthy eating.
In the last couple of months I have found myself more and more drawn into learning about mindfulness, which has led to exploring spirituality and meditation, even a bit of yoga. I started by reading books when my brain fog would allow, watching a wide variety of videos on you tube and listening to guided meditations. I've tried all sorts from Wim Hoff's intense guided Deep breathing, to sleep hypnosis, very gentle guided yoga, and a programme of ten minute mindfulness exercises to be practiced daily. So I have proceeded along a new path of self discovery quite by accident. I have found deep meditative states that I can only describe as bliss, a more peaceful way of being and I have been left questioning all that I do, including photography.
I get out to try a little photography an average of once a week and lately I have had some very set ideas in mind that I specifically wanted to attempt producing, with end results in mind. However, things don't always go to plan -sometimes wind or sunshine ( or lack of it) have affected my plans, other times my cognitive functioning, fatigue, low energy levels have resulted in me forgetting something crucial in the process, making schoolgirl errors etc - its not easy when your brain does not function fully, or equipment has been a little off! Consequently I have repeatedly been disappointed with my results, usually knowing I could do better if my brain and body were functioning better - I don't like being negative so tried hard to brush it off, but underneath the frustration and struggle is real as I only get to try once a week and that's my energy gone, all used up and having to rest for days afterwards.
Luckily I love the process of taking photos, whether they work well or not, I have often said that photography is my own therapy, my own form of mindfulness. I enjoy planning for it, getting things ready, scouting locations, planning lenses or lighting etc and any accessories or people involvement. This is where the mindfulness ties in, I realised in the midst of practicing and learning about all these meditative techniques and my frustration following my difficulties producing what I wanted in photography and realised that I need to step back a bit, applying mindfulness to my photography in a different way.
So I am setting out to simply take my camera and lenses out with me without preconceived ideas, aiming to be totally engaged in the present moment, to take in what is around me and try to look at things in new ways, applying the techniques I have picked up over the years. My plan is to simply enjoy the peace and beauty of nature, the natural wildness and attempt to capture some of it in photographs, without judgement or pressure. I will be combining this with short spells of meditation, totally immersing myself in my surroundings, whatever the weather, relaxing and being totally relaxed yet uplifted by nature. Hopefully this will shine through in the images that I produce.
I started in my garden, sitting and lying looking at the plants, insects and birds. The sun was shining through the undergrowth, peeking through and causing the surface of our pond to sparkle with the colours of the plants beyond. I chose a couple of crystals to give a similar feel and used a shallow depth of field to provide a more ethereal look, closer to what I was experiencing. These are not what I would call good compositions but closer to what nature was presenting - you cannot control nature.
This is a different approach to most of the photography I have done lately, often at home, I have been trying to produce specific type of images with a purpose in mind - often for competitions, which has been my main driving force. I wonder if my new interest in mindfulness, meditation and spirituality will change my reasons for doing photography, or entering competitions, if it will affect what I produce. It will be an intriguing path to follow and may help me see things through new eyes. Watch this space.
Here are a selection of images taken on a recent trip to a Bluebell filled woodland where I could not move far due to mud on the paths ( my mobility scooter kicks up a fuss in mud!). I had planned to simply photograph some close ups of Bluebells, but the light was so beautiful that I felt compelled to capture it. Here I did sit and absorb the sights, sounds and smells, being one of the most beautiful sights of the year for me ( missed last year due to lockdown restrictions). All 3 images below were taken within about 20 ft space. A family were out with their dog and I grabbed the opportunity to capture the moment.
I would like to add that in the months following this approach that I have progressed from being in moderate pain pretty much 99% of the time to only having normal aches and pains. I am fairly confident that this is as a result of reducing both lectins and oxalates in my diet, but know that mindfulness is helping me to address residual pains effectively. Its early days yet, but this is a very promising sign.
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