Daily Mindfulness: Solitude & Observation

I have mixed feelings about carrying my cellphone out on walks. As I’ve discussed with my religious meeting (I am a Quaker: we do not attend church, we attend Meeting for Worship), when we carry our phone on a walk or with us during worship or as we dine with our loved one–we are then not alone but are with all these other people, these friends, family and followers. It is sometimes subtle, but it is never absent: the low-grade consciousness of all these people along for the ride alters our perception and our way through the world. True solitude is foregone.

The other side of this dynamic for me has been an unexpected spirituality and pleasure in photography. I have never pretended to be anything beyond a rank amateur with a cellphone, so I surprised myself one day with the realization that my photos were art in my own eyes at least. I have a friend who is a professional photographer. While viewing some of my pieces one day, he remarked, “I can see my influence on your work.” I reacted rather violently to this audacious assertion, not because I disbelieve we can subconsciously model ourselves after others, but simply because I had never studied his work and this claim felt like an insinuation against me having my own eye. This reaction of taking insult made me realize that my photography meant more to me than I had realized and with all art, no matter its level, creators desire credit for their work.

That being said, I have had a delightful journey with my phone camera and its capability to zoom in and offer a glimpse of detail that goes often unnoticed in the bigger picture. This has created an exercise in mindfulness as I pause to examine things more slowly, more closely, more thoughtfully; to find beauty in the tiny obscure details that rushing does not permit the sight of. Looking with interest during my walks also changed the nature of them from a simple physical journey into a more spiritual one.

EXERCISES FOR DAILY MINDFULNESS

The goal of this blog is to encourage you to slow down in your daily life, savor, and appreciate. This in turn becomes a training ground for you to become a Mindful Traveler as you venture out into the broader world.

  1. Go for a walk without your phone: yes you CAN do it. Slow down and be utterly alone in the world and experience how that feels to you. Do not discount either positive or negative reactions. Record in a journal your thoughts.
  2. Take a walk focused on photography. Do not worry about any audience beyond yourself–these images are yours alone. Follow your own eye and find hidden beauty in your neighborhood where perhaps you didn’t notice it before.
  3. Thoughtfully and slowly examine the details of something in nature: the incredible iridescence of the insect, the almost unseen bristles along the stem of the flower, the tessellated pattern on the surface of the seed you found. Seek the previously unobserved.

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