By Kim Weeber. On Saturday, we held an outdoor photography retreat at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Now, you might think that this was about learning how to take better pictures. Of course, that is something that we would all like to be able to do. But, how is it to use photography as a mindfulness practice?
Before I took a photography retreat from John Daido Loori, the former abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, I had taken a photography course, and enjoyed taking pictures as a means of artistic expression as well as to remember people and places that had meaning to me. After that retreat, I had to reconsider the whole experience of taking a photo.
What is it like to notice the habitual grasping of the mind? Wanting to get something, have it a certain way, keep it for posterity? This can look like “wanting” to get a picture of something beautiful and “keep” it. If it is possible to tune into the body, this grasping of the mind is felt as tightness. It is not freedom from clinging, for sure.
Photography, instead of being a practice of the usual grasping mind, can be a practice of presence and connection. How is it to simply be present with a pleasant visual experience and enjoy it? Is it possible to tune into the present moment fully and feel it in the body? There can be a sense of presence and resonance with whatever is happening in the moment; in this case a pleasant visual object.
When that resonance is presence, it is possible to allow the picture to be taken. The moment is right, and the picture taking happens. There is a sense of rightness about it. The mind is free of grasping, and the act of taking a photo is free of clinging and suffering. Delightful!