Creating Space

In my efforts to live a more mindful life I have noticed (and the noticing is a fundamental part of this practice) that sometimes I reach a place when I am uncertain what is next. As a guy who is quite focussed and keen to develop my work in line with the way I am living, I get a little uncomfortable when I find myself adrift like this.

I have been in such a place for a while now. To some extent this was masked by busy-ness. Isn’t that always the way? Whilst we are busy and active we think all is OK. The activity, the action and the achieving all contribute to our sense of purposefulness. Underneath this drive to do there may well be an absence. It is only when we stop that we begin to notice that all is not as it appeared.

Actually, I had an inkling of this and I had noticed that I had not written a blog like this (mindfully reflective/thoughtful!) for sometime. My posts had been either reports on courses delivered or activities experienced.

Now my work has slowed I have noticed this and more. I have also noticed that I haven’t written a newsletter for 2 months. The last post I wrote that was about living mindfully (not course related) was in April. The question now I have noticed is, ‘What does this all mean?’

The answer is not completely clear yet. My intention is for my work and life to be as integrated and harmonious as possible, whilst still providing income. Over the last two months I have been delivering my new course, ‘Who Am I Now?” – which supports people to explore who they are after experiencing great loss or change in their life. Whilst I have been delivering this I have been aware that this is the work that I want to do more of. I relate directly to it, I have lived it and found a way of using photography to support myself to explore and accept it. Sharing this with others is what I want to do more of. That much is clear.

How I do this and what I focus on are the parts I am now working on. I have some ideas, but as they are not completely clear I have created some space for them to develop and solidify. You may have noticed that the website has changed. I have removed my online course, Start Here page and videos. Whilst these things were relevant they always felt like aspects I was trying to do because others were, rather than what my deeper knowing was telling me to do. By getting rid of those services and information I have created space for something to flourish.

My experience of creating, promoting and providing an online course has proved to me that whilst I can do this it is not the medium that I feel most at home with and I think that this affects the quality of my work. The online course is still live and supported for those who purchased it but it is no longer open for enrollments.

My strengths are in teaching – face to face where possible – in writing and of course in creating photographs. I am going to focus on those things. My inclination at present is two fold. Firstly, to further hone the “Who Am I Now Course”, and to offer that to other groups who would benefit from the skills shared.

Secondly, to develop the ideas and materials into book form. I am not certain how this would be offered, but I am currently considering the traditional publication route, self publication, and even a mobile friendly PDF version.

There you have it. Into the space are ideas and intentions. There is also the possibility that something else might emerge. I am going to attend to this wholeheartedly for the next month and then do something that I haven’t done for 30+ years, take August off! If you have any ideas for me please let me know, otherwise stay tuned for future developments.

I shall leave you with a recent photo. This was shot in Cardiff a month ago and will be exhibited as part of Disability Arts Cymru Annual Exhibition at Celf O Gwmpas, Llandrindod Wells next month (more news soon).

On the Edge of Summer Loving

 

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Who Am I Now? – Week 8

Last Friday was a momentous day for our group. The last session of “Who Am I Now?”, the last one of 16 weeks together. For this course was the follow up the “Developing Mindfulness through Photography” Course. Two 8 week courses where much has been learnt, shared and experienced.

For our last week, in true teacher style, I led the group through a review of everything that we had covered and that they have learnt (hopefully!). This is worth sharing for those of you who may be curious.

This is what we cover in the “Who Am I Now” Course which focuses on using mindfulness and photography to explore who we are and how we are living after major change in our life.

  • Becoming Present – Mindfulness and Mindful Photography
  • Experiencing your thoughts and feelings – Creating photographs that express how we are
  • How is it now? – Exploring change and loss
  • Who are you now? – Learning to love and accept who you are now

We explore these areas through a variety of shared photos, thoughts, quotes, meditations and mindful photography practices. All of these lead the students to hopefully learn the following.

  • How to create photos of invisible things
  • Abstract photography
  • Using visual metaphors and symbols
  • Creating photos intuitively
  • How to face the fear (that accompanies the significant loss and change in life)
  • Loving yourself now (moving towards accepting how life is now )

The Final Week

After our review of the course I set the group a challenge. This particular mindful photography practice was one that was used by the innovative photographer Minor White. He favoured using this particular practice as a beginning for his students and sent them out with only this instruction (below) and their cameras. It is quite a challenging task, requiring self awareness and honesty. Ideal for the finishing group I felt, but challenging for Mr White’s new students!

Photographing your essence

“Venture into the landscape without expectations. Let your subject find you. When you approach it, you will feel a resonance, a sense of recognition. Sit with your subject and wait for your presence to be acknowledged. Do not try to make a photograph, but let your intuition indicate the right moment to release the shutter. Continue photographing until you feel the process is complete”

Minor White

Why not try it out for yourself? In the meantime here are the photos (below) from our group, minus the honest explanations that were shared in the room.

This has been a fantastic experience and I feel honoured to have shared it with the group. I would like to leave you with the thoughts of one of the students when asked to share something about how the course had helped and explain what had been learnt.

“The course has helped me to begin to accept what has happened – it’s not bad, but a challenge. To open up to others, my thoughts and feelings through the photographs I have created.

I have learnt that I am not alone. I am in a group where I feel safe and secure. That I can relax, breathe and create beautiful, meaningful photographs. That I find peace and mindfulness in the little things.”

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Hafal Workshop in North Wales

On Monday I was invited to Snowdonia to deliver a mindful photography workshop for people who receive support from Hafal. The session was part of a whole afternoon that also included creative writing and was organised and funded by Literature Wales.

We were fortunate to have the use of Yr Ysgwrn a fabulously restored cultural and historical centre in Trawsfynydd, which is owned by the Snowdonia National Park. This is a beautiful part of the county and we were also blessed with a gorgeous day.

As this was my first session with the group this was very much an introductory session. I explained what mindfulness is and led the group through a short guided meditation. I then explained how photography could be used to develop mindfulness and invited the group to create photographs of colour in a beautiful surroundings.

After the session we wrestled with some technical challenges to save everyone’s favourite photos, but with tenacity we succeeded – and here they are!

Yr Ysgwrn Centre

 

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Who Am I Now – Week 7

Week 7, the penultimate week was all about love. Ahh! And all you need is love, don’t you? This week was the cure for the two previous weeks, which focused on Fear. Love is the antidote to fear, both holistically and chemically. Love produces oxytocin which is the natural antidote to the cortisol produced when we are fearful. See, all you do need is love!

Our first week on love centred upon the greatest love, love for oneself. If we can be compassionate for ourselves, fully accept and love ourselves then we have more space and capacity to love and be compassionate for others.

However this is not always easy. In the midst of our struggles with our own difficulty, swamped by fears, we may find it difficult to access love for ourselves. As a stepping stone to this the students spent a week creating photos of things in their lives that they were grateful for. The practice of gratitude supports the softening towards acceptance of our life as it is. If you would like to read more about this try this.

As a practice in reflecting what we love about ourselves the creation of self portraits is a challenging but great start. We looked at how photographers have represented themselves in photos. From the earliest of film days through Vivian Maier and Lee Friedlander to the modern take of creating selfies. All that was left was to create some of our own. Here are some of our favourites.