Disrupted Practice

There is a school of thought that suggests you should practice (your art, meditation, work) in a quiet, undisturbed environment. However, the truth is that rarely exists. Perhaps it is wiser to embrace the disruption to your practice, and do it anyway. I have a short tale to tell that illustrates this experience.

First up, as a preamble to the story, I will briefly touch on meditating in ‘silence.’ The key question is – does that state actually exist? Wherever you sit there is noise. External noise, outside the room, either man-made or nature. If by some perfect chance you find a space where there is no external noise, there will always be internal noise. Internal noise could be your own sounds, the groaning of age, or most likely the busy noise of your mind whirring. My story replicates this experience, but outside, during my photography practice.

Since re-establishing my practice I have managed to squeeze in two photography practices a week. Today I had an opportunity in the afternoon to fit in a one hour practice, the only catch was I was also looking after Mabel (18 month old Staffy/Border Terrier cross – all action). I knew that this would not be a normal practice; three photography genre stages of documenting, abstract nature and then playing with ME & ICM seemed unlikely.

I decided to try and minimise the disruption (trying to control that which I thought I could control). I opted for beach, rather than park and decided not to take a ball. Well, it was my practice time, perhaps I could train Mabel to be patient when I was creating photos? (Roll eyes) The first photo above, went well. I had to kneel in the road to create the composition I desired and Mabel waited patiently by my side.

Once I got to the beach I let Mabel off lead and showed her that I had no ball. She shot off seawards, like an exocet missile, in search of something. I wandered about, attended to what I could see, with half an eye on what she was up to. A few minutes in and she spotted a Jack Russell swimming in to retrieve a ball. I managed to drag her away from the fun and set of along the shoreline. A minute later, as I knelt down to compose the photo below she disappeared.

I turned back and saw Mabel coming out of the sea, with the Jack Russell’s ball in her mouth. A while later after returning the ball, putting her back on the lead and walking away, I returned to the practice. I realised that this disruption was just another type of noise, albeit a canine variety. With that in mind I reasoned that whatever happened I could always come back to the practice. I could still control what I could control.

We left the beach and headed for pavements, park and path. Mabel was back on lead and didn’t much care for my stopping and composing. Her impatient barking was sternly reprimanded, and we moved on. Part of Mabel’s practice!

I realised that Mabel’s interjections meant that my practice was different. I was still able to come back to the seeing all the time, but I was not able to get more creative. I had to simplify my practice and stay with observational, documentary creations. Often limitations spur greater creativity. I’m not sure that was true in this case, but I did gain insight.

Noise can come at you in all shapes, at any time. You can make choices as to how you handle it. Sometimes those choices may reduce or curtail the noise and disruption. Sometimes you may have to adjust your practice. Always you will have to soften with the disruption. Allow it to be. The practice may not be what you had intended, but it is still practice. Practice with how things are not always, as you want them to be!

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