Why not teach just mindfulness?

Teaching mindful photography

My girlfriend asked me this question this morning, “Why not teach just mindfulness?” She meant why didn’t I teach just mindfulness as another offering alongside my Mindful Photography developments. After all, it’s less niche, there is a bigger market. It could be another income stream. My initial answer and thoughts that followed are worth sharing, so here goes.

Teaching Mindfulness

I do teach mindfulness. I just teach it though the medium of photography. I have more than a decade’s experience of meditation and mindfulness. I have studied and read many Buddhist books, regularly go on retreat, have read contemporary books on Mindfulness, including Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat Zinn. I have even done the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction).

I am a qualified teacher with more than 30 years experience of teaching, training and delivering learning. I have taught people from 7 to beyond 75, from all walks of life and many different subjects. Teaching mindfulness would be quite straight forward.

True, I do not have a Mindfulness teaching qualification. But I believe that I have everything that would be covered in those academic rubber stamps and more.

Suffering and creativity

I have lived through tremendous personal difficulty, change and loss. It is this that has been at the centre of my mindfulness development and growth. It is this that I can call on to empathise with others who are suffering, when they find that life is not how they would like it to be.

This experience has enabled me to more clearly understand how life really is. To notice how my mind constantly comments and judges, and then to feel my reaction, in my mind and body, to life being not how I want it to be.

But I have not developed my mindfulness practice in isolation. Alongside it I have developed a creative practice that has enabled me to explore and express the journey I find myself on. Mindfulness and a creative practice go hand in hand. Let me explain.

Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Let’s reflect back for a moment upon the Four Foundation of Mindfulness that were shared in the Sutra by the Buddha 2500 years ago. For it is this that is at the heart of the modern application of mindfulness for stress reduction (MBSR) and living with depression (MBCT).

My interpretation of those four foundations are that your mindfulness practice is to be aware of just four things.

  1. Your sensations and bodily feelings: The information you receive from your five senses and those other physical feelings, like breathing, pain or butterflies in your stomach, are the first things you can be aware of. Of course you can use the passage of breath through your body as an anchor when you meditate.
  2. Your thoughts: Your mind is leaping monkey, jumping from thought to thought, often seemingly unbidden and with no direction from yourself. It is perhaps the first thing that people comment upon when they start meditating. Often they may imagine that they cannot meditate because their mind is so busy. But I say, “That’s great! At least you noticed!”
  3. Your feelings: These are the feelings or emotions that are attached to a thought. They arise from a thought stream and are fuelled by your life experience, your habits and your personality. They arise and fall in much the same way as thoughts. Often seemingly unbidden, they are transient just like thoughts.
  4. Your living: I mean they way you live, your day to day, your routine. Your attention to each moment as if it was the only moment. Which of course it is! But because you are constantly thinking and feeling about the past and future you lose connection with this one moment.

I mention these Four Foundations because I know how a creative practice, in my case photography, can help to explore, process and express each one of these foundations. It is all in the potential of the art form to say something about how you find the world. Your creativity is a doorway to self understanding.

Teaching Mindful Photography

It is now nearly four years since I first thought of the term Mindful Photography. Whilst I may have thought it was an original term at the time,  I had no idea what it might be or develop into. Now I have a clear idea of the links between a mindful practice and and a creative one, between mindfulness and photography.

I know that mindfulness can be applied to the art of seeing the world. Seeing can become your anchor (First Foundation). When you notice your busy thoughts you return to the seeing. Having this as a practice support your ability to see more, to see what is in front of you and therefore to create an interesting photo.

I know that mindfulness can be applied to the science of creating a photo. Mindful photography practices can be developed that support your ability to be with your technical and compositional knowledge whilst your mind is wrapped up in photo thinking, to continue to develop those skills and whilst you remain with what you can see. (Second Foundation)

I know that photography can be used to understand and develop mindful attitudes; including non judging, patience, acceptance, trust, non striving, beginner’s mind, letting go/be, generosity and gratitude. There are photography practices I have developed that directly influence your understanding of each attitude and support your ability to develop that attitude. (Second and third Foundation)

I know that we can develop mindfulness through photography as you learn how to express, explore and process your feelings and emotions with a photograph. Learning how photography can express feelings provides you with a means by which to share how you feel without using words. (Third Foundation)

I know that you can explore your challenges and difficulties in life through photography. Investigating and exploring how fear and love manifest in your life, as life’s changes and losses pass through your world. This practice develops mindfulness. (Fourth Foundation)

I know that you can develop photography projects that explore how you are living, feeling and being and that through this process you can support your journey to be the best version of who you can be.

My Offering

This knowledge and understanding is what I now share at my workshops, courses and the online course. I am not certain that it will support me financially yet, but I feel impelled to share what I know and to help you to use what I have discovered to develop a more mindful life through photography.

If this explanation has thrown up any questions for you please drop me a line and I will reply personally.

Happy creating

Teaching mindful photography

 

 

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