Contemplative Sight

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To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

“Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake

Contributed by Executive Director, The Rev. Tara K. Soughers, PhD

I have been finding, more and more, that my photography is a form of contemplative practice.

Of course, there are times when I rush madly around, taking pictures right and left, and those times are not particularly contemplative.  They are no more contemplative than other busy parts of my life.  Photography becomes another task to accomplish, another thing to mark off my “to-do” list.  I also find that those pictures, while often acceptable, are not usually my best pictures.

Photography becomes a contemplative practice for me when I make the time to slow down, and to become present.  I usually begin with looking for the obvious pictures, and I start there.  As I slow down, however, I begin to notice things, details, that I miss in my more hurried photographic  forays.

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Best, however, is when I sit in one place and let myself be present there.  In those times, I become see more deeply, and I am much more likely to be surprised by what is around me.  I can marvel at the texture of the rocks, notice how the light from the sun hits the trees, see the insects among the flowers, and watch the wind make ripples in the water.  For me it is a time of simply being a part of the world around me, allowing all of the normal activities and worries of my life slip away until I am at peace with the world around me.

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Like any other contemplative practice, sometimes I find it easier to get that place of quiet more easily than at other times.  In times of great stress, I may not be able to get to a place of calm presence.  Even on those days, when I am at my most distracted, however, I return from my contemplative time less stressed, more grounded, better able to face what lies ahead.

 

Does photography function as a spiritual practice for you?  Feel free to comment and to leave examples of your own photographic work.