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.

Ordinary Time?

Ordinary Time

Submitted by board member, the Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch

Time is an issue with which we all struggle. In liturgical churches, i.e. churches with a formal order of worship, there is a period in our calendar called Ordinary Time. This part of the church year usually begins in late spring and lasts until late fall. It is the largest single season of the church year and has few of the bigger holy days. It is the regular time when life is grounded out and we move from one week to the next without a lot of interruption.

As a community we use this season as the time to recharge our batteries. It is not that we stop doing things so we can save our energy; rather, it is that we shift our focus, which brings a different type of energy. We focus less on the big holy days—because there are few of them—and more on the gentle connection of shared life. In other words, we walk together in regular life and connect in ways that some say might say are mundane or not very special.

There is an ebb and flow to life. Part of recharging our batteries is the practice of living into that shifting of focus. If we try to be constant with the type of energy we expend, we burn out. When we shift our energies to match the ebb and flow of life, we find ourselves continuously recharging.

The ordinary times of our lives are for shifting of focus, not shutting down. It is an important distinction. One is positive and the other is defeatist. Which do you want in your life?