Part 2 – From Spirit to Matter

LEARNING HOW TO SEE – Zen Contemplative Photography

Photography as a Spiritual/Healing Practice Post NDE

Only six weeks after I emerged from my month in the hospital and just a few weeks out of bed recovering at home, I immersed myself in a photo workshop, “learning how to see” with Zen Buddhist Abbot and master photographer, John Daido Loori, Roshi.  I was healing from surgery and almost dying, and to those who viewed my images, my wounds were revealed without ever telling them my story.  Our assignment was to take a photograph that expressed the feeling of, “making love with light.”  At the time I was feeling deep gratitude for being alive and love for my brother who was at the hospital every one of the 25 days I was there.  This was my photograph.

As we were guided through the meditation to look more deeply into, around and through our photographs, to feel them kinesthetically and emotionally, my dyad partner for this exercise said she saw blood cells pumping through a vein. Physically she said she felt cold, and emotionally she felt sad but full of wonder. I had not told her that I almost died six weeks earlier and had surgery to save my life.

That weekend workshop revealed clearly for me that our inner landscape and outer world reflect one another and that photography was a healing modality. A small group of us practiced together meditating with our photographs for a few years after that workshop, unearthing and sharing deeper meaning, deeper stories, and healing for ourselves through our images. I continue this healing photography practice today, and love sharing it with others.

Love, like a glass urn born of molten heat, fragile and transparent… yet capable of holding tears of joy and tears of sorrow.  (poem that I wrote to go with the photo)

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”  Photographer Dorothea Lange

Receiving Photos with Eyes Wide Shut

…and other exercises using our chakras and all of our senses as “Portals of Perception,” tuning into the natural world around us…

Master photographer Dorothea Lange is quoted as saying, The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” The photography I teach helps us to “see” the non-dual relationship between self and other, to “see” our inner and outer worlds, and to express our Divinity, our Buddha Nature, through the lens of a camera as our focal point. The practice of viewing life through the confines of a lens, and our chakras helps us to focus, to tune out and to tune in to what and how we “see.”

Below is an example from a class I taught a while back. Our first exercise, working with our root chakra, was to find a place outdoors, to ground into and to comfortably and safely sit, becoming quiet and still. Closing our eyes, breathing into our belly and, for about 10 minutes, to just become aware of our surroundings. What did we feel, smell, taste, hear, sense… to our right, our left, directly in front and behind us? What about below and above us?  Then, keeping our eyes closed we snapped a photo in each of four directions.

I found my spot that day in the crook of a large Y-shaped cottonwood tree near a stream on the East Boulder Trail, in Colorado. The sun was warm and there was a light breeze. I settled in, calmed my breath, found my center and with my eyes closed, I quieted my mind. As I did this, I  began to notice my surroundings with my other senses. I could hear people and their dogs as they walked by. I felt the shadow of a bird as it flew past.

In that meditative space and time my ability to perceive opened and I “received” four photographs.  My senses and my camera were called to my right, to my left, down toward my feet and up into the tree. When I later looked at the photos, to my right was a very large Great Dane loping along, his owner far ahead of him down the trail. It was the bell on his collar that had called to me. To my left was a bird I heard chirping, as it sat on a wire. The photo of my knee revealed the sun spot I felt warming my legs. And the shot up into the tree, was of the light I felt filtering through the rustling leaves that I heard, along with one arm of the large Y-shaped trunk that I leaned against.

As I looked through files for the memoir I’m writing, I rediscovered photos I had forgotten and many took me right back to a very specific place and time, to a memory, an experience of all my felt-senses, because it wasn’t and isn’t separate, it IS me. I clearly remember feeling safely held, leaning against the strong trunk with its rough bark, in the crook of that cottonwood tree…with the warm rays of sun and the light breeze…

This photograph jumped off the screen and as if it were an old friend and I heard her say, “There’s something more here, do you see it? How would I look in Infrared B&W?”  That’s how the magic happens. The images speak if we listen, offering an amazing perspective we wouldn’t ordinarily see, because we don’t take the time to see or to listenWhat about the nature of this tree, and its insistence to be seen again in a new way reveals or reflects my true nature today… your true nature?  As a famous prophet said to his disciples…“ if only you have eyes to see and ears to listen…”

Master photographers, Minor White and John Daido Loori taught this deeper way of “seeing,” and nature was often their muse. That old cottonwood offered a fresh perspective long after our first encounter. Never underestimate the wisdom of the trees, or any other element of nature. We have much to learn from all the elements time after time. And, beyond photography, in my daily life, I often ask, “what else is there to see,” so the seeing becomes the being. If what I’ve shared here intrigues or inspires you, give it a try.  Feel free to send your photos, along with any sensory and emotional perceptions that arise. I’d love to hear from you. And if you’d like to study with me on-line or in person, please drop me a note at lisajwinston@ljwdivinesight.com

We’ll be practicing this at our Healing Photography Sisters-of-Spirit Retreat in Hawaii June 23-29.

https://ljwdivinesight.com/healing-photography-and-retreats/sisters-of-spirit-hawaii/

Blessings,

Lisa

©2018 LjW Divine Sight