Part 7 – From Spirit to Matter

Wabi-Sabi – Nature’s Imperfection

Seeing What Is 

Two years into California life I still felt unsettled, ungrounded. I had studied with amazing spiritual teachers, taken a trip around the world and photographed to my heart’s content. I was still living off of savings, not working. I sought advice from one of my teachers, guru Babaji, and decided to go back to school, to enter seminary. This provided routine, structure, and a community of like-hearted souls taking action in the world. It also created a great deal of angst as I vacillated between the idea of being a chaplain, or an artist, and worrying about how I would ever use any or all of my talents to create right livelihood. I had entered into another phase of integrating my NDE… the either/or mode, not this/not that, and couldn’t see the both/and  opportunities of being rather than doing. The more I struggled to understand the more resistant I became. One day my academic advisor suggested that I just step back and allow things to unfold.

Stepping back and allowing lead to a year in residence at Sonoma Ashram. There I learned how to breathe into a simple, albeit very structured, contemplative life. A life of seeing what is, no more – no less. I let go of more belongings, of inhibiting thoughts and negative beliefs. Baba would say, “Nothing is worth losing your peace.” And when I lost my peace, his reminder was, “Stop, take a step back…”  The daily practices opened my heart, I became more compassionate, and I learned to be still amidst the swirling Shakti energy that created daily paradox within our community of residents and guests.

Then the 2016 election happened. It felt like the earth shifted on its axis and she entered into a dark night of the planetary soul. I was ordained a couple of weeks later and it became apparent that my time at the ashram was ending. I needed to be out in the world, although I still didn’t know what I was to do. While I hunted for work, I sought refuge in my photography as a spiritual practice, walking every day, going to the ocean, or meandering around the ashram grounds. I found peace in nature and in seeing the Divine everywhere. Wabi-sabi – the imperfection of what is, nothing more – nothing less.  By summer I was on to my next adventure.

Visit more of my Wabi-Sabi collection HERE.

 

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”   –  Confucious

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