Photography helps to instill a beginner’s mind

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The normal response when you deal with a situation that is familiar to you, is to assume that you know everything about it. As you do this, you cut off and exclude so much information (and potentiality) that exists without you knowing it.

Many old relationships become rigid and stale because those in the relationship feel and believe that they know everything about one another. The belief that ‘I know exactly who you are, what you are thinking and how you are feeling’, inadvertently creates restrictions and limitations in the relationship as time unfolds. In the process, the relationship loses its generative ability to create new insights and understandings. Conversations grind to a holt and it seems that there is nothing new, different or more that can be said.

Going to the same place (location), time and time again, and to walk away with a different perspective has been the gift of landscape photography.

My photography has rekindled my beginner’s mind.

The challenge when dealing with sameness, is to notice the small changes that are unfolding (or have unfolded) over time. These offer the seeds for new knowledge and deeper understanding of the evolutionary complexity that exists. 

Being open to a new experience in the same old place (or in the same old relationship) requires the zen attitude of having a child’s mind when dealing with what you may believe is ‘the familiar’. The beginner’s mind has no assumptions, no preconceived ideas about how things should or should not be. Instead, it allows you to be open to the ongoing changes that are unfolding right in front of your eyes.

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Part 4: Observation

Observing
Observation

It was early morning and my eye caught an old man looking down and observing some passers by. He was drawn into what was unfolding below him. He was totally absorbed in observation.

As a therapist, I have come to learn that my observation is constantly being pulled and pushed in different directions by those I consult with. This occurs through what is being said and how it is being said. Problems are like visual magnets. They draw you into a particular reality, usually a rigidly defined water tight reality. The challenge, as a therapist, is to notice what is not ‘being said’ about what is unfolding right in front of you. Or to notice the little unusual pieces of behaviour or insights that are not part of the dominant story being told.

Central to the very heart of reality, a beautiful vision is available – when we can ‘see’ without adopting limiting positions (quote by Tulku, 1977). But in order to access this reality which is full of possibilities, you need to be aware of where and how you look at what is unfolding before your eyes. Where you look, is what you will see. What you see is determined by what you believe and the assumptions you may make. In other words, what you observe in reality tells you more about yourself (the observer) than what is perceived as the ‘truth’ that exists external to yourself (the observed).

When taking a photograph, you have a range of possibilities in how you want to frame a scene. Do you want to use a telescopic lens to highlight specific detail in the distance (narrow focus), or a wide angle lens to include as much detail so that a broad context is revealed? What about the position of the camera, taking the photograph from a low vantage point, or standing tall? What about the light: during early morning, mid-day, sunset or at any random time that is convenient? All of these many different factors then converge to create the final product.

Life philosophy (including religion), attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, values, family ecology (ideas/knowledge passed on from generation to generation), education, life experience and culture are some of the interacting factors that converge to create the ‘photograph’ that you see in life.

In general, I believe that we can view life through one or more of four lenses: (a) the co-operative, (b) expansive, (c) perfect and/or (d) random lens. Each of these lenses, views life from a different perspective. This philosophy helps me to understand some of the complex dynamics of life and guides my observations, responses and actions in my work as a psychotherapist.

As you observe a human system, you will have an impact on what is being observed. This is a tenet of quantum physics. Your observation will affect the dynamics of the system, even if you do not act at all. If you are able to observe with compassion, those who are being observed will feel the warmth, care and understanding. This type of observation has the power to heal. No other action is required.