Move into the light

In landscape photography it is light that enhances and ‘uplifts’ a photograph to a new level. The eyes are naturally drawn to the light and when the eyes are directed to points of interest from a compositional perspective, the photograph has an emotional and meaningful impact.

When it comes to light in relationships, being emotionally light has the characteristics of creative playfulness, optimism and openness. Light is the energy of love which is up lifting.

Light is also the interpersonal space where meaning gets created. Light offers the fabric on which diversity of perspectives can be embedded.

IMG_5929-4There may be times in your life when you have to deal with trauma and/or uncertainty. In such times, you will probably feel as if you are trapped in darkness.

img_6683The metaphor of darkness implies that you do not know what to do, where to look and in which direction to move. This activates caution, which in turn, restricts your ability to move. Feeling stuck can cause a downward spiral of helplessness and despondency to unfold.  

Lack of movement will activate your survival instincts, heightening stress and intensity. This tightens  and rigidifies your energy system.

img_5549In times of despair, look for the light and move towards it. Trust the light, it will help guide you when you find yourself in the darkness of ‘not knowing’.

img_7376Let the light draw you into the landscape of your experience. Move in a gentle and loving way. Small steps towards the light. There is no need to rush. The destination is not important. Instead, it is the movement towards the light that eventually offers clarity to your experiences. 

IMG_7539-2When out in the landscape, the light can be illusive. At times, you will have to be patient and wait for the light to arrive. Waiting for the light will highlight aspects of yourself that may need to be addressed. Rigidity of perspective, unrealistic expectations, or self-absorption are likely to emerge during this period of waiting.

In times of darkness, you may question the existence of light. 

It is important to remind yourself that light is a gift that arrives in its own way and in its own time. It is not a mechanical phenomenon that can be directed by your expectations or needs. 

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Rest, hold hands and appreciate

Life is movement.

We are on a journey, traveling to where…?

There may be times when we feel alone as we question the meaning of our quest.

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We strive and compete. We seek recognition and status. We rush as we guzzle time in our frenetic desire to accomplish.

We are afraid to stop in fear that others may pass us. This fear drives us to push harder and to increase our pace.

If crisis or illness stops your movement, you are probably feeling exhausted. It is time to take stock. Maybe a change is required? You may need to examine the pace, direction, intention and meaning of your journey.

While planning, perseverance, desire, honesty and meaning will help you reach your destination, it is important to consider whether you can sustain your efforts and whether you are truly happy doing what you are doing. To assist in this regard:

  1. Walk the dog
  2. Stop, sit, look up, and appreciate the broad vista
  3. Hold hands

‘Walk the dog’ is a metaphor to remind you about an attitude. A dog on a walk is totally absorbed in the present moment as it explores the environment with joy. There is no such thing as a depressed dog on a walk.

Sitting on a bench to rest and to look at the broad vista that extends in front of you, helps you keep perspective. Stopping and looking up, gives you an opportunity to notice and appreciate the beauty that exists before your eyes. This helps to nourish you emotionally and to regenerate your energy as you continue your travel.

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It helps to share the journey with a partner. Anyone who observes and supports your movement is considered a partner. Having a partner, seems to halve the effort and worry during difficult times.

Holding hands when you are walking can be done physically, emotionally and/or mentally. Holding hands keeps you balanced and helps regulate your pace and provides a context where another is connecting to you energetically. Holding hands is a loving gesture.

A mother is always the first to hold your hand as you begin the journey.

Dedicated to my mother, Mimi. Her abundant generosity and kindness helped ease the burden of many a traveler.

Part 7: Playing

Playing
Playing

As I approached the beach I could hear the laughter. A group of children where playing in the sea. I could feel their joy jump through the lens as I took the photograph.

A child’s natural energy is playful, spontaneous and joyful. A child does not need to be taught how to play.

Most people consider work and play to be mutually exclusive. In today’s society, this certainly seems to be the case. Work is serious, considered to be very important and is done by adults. There is usually a clearly defined task or activity to be done, and after completion of this, you are rewarded financially. A signed contract governs what you can or cannot do, how long this should take, and the benefits that you will receive in the process. Unfortunately, work has been formalised and regulated to the point that it has become sterile and meaningless. In the process, work has also become stressful. The heart energy of a person shuts down under these conditions. When this occurs, work loses its ‘soul’.

Playful energy is at the heart of creativity. Being playful is a way of being, that encompasses lightness, joy, freedom and spontaneity.

Sport is formalised play. Professional sport offers the athlete the opportunity to integrate the worlds of work and play. The challenge for the professional athlete is not to lose sight of the fundamental reason why sport was chosen as work. When the energy of joy and love is brought onto the field of work (play), exceptional performances occur.

 

Part 3: Love

Love
Love

An old couple passed by. He was in a wheel chair and she had her hand on his back, gently guiding his movement. I noticed a moment when their eyes met; hers with care and compassion, his with appreciation.

So much is conveyed through the eyes, without a word having to be spoken. The eyes have direct access to the heart, so what the heart feels, the eyes will convey.

While I did not know anything about the couple, their ease in interaction suggested that they had been together for a long time. They probably had many stories to share about the ups and downs of married life. As I looked at them leaving the little town square, I wondered about his disability and the impact that this may have had on their relationship.

Unpredictable, drastic change in a person’s life confronts one with the fragility of life. When such change occurs, immediate adaptation and adjustment to the new circumstances is required. This is not an easy process to deal with, especially if one has grown used to certain comforts and routines.

In the square, preparations were underway for a music event. Blue chairs had been set up for the occasion. Music has the power to stir one’s emotions; especially when it comes to songs about love.

While the nature of love is gentle and yielding, it is the most powerful energy that is experienced by humans. Love can overcome any obstacle. The old couple showed a wonderful example of this. Her compassion and his appreciation that I had noticed in the way that they had looked at each other, were the interconnected by-products of the energy of love.

Part 1: Relationship

Relationship
Relationship

The sun had just set. The couple sat motionless on the secluded beach. They were all alone in the privacy of their relationship. An hour or so ago, this beach was packed with other people.

When I took the photograph, he was staring pensively out to sea, she had her head resting on his shoulders. She seemed despondent. He appeared burdened. Despite this, there was a serenity to them. Their stillness offered them a moment of intimate connection.

Relationship is about the nature of the connection. On a fundamental level, energy flow and information flow determines the nature of the relationship between two people. Given this, every relationship is unique.

According to Gregory Bateson, a biologist, relationships are the essence of the living world and one of the best ways to describe and understand relationships is by telling stories. ‘Stories are the royal road to the study of relationships,’ he would say. ‘What is important in a story, what is true in it, is not the plot, the things, or the people in a story, but the relationships between them’.

There are no absolutes when it comes to a relationship. There is no truth that defines a relationship. Instead, perceptions are the creative building blocks of an evolving relationship.

Experiences in a relationship are interpreted and understood from at least two perspectives. And it is in the difference of these perspectives that a ‘pattern of interaction’ unfolds.

By nature, a relationship is a learning system. A healthy relationship is creative and should be evolving to more and more complexity. As part of this evolution, the challenge is to navigate through uncertainty and unpredictability. This may be particularly pertinent as a relationship ages, since old established assumptions may block new ideas from emerging. The ability to generate newness is necessary in order to (re)solve problems and struggles.

There is always more to a relationship than what may presently exist, just like there is more to who you may think you are. In other words, a healthy relationship is expansive.

All humans have an inherent desire and need for love, belonging, and harmony. A relationship offers the possibility for these needs to be fulfilled. For this reason, a relationship needs to be nurtured since there is also a fragility to it. Given this, nothing should be taken for granted in a relationship.

Besides having relationships with those around you, you have an even more complex inner relationship with yourself to deal with. What is the nature of your relationship with yourself? Do you feel comfortable with yourself? How critical are you of yourself? Do you care for yourself? Do you encourage yourself in times of difficulty? Answers to these questions emerge when you are all alone in your own silence. It is then that the true nature of your relationship with yourself becomes clearer.

Love and quantum leaps

Balanced and focused
Keaton Jennings – balanced and focused

Recently, my nephew Keaton Jennings, scored two centuries in the opening match of the English county cricket season. Any cricketer will tell you how remarkable this achievement is. His performance placed him in the Durham County Cricket Club’s history books.

I often equate life to the image of an iceberg, where 1/7 lies above the surface (the seen), while 6/7 lies beneath the water line (the unseen). His remarkable performance did not surprise me one bit, since I had observed the accumulation of all the hard work and dedication that goes on behind the scenes. He never shies away from doing the ‘hard yards’, and is keen to learn more and more about the complexity of top performance.

In talking about the mental aspects of elite performance, I shared with him that the mental and emotional components of an athlete need to be integrated and balanced for exceptional performance to unfold. In order to assist this process, Keaton and I spent 6 months doing tai chi together. In addition, he applied the calm breathing exercises of the tai chi practice to his batting.

Besides working on getting into this balanced performance state, I mentioned that an athlete will not be able to perform to his(her) potential if riddled with fear during competition, especially with the ‘fear of failure’. Fear constricts and restricts the energy flow of a person. It tightens the body and freezes the mental capacities of the athlete. Fear vacillates (depending on the context), and tends to rear its ugly head at critical moments during the competitive encounter of elite sport.

There are two processes that one can use to tackle and neutralize fear. It is worth mentioning, however, that fear is a powerful and stubborn energy that is not easily conquered. Given this, one needs to apply gentle perseverance to the process of overcoming it.

Firstly, one should ‘look’ at the fear squarely in its eyes and acknowledge its existence, without trying to change or resolve it. By just looking at your fear, you shine light on it. Since fear operates in the dark recesses of the mind, it does not like light. Besides wanting to remain in the dark, fear thrives and grows with denial. Honest looking, is a powerful neutralizing agent since this is opposite to the denial process.

Secondly, one can counter fear by applying lots of love to it. Love is the opposite energy to fear. When there is love, there can be no place for fear. Playing top sport with love in the heart, assists the athlete to enter the emotional and mental place where mind, body and spirit integrate into a unified and coherent energetic force that allows a quantum performance to occur.

Playing with love in the heart does not mean that the athlete is soft, weak or casual. Love requires taking care of what one does and insists that you are patient, persevering and dedicated in your efforts. Further, love means that the athlete is not critical or judgmental when dealing with failure. Instead, love is expansive and drives the athlete further to reveal the true potential that exists within. By accessing the energy of love, the athlete becomes alert to the unfolding moment and responds spontaneously with an open heart. It is in this emotional place, that the athlete enters the zone, where doubts are released and replaced with an inner peace that thrives on the challenge of the competitive moment.

Leaping with joy
Leaping with joy

‘Not knowing’

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Yesterday, I was reading through some messages that I and a close friend had been exchanging over time. As I read them, I experienced a range of feelings, from sadness to a deeper appreciation of our relationship.

The sadness was due to my reading our messages dated two months before he passed away. I had just spent a wonderful week with him, taking photographs, and had been telling him how much I enjoyed our discussions about photography. He replied, telling me how much he valued our relationship. He was a well known film director and had a wealth of knowledge about lighting, composition and creativity in photography, that he shared with me in abundance.

I used to visit him on a yearly basis, usually around his birthday. For me, it was a photographic retreat where I could immerse myself into a field that I loved.

When he visited me, we spent hours talking about philosophy and psychology. He shared some of his deepest emotional struggles with me. It seemed that without us knowing it, we developed this ‘to and fro’ visiting rhythm where photography was centre stage in his place of abode, and psychology was the theme when he spent time visiting me.

During my visit in April 2014, he did not know that he had cancer. We also did not know that he only had two more months to live. As I was reading through our exchange that we had in April 2014, I couldn’t stop thinking about the notion of legacy and love, and how quickly life can change and how fragile our existence actually is. In this age of information flow, communication is documented and archived in a string of ‘to and fro’ bits of meaningful (or not?) exchanges between people. As you reflect back on the past communication you have had with a friend or family member, you never know when death will intervene and stop the exchange.

As I read through the old messages between us, there were no regrets about not having said what I really wanted to say, or wishing that I hadn’t said what I had said. In fact, as I went through our messaging, I felt a deeper appreciation of our relationship.

I couldn’t stop feeling that since we live in a state of ‘not knowing’ when it comes to death, our every message that we send to others should be enveloped with a conscious awareness that we are creating a legacy of who we are, and how we wish to be remembered.

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