Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mind Full or Mindful? – Exercises in Staying Present

"Mindfulness" has been a buzzword for me lately. I've been adventuring a lot, and there's an urge to capture every moment on my camera phone, immediately scroll through and delete the unworthy photos, filter the chosen ones with soft focus and blue tones, share with the world on various platforms to show them what a great time I'm having, and then check my phone every 10 minutes to see how many "likes" or "hearts" or "favorites" I got. 

It's exhausting. 

I've shared the validation trap I often fall into, this song and dance doesn't help me stay present in the slightest. 

On many of the adventures Joe and I took this summer, we tried to be deliberate in not pulling out our phones and snapping photos (it helped that we were often in areas without service). Instead, we sat in the valley of the Gifford-Pinchot, drinking in morning fog and watching as first rays pierced through. We scrambled down fallen logs to find a clear lagoon at the base of a massive waterfall and listened to constant crash. When we visited Milla, we stargazed at the big, bright Milky Way (the brightest I had ever seen it); combed beaches and found seaglass and agate; danced to local country and bluegrass music. We often left our phones in the car – their only use were as watches, and we were on our time, so it didn't matter. 

On one of our hikes on the island, a group of ladies asked us to take their photo at one of the vistas. I peered through the viewfinder and snapped several options (landscape, portrait, golden section, etc.), and none seemed to capture what I was seeing right in front of me – the iridescent bay, the faint outline of Mount Rainier, the vultures circling in the distance. They left the vista after reviewing my photos, and my companions and I stared out over the view in silence. When I was certain the ladies were out of ear shot, I said, "There's no way you could capture this on camera." 

These exercises in staying in the present proved to be fruitful. I can more easily recall those moments in my mind – what the air tasted like, how my bare feet felt on the ground, how the waves grew bigger in the ferry wake and how their force began to scare me – because I was there. Really and truly there. 

So what would happen if, on your next adventure, you resisted the urge to capture every moment for your social media profile? Would you enjoy it any less? Would you be able to share your experience with others without using photos or video? Would your companions be curious or follow suit (or volunteer to take photos, like Milla did for Joe and I)? 

Lastly, a video to illustrate my point. 


  1. Such a good post, girl.

    Funny that I was the one taking the photos and sharing them, what with my recent adventures in disliking the social media overload. Even as we were discussing these complex things.

    Just as often as leaving my cameras behind, I'm the one with camera in hand unable to resist "capturing the moment". On the one hand I love committing beauty to mere memory, yet at the same time feel intrigued to try to represent that beauty I see in an image. My interest in photography comes strictly from blogging and it has been a huge joy and boon to me, yet at the same time, I don't feel the need to always catch every "blog worthy moment".

    I'm really getting into film photography again (as you saw ; ) and am excited to see how that shapes my perspective on seizing life into frames. The medium, it seems to me, sometimes IS the message.

    Thank you for being so wise and thought provoking.

    1. I thought about this, and your motivation for snapping photos is different from what mine would have been. Yours is an interest in photography (the reason I follow photographers on Instagram!), representing beauty. I'm in the process of moving toward that, divorcing myself from the validation motivation.

      My mama meditates a lot on photography, the business of photography, capturing moments. You might like her blog!

      Also, thank you a million times over again for opening your home to us. We had a beautiful weekend.

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