"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.
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.