A Contemplative Journey

Go to the limits of your longing. There you will find your creator’s thumbprint” – Rilke (paraphrased)

Somehow, I fancy myself as a blogger and chronicler of patterns in Nature, connections in Nature, and sustainability education. My goal has been to do my small part to help create a new Nature consciousness.  While people comment positively about my writing, a common comment by people who visit my blog is : “I love the photography”. Yes, I am a Nature photographer as well as a writer. Indeed, it is through photography that I engage Nature and develop the inspiration for many of the blogs on this web site.  You might be interested in the patterns in Nature section of my gallery

People occasionally ask me about the process that goes through my head when I do photography. It is a good question. In reality, nothing goes through my mind because I live in the “Now” as I make connections with Nature.

The experience is more a spiritual adventure than it is a mental process. I first set my camera aside – within easy reach but not in my hand. Then I acquire a quiet spirit as I focus on the present moment, setting aside the past and the future. I then let Nature come to me rather than me pursuing Nature. Only when my contemplative spirit and my sensual perceptions feel a connection do I slowly lay hands on my camera and attempt to capture what I’m perceiving. You would be surprised how animal life adjusts to your presence and resumes their activities if you simply stay quiet.

I like to call the entire process “engaging Nature”. It is that act of engaging, of making a connection, that brings my perceptive senses into focus. And, it is the act of engaging Nature that creates a consciousness within my soul. You might be interested in seeing some of my work in a free eBook that I offer on this blog site. You can sign up and download the book just to the right of this post.

Does this sound a bit abstract to you? Actually, it is all quite real, down to earth, and wonderfully simple. Find a quiet beach, a patch of forest, some desert, or a meadow. Open your folding chair, get comfortable, set your camera and binoculars next to the chair, and just wait for Nature to come to you. I guarantee you, in some way, Nature will pay you a visit. Wait for your perceptive senses to give you a clue that something wonderful is happening. Maybe it is the colorful texture of lichen on some tree bark. Or, the glow of morning light on a big cactus. Maybe it is the cautious deer who slowly moves with dynamic tension as he comes closer to you. If you are lucky, there might be black storm clouds, or a raging stream, or an egret poised to strike a fish. These precious moments will light you up with a strong urge to capture the moment. Only then do you slowly lift your camera. Almost magically, your feeling of that moment will be captured in your image and be transformed into the souls of your viewers.

What I just described is a spiritual practice commonly called “contemplative photography”. There is a great book on the subject. And a contemplative blog site worth exploring . One of my favorite blog authors is Kim Manley Ort  who talks a lot about contemplative photography. These three web sites ought to give you a feel for this spiritual practice.

I like to think that all photography, along with art in general, teaching, and writing are human activities that are greatly enhanced by the practice of acquiring a quiet spirit and letting things happen.

In a recent post , I discussed sustainability education for young people where they are asked to use their cameras to capture images of Nature. In reality, I was talking about the role of contemplative photography in helping young people develop a consciousness for Nature that we modern adults have lost.

You don’t need to be a guru to enjoy capturing a moment in Nature through contemplative photography.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading this blog post. The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers. You are encouraged to offer your comments in the space provided below.

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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.

7 Responses to “A Contemplative Journey”

  1. Wow… You feed my thoughts and ask what do I think while I am digesting! ha I now understand why children are cautioned to stay out of the pool after eating lest their muscles cramp. Focus on nourishment, not service… every living thing is myopic at first. When it is at rest it can explore.
    I LOVE our words! sweetly encouraging, disciplined with integrity, excellent science to support your thoughts. You are a good teacher. Webster defines ‘pupil’ as “The tiny image of oneself in another’s eye”.

    You have made the choice to teach your perspective -the product flows beautifully.
    Scientists are not a select ‘few’. We all come into this world to explore.
    Poe’s ‘Pit And The Pendulum’. First, look around – get your bearings. Find balance, then explore.
    Thank you for sharing your explorations.

    Everyone who makes a choice is a scientist; some just don’t take the right notes of their observations, so they get in a ‘Do’ loop, repeating the test. They are Human DOings.

    My empirical observations are beginning to take form – to precipitate, manifest. I, too, love photography to remember a moment that can never be re-lived. I am just beginning my journey on this BEing path. From City Girl to Farmer! Seeking dLIGHTs..
    Thanks for the illuminations. LOVE your work!

    • Thank you for your kind words and for your energy Caroline. While many scientists fail to see it, there is a very constructive place for passion and perception in science (e.g. Feynman).

  2. ELISA del Carmen cedillo says:

    Buen article d tu blog Bill, de hecho ahora estoy en un lugar de Paz y tranquilidad, el due no del lugar me permit pasar a mediator y observer la naturaleza. El lugar que visit hoy es el Refugio de las aves en alamo Texas, creo que tu lo conocer tengo una sill y la camara de mi celular que capta mas o menos las fotos. Pronto enviar algunas, continuer dandy lectura a tu information que es muy interesante e importante.

  3. ELISA del Carmen cedillo says:

    Es hermosa la fotografia que tiene como condo una tonalidad de azul muy bella ,tu espiritu se refleja en ella, cap taste con tu lente un element de la naturaleza que aun forma parte de Ella.
    Bueno tu post de motivar a Los jovenes a observer La naturaleza y captarla con su camara ya que hoy en dia todos tienen una camara en su celular, tal vez no to men las majors fotos como tu, pero lo importante es que descubran la magia de la naturaleza y lo importante que es para nuestras vidas.
    Un saludo cordial, ester esperando tus libels para leerlos.
    Exit en todo.

  4. Catherine K. Hawkins says:

    Today I will escape to a quiet place and engage nature!

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