Spiritography Day 6: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life
Since approaching photography as a spiritual practice, I’ve learned to focus more on the process of it rather than on the final product. It has become a lesson in receiving rather than in taking. Instead of a trophy that is hunted, the image I receive is a gift.
Like meditation or contemplation, photography-as-receiving requires me to cultivate an attitude of receptivity. When I do, I open myself to surprise and mystery.
While it has taken time and deliberate effort, my lens for viewing is definitely changing.
On one of my contemplative walks, water became the subject, not as an object, but as a collaborator, even a co-creator. I spent some time contemplating different bodies of water to see what images I would receive and what messages would come through.
“Nature’s Bridal Veil”
I’ve stopped by this waterfall many times, but on this day it arrested my attention because it reminded me of a beautifully flowing veil. It was a sweltering day. The waterfall invited me over, as if to say, “Come. Take refuge here. Let me cool you with my mist.” Message: nature is our bride and we are her stewards. Only when we “marry” ourselves to nature will she reveal what’s beneath her veil.
“Little Dudh Kosi”
I call the photograph above “Little Dudh Kosi” which in Nepali means “Milk River” for the river that flows through the Everest region in Nepal. The milky water, here, flows from a hidden source within the bluff. Message: when we tap into the hidden resource within ourselves, abundance flows forth in our lives. We find ourselves living in the land of “milk and honey.”
The photo below is deceiving. Looking at this makes me feel as if I’m in an M.C. Escher illustration. The angle makes it seem as if the flow of water is moving away from me, from left to right, down into a dark cavity. It’s really flowing toward me, cascading down from the right toward the left and into the light. Message: life can be an illusion for those who are struggling with personal darkness.
The photo below shows the interplay of stone and water, creating various ripples. Message: the current of life that exists in all things flows in a natural rhythm, and connects everything.
Fellow photographer and friend Mike Rothman experiments with light and water in his contemplative practice. What he calls “water drop photography” is an exploration into the nature and beauty of something many people take for granted. He uses the common element of water and the science of physics to create images that are not only aesthetic but comforting on a soul level. The photo below is a beautiful example of his work. Note the precision and the concentricity.
Photo by Mike Rothman
Here’s another that leads the eye on a visual journey accented by pops of color (completely unretouched, no photoshopping). Who would have thought that water had such a colorful personality?
Photo by Mike Rothman
Of course, the message I receive may not be the message another receives, but that just goes to show how multi-dimensional the sacred is.
Collaborating with water has taught me a few things:
1. The act of living is the act of flowing. Water teaches us to be fluid, to flow, to move, to change, and to let go. If water is dammed up, it can’t flow and will stagnate. If we resist flowing with life, we, too, grow stagnant.
2. Water is nature’s reminder to relax and enjoy. It soothes us and produces a very relaxed state.
3. Like water, we can make waves and make change. We can also create storm surges and tsunamis, so we must take care that the waves we do make are not destructive.
4. Our body is approximately three-quarters water. The water that flows in the world is the same water that flows within us. Our bodies require it to live. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that our thoughts and emotions can change the molecular structure of water. This in turn affects our health and well-being.
Water is part of the rhythm of life. It teaches us how to live when we embrace its message. Let’s respect and appreciate it and give gratitude for it’s life-giving properties.