What is Mindfuless?
“ Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally “Jon Kabat Zinn
” I have spoken with so many photographers at different skill levels over the years. People who are at varying stages of their photography careers. Like any type of art, people who do traditional photography, can also be their own biggest critics and extremely judgmental towards what they produce and their current level of abilities. This may be down to the traditional approach to photography. Judging every single shot that you take. Overthinking and complicating pictures in an attempt to make them better, and then comparing yourself and your pictures to other photographers who are on a different level of skill to you. Possibly ending up frustrated with your efforts and unenthusiastic towards going out with your camera again. This mindset does not fill you with positive emotions, so it would not really be considered a mindful approach to your photography ‘‘
This type of photography can ultimately open you up to a whole new world and really expand on your current level of creativity. We’ve all heard the saying that…
‘’Rules are made to be broken’’
”While both practices are perfectly acceptable at different times, and I would say that I definitely practice a combination of both during my photography work. I personally really like the blend, but for any photography practice that we do here, we will only be concentrating on Perceptual Photography. This will also help you with creativity in your Traditional Photography Practice”
Check out part of The Creative Process speech by a man called Ira Glass. Credit to Plamen Panchev Studios for sharing the video.
Your five senses are sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. These senses work together to gather information from your environment and experiences, which are then interpreted by your brain. It takes the information you have received and coverts it to language. Language is how we all view and understand the world around us. You ask yourself a question, give yourself an answer and this is how you develop meaning for everything you experience in your life.
The meaning you develop is often influenced by previous experiences, past knowledge and fears of what may or may not happen afterwards. It can also be influenced by external factors, which are often outside of your control.
We react almost instantly to the information we get. This quick response is something that we have evolved to do and it has been crucial for survival in our environment throughout the ages. Unfortunately this has also made us extremely reactive at times when there may not be a need to react. It takes learning and practice to pause and reflect before we respond.
Each of our 5 senses uses its own system to receive the different information.
- Sight :- Light and colours are detected in the retina of our eyes.
- Sound :- Hairs in our ear move in response to sound.
- Smell :- Our nose detects different chemicals in the air and also different flavours in our food as air passes through our nasal cavity.
- Taste :- Taste buds on the tongue react to the taste of our food. (There are five different tastes we can perceive. Sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami)
- Touch :- Receptors on our skin detect things such as pressure, pain, temperature and vibrations.
Your senses connect you to your environment every single moment. It’s rare that your brain will make a decision based on the information from a single sense. Your five senses work together to create your perception of reality.
Your senses are on alert and feeling sensations constantly. At any time you can choose to bring awareness to them like a spot light. By paying attention to your senses, you will be able to experience something new in your environment each and every time. Become a friend of your senses, it will allow you to keep ”conscious control over your mind” which we will chat about more in a later sections.
Important Note :-
Looking is a function our your eye through your sense of sight. Seeing is something completely different. Seeing is a function of your mind and is completely dependent on how you perceive what is going on around you. Seeing is you perceiving what is happening or ”seeing is believing”
Photography as a Language
Photography has become The number 1 language in the world. A language used by every nationality and one that is understood in all cultures and societies. You know the old saying ”A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well this must be true, because around 50% of the world population now own a device that can takes pictures.
Where are you in the world now? I can guess you regularly meet or see people capturing what is going on around them with a camera or smartphone and then sharing their pictures on social media for the world to see. Taking and sharing pictures has become the new normal for most people. The pictures being shared are reflections of the experiences we are all living daily. Photography is not just reserved for hobbyists, artists and professionals. Photography is now for everybody. It is how we all understand and connect with each-other these days and it is also the way that so many people choose to express themselves.
You can use photography and mindful photography to understand and develop the language you use in your mind to Enhance and Improve Your Life & The Experiences You Have Every Single Day.
The Simplified Practice For Exploring
This practice is about the experience and the process, rather than focusing on the finished product and all the amazing pictures you will take without worrying about taking them. Trust me. It’s about letting go of any expectations and being more aware through your senses. Exploring you and your surroundings, being curious about what you might see, rather than being closed minded and judgemental towards what you are seeing. Accepting your experiences for what they are and not what you believe they should or could be. Respect this process and allow it bring you to a flow state as you explore. We’ll touch more on all of this later.
”This process will help you to be present and aware in the present moment which is a huge part of being happy”
There are amazing benefits to this practice. We would like you to get started straight away. You may not fully understand the process just yet. That will all come with time and learning as you go through this program. You will learn exactly how, why and what you are doing during your practice and afterwards. The real benefits come from getting out there in nature and doing the practice, so start developing that habit now.
Below is the process you follow with your camera and your mind.
- Remove unnecessary distractions – ”Be fully absorbed into what you are doing”
- Use your camera in in a setting that is well within your capabilities – ”We would not like you to be thinking too much about camera settings, so use your camera in a setting that is well within your capabilities and doesn’t challenge you much at all”
- No looking back through pictures until after practice – ”No judging or critiquing pictures until after the practice. Trust yourself”
- Use your senses – ‘’See, hear, smell, taste and feel what is around you as you walk’’
- Follow your intuition – ‘’If something feels right to you, we would like you to go with these moments’’
- Consider the shot – ‘’Pause and take a few breathes here. Try to really ”SEE” and capture your full experience in a picture’’
- Photograph your experience – ‘’Practice becoming comfortable in your experiences by pressing the shutter button, but only the once’’
- Repeat this process and find your flow – ”Repeat the process over and over as you explore with your camera.
Exploring to take pictures is by far the most exciting way to practice photography. Its fun and creative. Its completely absorbs us and we are almost fulfilling a primitive need. We are looking, hunting and foraging to collect things that will improve and enhance our lives. Pictures, memories, thoughts and feelings. Enjoy and embrace the process!!!
‘’ Nature is the ideal place to practice for many reasons, but this process can be practiced anywhere and at any time ’’
The Core Features
1/ Focus On You
At its core, mindfulness and mindful photography is about cultivating awareness of yourself. Focusing on, and understanding how you feel in experiences that you are having and letting go of the need for control of what is happening outside of you.
This starts when you allow yourself the time and space to turn your awareness inwards to observe your internal states, such as your thoughts, feelings, emotions, physical sensations, wants, motivations, intolerances and desires without judgement. This heightened state of awareness and processing time you allow yourself is how we all will learn about who we really are. When people build the habit of slowing down, it usually brings them on a journey of understanding, healing and connecting/reconnecting with their true self, which is where authentic happiness lies. This journey may also highlight areas of discomfort/pain which may need to be addressed, adjusted or healed from. This is all part of life and a piece of everybody’s journey.
Some feelings and emotions are easier to experience. Others may be a little more difficult. The most important thing to note is that is is completely normal to experience all types of feelings and emotions. We do not always need to label them as good, bad positive or negative. Unfortunately society has taught many of us that these things. That we need to feel better, to bury how we are feeling and ”get on with it” any time emotions arise. However we are here to experience all of them. Thats what being human is. There is no positive without negative, no good without bad. No learning without experience.
Focusing on you means this is your time to do something you want to do and your time is not something to be bargained with. Enjoy the process.
‘’ We call the artwork above, a life experience. This is a complete cycle and it is always running ’’
Human beings are emotionally driven
Most actions we take are taken depending on how we are feeling in that moment. We may think we are in control, but we are up to 95% emotionally controlled.
- Thoughts cause Feelings
- Feelings happen in your body
- How you are feeling determines how you Act
- Your Actions cause Results
- Results cause a Reaction
- Reactions cause more Thoughts
Thoughts Become Our Experience
Its now scientifically proven that our physical health is directly linked to our mental state, and this is also linked in reverse. This puts us completely at the mercy of our biology.
Thoughts in your head are not always facts, but an interesting thing happens when you focus your mind on those thoughts. Those thoughts literally become your bodies experience. One part of your mind is taking the thoughts you are having and is perceiving them as reality, because it doesn’t know what is real or imagined. It is then creating the corresponding feeling for those thoughts. This causes you distress. You may think these are just thoughts, but by focusing your attention on them, it means that your body is also coming along for the ride.
‘’Stress is a form of suffering whether we you want to believe it to be or not’’
All we really have control over in any experience is our thoughts, feelings and actions. We can only do our best with these and we have little or no control over our results, or other people’s reactions towards us.
It is also important to be mindful that our actions do cause this very same process to happen in other people.
”If you are going to be anything, be kind”
Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate, and is one of the most common traits that happiness researchers found in authentically happy people. Empathy may be the ability to understand what a person is going through, but Kindness is Empathy in action. Understanding and being kind to a person because you know how they are feeling is being influenced by this going on in their lives.
Remember this :-
- You are not your mind
- You are not your thoughts
- You are not your feelings
Thoughts are something that happen in your mind without your control. Your mind if left unguided will consistently bring you to fear or pain. The fear of your future or the pain of your past. Be aware of this and work to separate yourself from your mind, your thoughts and your feelings. These are all separate things.
We now live in a world that is filled with distractions and addictions that wreak havoc on our minds. ”Social media, smart devices, entertainment apps and just a complete overload of news and information”. Because of this, many people feel like they don’t the time or are fearful towards turning their focus inwards, so it can be challenging. Making the time and giving yourself that space is a necessary step towards self-understanding and healing on your journey through life.
Everyday Tips :- Start by carving out some quiet time for yourself. Practice a little introspection. Ask yourself what are you doing or not doing? How are you feeling? You might find it helpful to maintain a journal where you can jot down your thoughts and feelings. Over time, you will begin to notice patterns or recurring themes that can provide insight into your emotional landscape and connect with the many amazing aspects that make you who you are. Our mindful photography process is a guide you follow with your camera and also includes journaling. By following this process over time with repetition, you are actually rewiring and reshaping your brain through neuroplasticity….
With Your Camera
Practicing this feature in your photography means spending time away from these distractions and stressors, allowing yourself the time for peace, introspection, creativity and relaxation. So this means phones or smart devices are on silent or do not disturb. This is your time to be alone with your camera and your inner world in nature. We would like you to think of this as your own little adventure or exploration for amazing pieces of art that are already out there, only waiting to be photographed.
I believe photography appeals to our primal instincts. We are hunting for cool pictures and foraging all of these beautiful memories for ourselves to make ourselves feel better, just like we did so many generations ago in our life of survival. What many people don’t realise about photography, is that it is ”CATHARTIC”. The very act of taking pictures and being creative in this way is actually a form of emotional release. It’s a way to express and process feelings and emotions through creativity. Photography is a therapeutic tool when practiced in this way. This is a combination of a mindfulness based stress reduction therapy and a mindfulness based cognitive behavioural therapy.
The camera in your hand is your anchor and it creates a safe and comfortable space for you to focus your attention on. Use this time to understand your motivations, what draws you to the picture you are taking and this beautiful art form? What themes or subjects you are passionate about photographing. Do you enjoy capturing landscapes, portraits, street scenes, or wildlife? Do it!!! Are you drawn to stark contrasts or softer tones? Find out!!! As you begin to understand these aspects of yourself and your photographic self, you can start to develop your unique style and voice in not only photography, but also in your life.
“Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees.”
This quote encapsulates the essence of focusing on yourself in photography. It’s a reminder that your photos are a reflection of you, your thoughts, your feeling and experiences which are your very own unique perspective.
”Throughout this course, we will be referencing the mind. Most people believe their mind is located in their brain, but believe it or not, your mind is actually inside every single cell in your body.”
According to neuroscientists, the mind is divided into different parts and we are going to touch very quickly on two of the main parts now – One is known as the conscious mind ”Our thinking mind” and the other is known as the subconscious mind ”Our feeling or emotional mind”.
Consciousness is the state of being aware of and responsive to one’s surroundings. When you are focusing your attention or using your senses, you are conscious and this is your conscious mind in control. When your mind is wandering and your attention is elsewhere, you are unconscious and this is your subconscious mind in control. Scientists suggest we are consciously thinking only around 5-10% of the time. This means that the other 90-95% of the time we are unconsciously being controlled by our emotions and our subconscious mind. As we have mentioned, human beings we are emotionally driven. We take actions depending on how we are feeling in the moment much more often than we use logic. When we are unconscious we are often living with regrets of the past and worries or fears towards things that may or may not happen in the future. On top of that, our subconscious mind doesn’t know what is real or imagined so what we are thinking about, our body is living or reliving.
- Thinking occurs in your Conscious Mind
- Your thinking then triggers how you are feeling through your Subconscious Mind.
Understanding this, gives you the opportunity to become aware of your thoughts, how you are speaking to yourself and stop the limiting language you are using in your mind. Awareness helps you to make more educated choices towards how you may like to think of your experiences or where you should really focus your attention. This in turn can help you to control how you are feeling as a result. Once you are in control of how you are feeling, then you can choose how you would like to act.
Auto pilot is a state of mind that allows us to multitask every day.
Often we can go about our days, doing what we need to get done. Filling our time with every day necessary tasks like working, getting dressed, driving the car, eating meals or cleaning. We are doing these things without ever thinking how or why and we are still able to focus our minds on various other activities. Our senses are always on and giving us information and feedback, but when we are in a state of auto pilot, we are simply not aware of them.
”Scientists say we are in an autopilot state on average about 50% of the time we are awake”
Having this running can be both a good and bad thing. Without this function in our minds, our thoughts would be completely cluttered, and our life would be extremely difficult to live. It allows us to multitask, but most importantly it enables us to save brain power.
Auto Pilot happens when we switch off from conscious thought and we start taking actions completely unconsciously, being controlled by our subconscious.
This can become a problem if it is overused. If you overuse this state of mind, you may develop the habit of rushing through everyday life without ever taking any notice of it. Rushing to get to what you perceive is the exciting stuff later or looking externally to get more happiness in your life. The opposite minset to this is being present.
Being fully present or ‘’in the now’’ is something that has been spoken about by philosophers and theologians for thousand of years. It is said to be the ultimate state of being and where authentic happiness exists. All we ever really have in life is the moment we are living right here and right now.
We experience time in the now, but our mind spends much of its time wandering back into the past or forwards into the future. Being in the now is easier to achieve once you understand a little about how your mind works. It is when you make a conscious decision not to let your mind take control of your experience. The present is all we have. Everything else is either a memory or your imagination.
”Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”
When experiencing ‘’the now’’ the present moment, you are not distracted by unnecessary influences which may draw your attention away from what you are doing. You are using all your senses, going with the flow and accepting what comes your way without trying to control it. Your mind isn’t wandering and focusing on regrets from your past or worrying or fearful towards things which may or may not happen in your future. These things do not exist in the present moment.
In the now, you are experiencing life, not judging or labelling it. You are aware that you are thinking and acknowledging how you are feeling, but you are not leaving these things take control how you are acting. This helps you to see situations for what they really are and not what you believe they could or should be. With practice this helps you to really enjoy and be happy in simple moments.
Obviously thoughts and feelings can and will happen. The first step is to understand that they are only thoughts and feelings. Work on becoming a witness to your mind. These are all separate things and do not define who you are in this moment. See thoughts and feelings enter your mind like a passing cloud and then imagine them floating away again as you move on.
Everyday Tips :- There are numerous ways to cultivate presence in everyday life. You might begin by setting aside time each day for a mindfulness meditation practice, where you focus on your breath or the sensations in your body. Join us every Monday for Mindful Monday. You could practice mindful photography following the focus on happiness method. Try mindfully eating, where you use all your senses and take the time to savour each bite of food. You can mindfully walk, where you pay close attention to the sensation of your feet touching the ground and/or the sounds you hear all around you.
With Your Camera
In the focus on happiness method of mindful photography, being present means that you are taking the time to fully immersing yourself in the act of exploring and taking pictures. This camera settings you decide to use varies from person to person. Most photographers aim to shoot in manual mode as much as possible. Shooting in manual mode involves paying attention to the technical aspects like shutter speed, aperture, iso and composition. The approach we are using is mindful photography. In this method, we are focusing more on our senses and feeling our way to the picture. For this reason, we suggest that people use their camera in setting that they would consider to be very easy to use for their current level of abilities. Overthinking about camera settings is something we would not like you to be doing.
Your camera is always your anchor for you attention if your mind starts to wander or if you feel overwhelmed with feelings or emotions. Bring your attention right back to your camera and what you are doing. Thank yourself for this learning experience and start the method once again.
You can practice being present in your photography by spending a few moments before each shoot grounding yourself in the current moment. Take a few deep breaths, feeling the weight of the camera in your hands, and let go of any expectations or preconceived ideas about the photos you will take. As you shoot, keep bringing your attention back to what you are seeing and experiencing right now.
“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.”
This quote relates to the act of being present in photography, emphasizing that the images you capture should encapsulate the essence of the moment, requiring no additional words.
To practice non-judgment is to experience thoughts, feelings and experiences you are having without labelling them as “good” or “bad.” It is the acceptance of what is, without any need to judge, change or control it. This can be with people, places or a variety of different experiences.
We do not really know what is good or bad for us at any time. Positive things happen in perceived bad experiences and negative thing happen in perceived good experiences. Even though this is the case, we can often be guilty of labelling things as good, bad, right, wrong, positive or negative. This is because our brain has evolved as a survival engine and it is biased towards anything we perceive as negative or bad in our life, because it simply sees anything that is negative or bad as dangerous. We rapidly focus on them and our mind and body responds accordingly.
On average, we have around 60,000-80,000 thoughts a day. 95% of those thoughts being the same as the day before and around 80% of them would be classified as a negative thought. It is much easier than you would think to fall into a negative thought pattern. Not judging can lead to greater peace and contentment.
Photo credit @awkwardyeti – View
Why Do We Judge?
Nobody is perfect and we all slip with our thoughts from time to time. This is perfectly normal and not a big deal. If you do find it very difficult to be present or positive, stick with it and I will tell you a little about why this may be happening. Remember above we explained how we see everything as a language. We ask ourselves a question, give ourselves an answer and that is how we develop meaning for things we experience.
The negativity bias of our brain is an almond shaped area called the Amygdala. We have two of them. One located in either side of our brain. The amygdalae’s job is to keep us and others around us safe and it is very resistant to any type of change.
It is located in a part of the brain where we store emotions, evaluate threats, trigger survival instincts and store past memories. Because of this region, our brain has become biased towards any thing that we perceive as negativity or things that we believe are incorrect. It responds by rapidly focusing on it. This is because it perceives them as some form of threat or danger. Our minds have evolved to consistently evaluate these types of threats in our lives throughout prehistory.
Prehistoric peoples lives were shaped around fighting to survive. Due to this, they constantly needed to be on high alert and scanning their environment for possible threats. Back then dangers could come from predators of all sorts and even other people, when survival needs were limited. These pre historic people were confronted with much different situations than what people experience in today’s modern world, but this is something that still remains in all our brains today.
We now live in a world that is filled with distractions and addictions that wreak havoc on our minds. ”Social media, smart devices, entertainment apps and just a complete overload of news and information. Following and looking at people who are only sharing picture perfect moments and having a profile that is just the highlight reel of their lives. People have many low points also. Its part of life”.
Everyday Tips :- You can cultivate non-judgment in your daily life by becoming aware of when you are making judgments. Notice when you label something as good or bad, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable. Instead of automatically accepting these judgments, pause and consider whether they are truly helpful or necessary.
With Your Camera
In photography, non-judgment can involve viewing each shot as it is, rather than comparing it to others’ work or some imagined ideal. This can free you to take risks, try new things, and develop your unique style. When you view your photos, try to do so with an open mind, focusing on the emotions they evoke rather than whether they match up to a certain standard.
To practice non-judgment in your photography, you might try taking some photos without any intention of sharing them or even keeping them. This can help you let go of the need for approval and focus instead on the joy of capturing images. After each shoot, take some time to review your photos with an open mind, appreciating each one for what it is rather than what it might have been.
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”
This quote perfectly resonates with the concept of non-judgement in photography, reminding us that there’s no universal standard of a “good” photo; it’s all about the story and emotions an image portrays.
Observation involves looking beyond the surface to perceive the subtle details that others might overlook. This quality of attentiveness can deepen your understanding of the world around you, enhance your creativity, and cultivate a sense of wonder and curiosity.
Cultivating observation in your daily life can involve practices like mindful walking, where you pay close attention to the sights, sounds, and sensations you experience as you walk. You might also try sitting quietly in a busy place and observing the people and activities around you, or spending time in nature and paying close attention to the plants, animals, and elements.
With Your Camera
In photography, observation can involve noticing the interplay of light and shadow, the textures of a weathered wall, or the expression on a person’s face. It can also involve being open to unexpected moments of beauty or interest, and being ready to capture them when they arise.
You can practice observation in your photography by spending some time before each shoot simply looking at your surroundings, without any intention of taking photos. Try to notice the details that you might usually overlook. As you take photos, pay close attention to the light, the colors, and the composition, and try to capture the essence of what you are seeing.
“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”
This quote underlines the importance of observation in photography. Noticing the subtle nuances in a scene can make the difference between a good photo and a great one.
Optimism involves expecting the best possible outcome in every situation. It’s a mindset that can foster resilience, boost your mood, and even improve your physical health. However, it’s important to note that optimism is not about denying reality or avoiding negative emotions. Rather, it’s about choosing to focus on the positive aspects of a situation, and believing in your ability to overcome challenges.
You can cultivate optimism in your daily life by starting each day with a positive affirmation, focusing on what you’re grateful for, and looking for the silver lining in difficult situations. You might also find it helpful to surround yourself with positive influences, whether that’s uplifting books, inspiring music, or optimistic people.
In photography, an optimistic approach could involve viewing each missed shot as a learning experience rather than a failure. This perspective can fuel your progress as a photographer and also foster resilience and positivity in other areas of life.
To practice optimism in your photography, try setting a positive intention before each shoot. For example, you might decide to focus on the beauty you can find, or the joy you can capture. After the shoot, review your photos and note what you learned from the experience, and how you can use that knowledge to improve your future shoots.
“Every artist was first an amateur.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote encourages optimism, as it points out that everyone starts from a place of learning. It implies that with practice and a positive outlook, you can always enhance your craft.
Acceptance involves acknowledging reality as it is, without trying to change or resist it. This acceptance can lead to a sense of peace, as you let go of the struggle against what is. It can also open the door to creative solutions, as you learn to work with what you have rather than wishing things were different.
You can cultivate acceptance in your daily life by practicing mindfulness meditation, which involves observing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without trying to control or change them. You might also find it helpful to remind yourself of the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
In photography, acceptance can involve embracing the conditions of a shoot, accepting the limitations of your equipment, or recognizing your current skill level. This acceptance can free you to find creative ways to work with what you have, and to grow and learn as a photographer.
To practice acceptance in your photography, try setting an intention before each shoot to accept whatever conditions arise, and to work with them to the best of your ability. During the shoot, if you find yourself resisting or struggling against something, take a moment to pause and breathe, and then consciously choose to accept what is.
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
This quote stresses on acceptance, especially of reality as it is, much like how a camera captures the world as it truly exists.
Experience in the context of mindfulness refers to fully engaging with what’s happening, rather than just going through the motions. It involves not only doing things, but being fully present and aware as you do them.
You can cultivate this quality of experiencing in your daily life by taking the time to fully engage with your activities, whether that’s cooking a meal, talking with a friend, or taking a walk. Try to bring your full attention to what you’re doing, noticing the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations involved.
In photography, experiencing fully means not just going through the motions of taking photos, but truly engaging with the process. This can involve finding joy in the entire process, from planning the shoot and exploring the location to capturing the shot and editing the final image.
You can practice experiencing in your photography by setting an intention before each shoot to be fully present and engaged. During the shoot, take the time to fully experience each moment, whether you’re adjusting your camera settings, composing a shot, or waiting for the perfect light. After the shoot, take some time to reflect on the experience and savor the joy and satisfaction of creating images.
“Photography is a love affair with life.”
This quote conveys the concept of fully experiencing the process of photography, encouraging us to find joy in capturing life’s moments.