I am up early enough on a Saturday to get to the Farmer’s Market before it’s mobbed. I don’t enjoy crowds. I move easily enough through them, but doing so tends to push me into a very focused, navigation-oriented manner of thinking that pushes aesthetic to the side in favor of things that feel more about survival. I like to move more gently through my experience. I enjoy being aware, and at leisure. I like to take my time. Those are thing I enjoy. Chances are if you know me, or if you speak to someone who does, on the matter of how I move through my experience moment to moment, it is quite likely that ‘slowly’, ‘gently’, and ‘aware’ are not going to be the first words to come to mind. I practice. A lot.

I am thinking about my imminent departure for the Farmer’s Market, this morning. Camera in hand, I am entertaining myself with a wee scavenger hunt; I am looking at it as an exercise in improving my awareness, too. I giggle when I think of a favorite cartoon hero, Sterling Archer, and his ‘total situational awareness’; it is his stated sense of self, but from the viewer perspective, he haplessly bumbles through quite a lot of his experience, demonstrating extraordinary good fortune every bit as often as any detailed explicit awareness. His experience is very much his own; it differs greatly from the perspective on his experience held by others. I, too, often feel quite aware of my surroundings, my experience, the presence, behavior, and demeanor of others…I have substantial empirical evidence that I am far less so than I tend to feel. ‘Why?’ is not the relevant piece of the puzzle, generally. ‘Why’ only becomes relevant in any way if something about the why is problematic for achieving goals, making desired changes, or negatively impacts my quality of life, overall. So… let’s not worry so much about ‘why’ today? 🙂

Some moments only reveal their beauty when I slow down to notice it.

Some moments only reveal their beauty when I slow down to notice it.

One reason I began carrying my camera everywhere (some weeks or months after starting this blog, actually) is that my camera has become a tool for bringing me back to a mindful moment, and reconnecting with ‘now’ – by raising my awareness of some detail, in order to get a picture of it. I move through my experience so quickly, in spite of my joy in slowing things down; taking a picture requires a willful pause, and careful consideration of what I see. The pictures themselves have the additional wonder of holding the power to bring me back to that specific mindful moment, at a later point. In time of greatest stress, doubt, or despair, flipping through my photographs one by one puts other moments in front of me for consideration. They become keys to the locks in my chaos  and damage that sometimes cause so much suffering; when I am very distressed, agitated, or blue, I have trouble connecting with better moments and returning to a place of emotional equilibrium. The pictures tend to help me leverage the power of a disinhibiting injury – to be liberated by the very qualities that sometimes limit me. The pictures help me, over time, tweak my implicit bias in a more positive direction; I don’t photograph things that cause me pain, or further suffering, generally speaking. (There are artists whose creative strength takes them down those dark paths, and I am awed by their power to reveal, and to heal.)

I don’t assume that because I have the injury I do, that these practices are exclusively beneficial to me; your results may vary, and there are verbs involved, but actions do have consequences – surely you would experience results of your own. 🙂

I used to fight stress and panic by shutting myself off, by withdrawing into myself and cutting off the world.  It didn’t actually work out that way, and I suffered in spite of my withdrawal, sometimes more so by building a solitary emotional prison, invisible and alone. I tend to feel more angry and encroached upon than comforted, or safe, by trying so hard to be less open, less available, less outspoken. I end up resenting the lack of consideration, the lack of reciprocity from others, and the constant pinging on my consciousness of the world. On the other hand, it is not a better deal to launch emotional weapons of mass distraction into a crowd, or to impose my very intense emotional life on others, over their explicit objections or boundary setting. Quite a puzzle.

I am still a student. There are questions, and more to learn. For now, I am walking my own path, and today it leads to the Farmer’s Market, camera in hand, to see the world.