Monday, June 1, 2009

Beware? or Be Aware...

We took an early morning ferry back from Orcas yesterday, hoping to catch some of the beautiful greens in the Skagit Valley on the way home. As we approached Anacortes, the water in the distance was streaked with light and the layers of blue were enchanting so I left my friends and went out on the ferry deck with my camera.

I suspect my white balance was still set for indoors, as all the photos from the trip have a slight yellowish cast. But still -- it was a beautiful day, and the concentration of light and shadow around the feet of this couple is just... juicy.

That's the challenge with photography, of course: I could always shoot in automatic mode, but I tend to prefer manual mode so I can control the balance of light and dark. But manual mode isn't just about exposure: there are lots of other variables as well, and any time I play with one of them it affects every shot after that until I reset it. It's all about control, and the fact is that though I would LIKE complete control over every shot, it's often more fun to see what serendipity happens when I DON'T control all the variables -- kind of like that Farrell Eaves, that man I mentioned a while back, who dropped his camera in a lake, tied it to his windshield wipers and drove through the desert to dry it out, and after that got such amazingly psychedelic shots he actually published a book of them.

I'm still reading Tolbert McCarroll's book, Notes from the Song of Life, and today's piece was on control -- an issue that plagues several members of my immediate family, including me. And there was a line in there that really struck me: "Beware of all the hundreds of ways you are controlling and manipulating during the course of each day. Hesitate a moment each time you are tempted. Awareness is the beginning of growth." I know that's part of the challenge I faced in parenting -- knowing when to take control, and when to allow them to make their own mistakes. And it seems to me that a lot of the challenges I struggle with in having my husband around 24/7 have to do with control issues, too -- on both sides. So this seems like particularly good advice at this point in time.

But ANY time we are encouraged to be more aware is probably a good thing -- it's so easy to spend much of our time in our heads, or on auto pilot. And what intrigues me as I look at this quote is that I never really thought before about the connection between "beware" and "be aware." It seems obvious now that I look at the words, but how curious to think that beware -- which always implied danger to me -- is really an injunction to be aware. And of course, in this instance, the implication is that danger isn't really something that comes from outside yourself, it's coming from within, and the best way to cope is to stay conscious; to pay attention.

As Rumi says, in a poem I recently received as part of the Rumi course I'm taking from the Spirituality and Practice website,

"Since consciousness is the inmost nature and essence of the soul,
the more aware you are the more spiritual you are.
Awareness is the effect of the spirit:
anyone who has this in abundance
is a man or woman of God."

[Rumi, Mathnawi VI, 148-150]

So the next time you find yourself gearing up for battle with a child or a mate, stop and listen for a minute; be aware. Is it really that they're driving you crazy, that they're doing something incredibly irritating or stupid? Or is it your need to control that's getting triggered? And is control really necessary, right in this moment? Or could you let go of this piece, and be open to the possible serendipity that awaits you?

Just wondering...


Jan said...

I love your quote about control and awareness. We are hoping to spend three nights on Orcas Island this summer, but we haven't found a big enough house to rent yet. said...

I have a friend who used to manage several rental properties on Orcas: send me an email ( and I'll send back her name and a number where she can be reached, if you like. I did hear that there's a glut on the rental market there this summer, so you shouldn't have too much trouble finding something.