Friday, September 18, 2009

The ebb and flow of presence

While studying at the Miksang Workshop in Boulder, I made a new friend (Joyce, whose blog and photos you can find here), and we have agreed to continue our Miksang practice into the forseeable future.

We've agreed that this week's assignment will be to focus on light, but I confess I've been too busy catching up since I returned home to spend much time with my camera. I'll be making up for that over the next few days, but in the meantime I wanted to share the light in this image, which I photographed last weekend.

The curious thing about this shot is that I don't remember taking it. I can sort of tell what it is -- I seem to be looking through some sort of plastic cup or bowl at brick pavement and a wall -- but perhaps those are reflections, since they're upside down. And I'm not quite certain how the bubbles got there...

So immediately my judging monkey mind kicks in and asks: Is my lack of memory about this shot a good thing or a bad thing? If I had just been on auto pilot -- as I am sometimes when I'm driving familiar roads or dealing with rote challenges -- I don't think it could be a good thing. I hate it when I am not being present to the moment, when I am so lost in my head that I am not paying attention to what is happening around me, when I am not noticing the magic of "the church of what's happening now."

But it could also be that I was so totally "in the zone" when I took this picture, so totally grounded in intention (this was shot when we were watching for texture) that I lost sight of even the most immediate context and saw only the texture I was seeking. And that, I presume, would be good.

I am still reading the copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea that I borrowed from my chiropractor's office, and this morning she talks about this tricky balance between seeing the big picture and living in the moment as a kind of dance:

"One cannot dance well unless one is completely in time with the music, not leaning back to the last step or pressing forward to the next, but poised directly on the present step as it comes. Perfect poise on the beat is what gives good dancing its sense of ease, of timelessness, of the eternal. It is what Blake was speaking of when he wrote:

He who bends to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.

...But how does one learn this technique of the dance? Why is it so difficult? What makes us hesitate and stumble? It is fear, I think, that makes one cling nostalgically to the last moment or clutch greedily toward the next."

And then she goes on to quote Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "The life of the spirit, the veritable life, is intermittent and only the life of the mind is constant...The spirit...alternates between total vision and absolute blindness..."

Security in a relationship (and for my purposes I think I will include my own relationship with myself), Lindbergh concludes, "lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now... one must accept the security of the winged life, of ebb and flow, of intermittency... that each cycle of a wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid...that the sea recedes and returns eternally."

I suspect the key word there is accept. Because in relationships as in life we will inevitably swing back and forth between past, present, and future; have times when we are focused and close and others when we are unfocused and distant, too lost in memory or anticipation and worry to see clearly that which lies before us. It's important to allow for that, to get more comfortable with that dance, to give ourselves and our relationships and feelings permission to move forward and back, in and out like the tides and the waves.

Perhaps my travels with my camera are a microcosm of that ebb and flow; it may even be that in the case of this particular image I, in my eagerness to please, allowed the shoulds of the day ("Go out and shoot textures") to totally overtake my own needs, awareness, and perceptions. In that case, rather than worrying if this was a good or a bad thing, I can just accept that I do sometimes get lost in shoulds and lose sight of myself and my reality. Just being aware of that is a good reminder, and accepting it allows me to sigh gently, give myself a quick understanding hug, and move on.

1 comment:

Joyce Wycoff said...

Diane ... thanks I needed this one ... I also occasionally have photos that I don't remember taking or even what they were ... when I like them, I consider them a gift from my unconscious. When I don't like them, I simply toss them away ... now I wonder if I should consider them gifts also.

The "dance" metaphor about not leaning backward or forward was a great reminder. I love the ebb and flow between us.