Kim Manley Ort https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog Contemplative living through Photography Wed, 28 Jun 2017 14:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 https://i2.wp.com/www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/cropped-Header3.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Kim Manley Ort https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog 32 32 19438708 Why Do You Do What You Do? https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/06/28/do/ https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/06/28/do/#respond Wed, 28 Jun 2017 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.365daysofinspiration.com/blog/?p=4978 This is the third and final post in the series on the topic of intentions. Our deepest intentions come from our soul and tell us why we do what we do and what we value. This is why it’s so important to be aware of them, to watch where we put our feet, and then […]

Why Do You Do What You Do?

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This is the third and final post in the series on the topic of intentions. Our deepest intentions come from our soul and tell us why we do what we do and what we value. This is why it’s so important to be aware of them, to watch where we put our feet, and then be open to unpredictability. That is what living a contemplative life means to me, paying attention to my intuition, and then taking a step in that direction.

How do we get off the treadmill of doing what we think should be done, and instead do what must be done, what our soul is telling us to do.

Read: The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna

Intentions and Creativity

 
Danielle LaPorte says, “the biggest threat to your creativity is the fear that it’s already been said, done, created, so why bother?” This fear holds many of us back. Whether you’re a photographer, painter, writer or Mom, postal carrier, or CEO, YOU have something unique to offer. Do you believe it?

A woman in one of my photography workshops said with great conviction that her work was not unique. She took the same types of pictures as everyone else. And, she seemed okay with that. The thing is she didn’t yet see the subtle differences in some of her photographs that made them uniquely hers. But, I could.

If you’re lucky, you had parents or teachers who reinforced that there is no one else in the world like you and never will be again. If not, then it’s up to you to tell yourself. Because, if it’s true, and I believe it is, then what we do in the world, whether it’s taking pictures or something else, is like nothing else too. That’s not to say that every image you take will represent your unique offering. Sometimes we take pictures or perform tasks by rote, or we copy someone else’s way of doing it, or we do what others expect. Yet, the more we pay attention to what we personally are called to do or create, the more that uniqueness will emerge.

Read: Listen to your Inner Teacher

The image at the top of this post is an example. As you may be aware, my work has become increasingly abstract over the past several years. Last weekend, I was at a winery for a summer wine celebration. We were outdoors at first but then had to move inside to the wine barrel room because of an impending storm. I took several photographs of the servers pouring wine, the people mingling, and the musicians playing. When I returned home and looked at my pictures, the only one that I really liked was this one of the floor of the barrel room. When I posted it on Flickr, Sandra said that she knew it was mine before seeing my name. I may not yet know my exact intentions in being drawn to these types of photographs, but they’ll emerge in time.

“Effective artists avoid mistaking the urgent for the important. Decide on the “important” — and keep it at the fore.” ~ The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Artists

Danielle says that whatever you are called to do, even if someone else seems to be doing it – say it, do it, make it anyway. She suggests writing your story using the following question prompts. I’ve given my answers below and I hope you’ll come up with yours.

1. How do you know what you know?

I know what I know through my experiences of life, especially in relationships. I tend to be an observer and listener, although my voice gets stronger by the day. My friends and family will also tell you that I read – a lot. Reading helps me to explore ideas, make connections, and experience vicariously through others. I stay curious and am interested in and inspired by many different things.

2. What do you want to know more of?

I want to know more about what drives people to do what they do, about the psychology of relationships, and how to inspire compassion and empathy and appreciation. I want to know more about mysticism and contemplative living. I want to become more aware of my perceptions.

3. Why do you do what you do?

I want to live a contemplative life and to see reality as it is, not how I want it to be. In this way, I can respond most effectively. I want to live a life in full relationship with this world and to share my experiences with others. My work reflects that intention.

Mary Anne Radmacher says it even better. These words hang on my office wall and guide me every day.

“I want to inspire and be inspired.
I want to challenge the edges of my comfort.
I want to choose my roles rather than have them be assigned.”

4. How did you come to care?

What makes me angry, what makes me want to do something to change a situation is intolerance. When people or things are pigeonholed, labelled, or dismissed, I want to show another side. Contemplative photography is a practice that allows me to develop the skill of being present and aware, to see the subtleties of life with all their flaws and glory and complexity.

How would you answer these questions? Why do you do what you do?

 
The Purity of Intention – Part 1 of the series

Intentions in Photography – Part 2 of the series

Why Do You Do What You Do?

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Intentions in Photography https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/06/21/intentions-in-photography/ https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/06/21/intentions-in-photography/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:00:31 +0000 https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/?p=204168   In last week’s post, The Purity of Intention, I explored the difference between egoic and nourishing, liberating intentions, based on the work of Tara Brach. What if we apply these same ideas to our photography? Egoic intentions in photography are based on fear – wanting to be good, noticed, liked. We choose to photograph […]

Intentions in Photography

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In last week’s post, The Purity of Intention, I explored the difference between egoic and nourishing, liberating intentions, based on the work of Tara Brach. What if we apply these same ideas to our photography?

Egoic intentions in photography are based on fear – wanting to be good, noticed, liked. We choose to photograph what others will like. Our photographs must achieve a certain aesthetic so that they can win a prize or sell. Note: There’s nothing wrong with wanting any of these things, but we must be clear that these intentions generally come from the ego.

Photographs that come from a nourishing, liberating intention feed our soul, reflect who we are at our deepest level, and express the essence of the moment. They often come by surprise. And, they may even win a prize or sell!

A nourishing, liberating intention in photography comes from a deep desire to know ourselves and how we connect with our environment.

 
Since your attention (and what you photograph) follows your intentions, how do you start from a place of nourishing, liberating ones?

pathFirst, stop and listen before you photograph. Trust what is resonating with your heart and soul. Then, be open to what you find, without being attached to a particular outcome.

If you have this mindset, you’ll experience a sense of playfulness, curiosity, and exploration. I’m not saying that you can’t visualize the final print, just that it comes later, after you’ve discovered what you truly want to say. Know what’s resonating, but be open to surprise. What else is there?

“Accept indeterminacy as a principle, and you see your life in a new light, as a series of seemingly unrelated jewel-like stories within a dazzling setting of change and transformation. Recognize that you don’t know where you stand, and you will begin to watch where you put your feet. That’s when a path appears.” ~ John Cage, Where the Heart Beats by Kay Larson

Here’s an example.

 
During the weekend workshop in Niagara–on-the-Lake this month, we did an exercise in visual listening. While sitting on a bench in a park, I watched the breeze blow the delicate grasses in a vast field, dotted with buttercups. Birds were singing and people walked by with their dogs. I didn’t pick up the camera.

As an aside, here’s my latest personal statement which reflects my underlying intention in photography.

“Through my photography, I hope to reflect surprising encounters with the world around me. Not traditionally beautiful encounters, but paradoxical ones – simplicity in chaos, beauty in imperfection, the joy and sadness in impermanence. My goal is to present a view that you might not have seen or considered before, to have you see the subject in a brand new way, to see beyond what it is. If you can sense the essence of the moment, then I’ve done my job.”

After observing the field for ten or fifteen minutes, I began to photograph. I knew that I was drawn to the many layers of subtle colours that created a patchwork texture on the field. I noticed the dots of tiny, yellow flowers scattered throughout. My photographs ran the gamut from close in to wide. At this point, I decided that I wanted my image to convey how I felt watching those delicate fronds sway back and forth as one whole. This picture expresses the essence of the moment for me.

9 habits for living a contemplative lifeAt the beginning of the workshop, I asked the participants to choose a contemplative habit as their intention for the time we were together. It should be the first one that jumped out at them when looking at the list. For example, if they chose simplicity, then that would be the theme they brought to their photographs for the weekend. I chose acceptance, which is what I believe these swaying fronds express.

What would you choose? Which habit needs your attention? Set that as your intention for the week to come (in your photographs and in your life).

 
p.s. For whatever habit you choose, there are five exercises in the Adventures in Seeing book related to that habit.

Intentions in Photography

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The Purity of Intention https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/06/14/intention-2/ https://www.kimmanleyort.com/blog/2017/06/14/intention-2/#comments Wed, 14 Jun 2017 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.365daysofinspiration.com/blog/?p=10939 Last weekend, I hosted a photography workshop in Niagara-on-the-Lake and we focused on pausing and focusing with intention. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explore this topic in more detail, beginning here with an updated post from 2014. “You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your […]

The Purity of Intention

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Last weekend, I hosted a photography workshop in Niagara-on-the-Lake and we focused on pausing and focusing with intention. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explore this topic in more detail, beginning here with an updated post from 2014.

“You are what your deepest desire is. As your desire is, so is your intention. As your intention is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” ~ The Upanishads

According to this quote from The Upanishads, desires and wants are intentions. This is true, yet there are also intentions underneath those desires. These are your purest intentions. And, it’s important to understand what they are so that you better understand why you do what you do.

Attention and energy follow intentions, whether consciously or not.

 
For example, I loved to ice skate when I was a kid. I had a strong desire to be on the ice as much as possible and much of my attention was focused on skating. I don’t think I was aware of this at the time, but what lay underneath this desire was a need for freedom, flow, and presence.

It’s good practice in self-awareness to ask yourself about the underlying intentions behind your actions. Why do you photograph? Or, go on Facebook five times a day? Or, do the work you do?

Setting Intentions

You can also set intentions. These are not the same as goals because there is no specific outcome. Intentions provide structure and point you in a certain direction but where you end is up for grabs. For example, in my online classes we often set intentions for a general subject, like spending a week noticing light in all its guises. We are noticing light but don’t know exactly how it will show up for us.

You can set an intention for a certain mindset, for example, to be open or kind or curious or adventurous. You can set an intention for the highest good or for presence or for solitude. In a relationship conflict, is your intention to be right or to understand?

This way of being works better than setting goals because so much of life is out of your control, except for yourself. You will always need to adapt to changing circumstances. But, you can always control how you show up; how you respond in any given situation.

“It is our conscious or non-conscious intention that is the focal point and determines where our energy goes, not necessarily the object, person or situation on which we focus, but rather the intention behind the focus.” ~ The Power of Intention

Egoic versus Nourishing, Liberating Intentions

 
Tara Brach is a meditation teacher and my mentor in seeing for the Pause section of the Adventures in Seeing Book. She is the founder of the Insight Meditation Community in Washington, D.C. and offers a weekly talk there, which is recorded and freely offered online.

One of those talks is called Nourishing a Liberating Intention. In it, Brach describes two types of intentions – egoic (based on fear or surface desires) and nourishing, liberating ones (based on our deepest desires). I don’t know about you, but I want my intentions to be the latter.

How do you identify your deepest desires?

1. The content is in line with who you are innately.

2. You feel a big yes in your body.

3. There is a sincere, innocent quality to it.

4. It is about the present moment, not a future goal.

Via Tara Brach


 
For example, when I thought about my intentions for the weekend workshop, egoic intentions included: making money, being liked, and having everything go as planned. I would certainly not want to make any mistakes and be humiliated.

When I took the time to think deeper about my nourishing, liberating intentions, on the other hand, they were:

* That each person would have the space they needed for contemplation.
* That this space would allow them to discover their own deepest intention for coming.
* They would see the value of pausing and focusing with intention in their photography.
* I would roll with and adapt to whatever happened and accept whatever feedback came my way.

Those intentions feel so much better than the egoic ones.

“Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos, nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord.” ~ John Cage, Where the Heart Beats by Kay Larson

How aware are you of your intentions?

 
Next Week: Intentions in Photography

Watch the video of Tara Brach’s talk here. Access all of her talks here.

Read: The Power of Intention
 

The Purity of Intention

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