Last weekend I examined an oak leaf.
I took note of the curvy bumps and valleys circling the perimeter of the foliage. In the center, veins sprawled like a spider web, each tiny trough shuttling water and nutrients to various corners of the leaf. For such a small object, it was quite complex.
This observation was part of a zen meditation gathering I attended at a local park.
We engaged in forest bathing and practiced using our visual skills to see beyond what we usually notice with our quick scans of the world. On a hike we see trees, and perhaps the colors of the leaves at a glance, but how often do you look intensely at the minute details?
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As I practiced my visual skills it dawned on me that every time I use a macro lens or zoom feature on my camera to photograph the subtle details around me, I’m also engaging in that meditative experience. Maybe it’s why I enjoy photography so much.
In the Zen meditation class, I learned that by slowing down and observing the world around us in as much detail as we possibly can, our overstimulated nervous system gets a chance to relax. Our mood improves. Physical health balances.
The tip that stood out to me most was learning that this keen sense of observation also disengages the fight-or-flight response. In turn, our bodies can rest and heal.
Some of the best moments of my day occur when I’m walking in nature and pause to get a close-up shot of something I adore, usually flowers, tree bark or wildlife. For a few seconds, I focus all of my visual skills on that object, admiring the intricacies that make it incredible. Then, I snap a picture so I can enjoy the moment again and again.
How often do you take a closer look at the world around you? Can you go a layer deeper? Try sitting in the forest and examining one object with precision. What do you notice that you’ve never paid attention to before?
And, maybe you’ll want to snap a photo of it too.
Until next time,
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