You’ve probably heard “the beginners mind” quote before, or are at least familiar with the general idea. But have you tried to apply it as a mindset in your growth as a photographer?
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. The more we allow ourselves not to know, the more we are able to discover. “ – Shunryu Suzuki
This concept has always resonated with me because it’s the principle I’ve always tried to apply to my creative life. I believe it’s one you can use to great benefit as well.
You see I’m much more interested in what I don’t know than what I do know. How else can I grow as an artist?
As a photographer I’m constantly trying to discover new ways of seeing the mundane or familiar. Sometimes though, my own thoughts and judgements get in the way.
About a decade ago I suffered a major injury while I was out hiking with my camera. Suffice to say, it included broken bones, screws, and about 4 months of rehab before I could venture out into nature and 12 months before I felt “normal” again.
While I sat at home in a cast watching reruns of Star Trek, I dreamed of simply being able to walk amongst the trees in my back yard. I yearned for the day I could return to my favorite hiking trails. And when that day came, everything seemed so fresh and new to me, like a child discovering a new playground for the first time.
It’s then that I realized how much my thoughts and my perspective were interfering with seeing reality as it was, not how I wanted it to be.
Have you ever experienced a sudden sense of disorientation when visiting a familiar place? Perhaps you got lost, or wandered out of familiar territory, or simply decided to explore a little beyond where you’ve been in the past. Almost immediately when this happens there is a sudden increase in awareness, and you become instantly more present.
Yet once we regain our sense of security or familiarity, we switch our heightened sensitivities off and revert to our thoughts of judgement. Yet this is exactly when you need to see a little deeper, to feel more of what nature has to offer. Just when you think there is nothing more to discover, a simple mind shift, from “I know” to “I wonder,” is often all you need to become inspired.
There are so many times that I was sure there was nothing more to capture or explore, yet the simple act of remaining open to any possibility rewarded me with a great image, or even better a great experience.
You see it’s not the act of making an image I’m after, it’s the moment right before I press the shutter button that excites me the most. What happens afterwards is a function of technology and mechanics, most of which I’m not interested in.
But that moment is worth cherishing because it’s where you have an opportunity to do a courageous act. To try and convey to someone else what you see and feel.
To make known what is in your heart.
“Art is the articulation, not the stimulation or catharsis, of feeling; and the height of technique is simply the highest power of this sensuous revelation and wordless abstraction.” – Philosopher Susanne Langer