Over the weekend I received a question from a new reader and I thought I’d share it and my answer with you.
Could I use photography and/or my love of drawing to find some answers for the clarity I have been searching for? Have you found this experience/process has helped you gain clarity in discernment?
What a very interesting question! And, my short answer?
First of all, discernment tends to be a religious term, as in what is God telling me to do? In general terms, the word discernment means “the ability to judge well.”
Here’s what I’d like to add and I’m sure you’ve heard it before. The answers are found within.
It’s active presence and awareness of what your heart and body are telling you that facilitates discernment – the ability to judge well.
Practices like prayer (as in deep listening), meditation, slow walking, yoga, being in nature, any type of art (photography, drawing, painting, etc.) are all tools that bring us into that presence. For me, it’s mostly photography (seeing), listening, and being in nature.
I’m currently reading Tara Brach’s new book, True Refuge, and yesterday read this quote.
Presence is an embodied experience, not a concept. ~ Tara Brach, True Refuge
It’s when we’re actually experiencing and engaging in life, not thinking about it. My online workshops, for example, help people to see and experience that presence.
The answers you’ll uncover from presence aren’t always clear. You might just get a feeling. But, we honor ourselves by paying attention to those feelings. And, sometimes we act based on intuition, not knowing exactly where it will take us.
A couple of years ago, I went to a retreat on poetry at Bethany Spring in Kentucky. At the time, I was developing online classes in photography and reading about the contemplative life. The Director there learned that I was a photographer and asked if I’d be interested in doing a photography retreat there. My whole body said yes, and I found myself saying that, in fact, it’d be perfect because I am a contemplative photographer.
Driving home that day, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I’d never in my life said that I was a contemplative photographer or done a weekend retreat on the subject. But, my body knew.
I’ve since done two weekend retreats at Bethany Spring.
Recently, many of my photographs have been versions of the one above. I’ve been noticing the ground at my feet and how things randomly collect there. When I focus my camera, it creates a beautiful abstract whole that fits together, like a little community.
At the same time, I’ve been thinking about how to better create a sense of community on this site.
Back to the question. For those who have asked themselves something similar, I would recommend Christine Valters Paintner’s new book: Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice. Whether you are Christian or not, this book explores in depth the subject of discernment.
And, here are three related posts.
I’d love to answer your question, so if you’ve got one you’ve been dying to ask me, please do so below or send me an email.