Staying open to simple pleasures offers opportunity for rejuvenation.
Nature can hold us during Dark times, and she will also be there when we are ready to rediscover Light. She allows us the opportunity to reconnect with our inner desires, to move in and out of connection with others, to stay aware of the present moment, and to explore our relationship to the environment. If we can accept her gifts, we will rediscover our joy and return to our daily lives rejuvenated.
Here are a few rejuvenation ideas from my trip to Great River Bluffs in Winona, MN:
What simple pleasures rejuvenate you?
Nature provides a nurturing space for processing grief.
Having a nurturing space can provide support and comfort when processing difficult emotions. Spending time in nature has helped me connect with my own grief, which has allowed for deeper connections with myself, my friends and family, and my purpose. It's helped me integrate multiple tragedies into my life story while maintaining mental health.
The following questions came to me while photographing Rice Lake State Park in Owatonna, MN. They have helped me begin to write a new narrative while navigating trauma. If you find yourself processing difficult emotions, try asking yourself:
Where do you go when you need to feel supported?
Nature can teach us valuable life lessons.
Getting into nature with a camera can have some unexpected consequences. In addition to feeling refreshed, there are lessons to be learned from viewing the world through the lens of a camera - more than how to use a camera, and more than how to make a great composition. There are deep life lessons available when one becomes still and learns to see in a new way.
Here are three life lessons I've learned by experiencing nature through the lens...
Lesson 1 - Letting Go
Just as trees freely release their leaves, so can we choose to freely release that which the mind stubbornly holds as truth...even when the heart knows differently. Freeing our imagination helps us to reconnect with our heart-centered, intuitive selves.
Through the lens of a camera, we have an opportunity to slow down and shift our attention to the shapes, colors, and textures of life simply by relaxing our focus. Look at the image below. With a relaxed focus, we can ask: What does my heart see?
Lesson 2 - Impermanence
When witnessing nature, we can see that there is exquisite beauty to be found in the cycles of life and death. We can find beauty in imperfections, in the cracks, in the decay, in the slow unfolding. When we accept change within nature, it's easier to accept our own impermanence.
With photography, we use our cameras to freeze a moment in time, but nature doesn't stop cycling. Look at the two images below. What has changed?
Lesson 3 - Embracing Shadows
We are taught that light and dark are in constant battle with one another. When we clear out those conditioned thoughts, we can look at our experiences and we begin to understand that life is more nuanced, that we are not all one thing.
When we step into the shadows, it becomes easier to see the nuances that makes your subject unique. Look at the image below. What textures are seen from within the shadows?
What photo experiment will you try?
Nature-based art supports a mindful life.
Over the years, I have tried multiple forms of meditation, but the one practice that has been the most consistent is mindfulness through nature photography. When I go into nature, I am fully alive, energized, and in-tune with the world.
Mindfulness and meditation are intended to help us fully drop into our lives. When we practice mindfulness, there are very real benefits:
Don't feel you need equipment, clothes, apps, and/or a "guru" to guide you. In fact, if you're spending a lot of money on meditation, you are likely contributing to cultural appropriation since meditation is an Eastern concept that Westerners have co-opted to fit our consumer culture. It's not that Eastern forms of meditation can't be beneficial to Westerners, but be conscious of the impact. Be aware of who is benefiting and at what cost. If you feel you need more information, search "cultural appropriation" and, specifically, "cultural appropriation in the field of wellness."
If you become aware that you are causing or have caused harm, it's not too late to turn it around! Quit the practice, confront your privilege, clarify your intentions, make amends, and do better moving forward.
Since the terms mindfulness and meditation are abstract concepts, here are a few ways one might describe the experience.
Nature-based art is a wonderful tool in helping us to simply secure our connection to a meaningful, healthy life. Bringing nature-based art into our homes, offices, and social media spaces, we can receive the benefits of a mindfulness practice as we go about our day-to-day lives.
Here are three ideas for beginning a nature-based art mindfulness practice:
Mindfulness is a practice; it becomes easier and more beneficial over time. Nature imagery can make your mindfulness practice simple, accessible, and stress-free. Look around your house for a piece of nature-based art and display it for a reminder.
Also, remember that mindfulness is a self-care practice to help you stay grounded and focused so that you can take action toward creating a better world - it is not meant to be a consumer product and it is not meant to stand separate from compassionate action. Keep it simple, get centered, and then use that divine Love to fuel the fight for freedom, equity, justice, and peace.
How have you used art + nature to stay mindful?
authenticity. beauty. courage. creativity. curiosity.
exploration. inspiration. transformation.
These values have become the focus of my life over the 25 years I've been consistently practicing nature photography. Personally, I’ve found that photography has helped me to become more aware of my values, process my emotions, go safely and confidently into the world, and more easily find calm in times of stress and change.
These values are my constant guides and I keep them in focus by regularly getting out into nature with my camera. I’ve found that by taking on the challenges of making meaningful images with a camera, I've also been presented with ample opportunities to become more aware of my surroundings. And taking advantage of those opportunities has slowly transformed the way I see the world. I believe being thoughtful, understanding, and capable in making images inspires the same in living life.
Yes. It’s absolutely possible to make great images using your camera on automatic and pointing the lens at nature’s stunning beauty. To tell your story through images, though, takes self-awareness, thoughtfulness, an understanding of the way your camera sees, and an ability to navigate manual settings - even on a cell phone.
How has your life been impacted by nature photography?
Kristin Perry is a nature photographer navigating life's complexities by focusing on beauty.