Stillness and the Creative Process: Sustaining your Creative Practice through Mindfulness

Away, away, from men and towns,

To the wild wood and the downs—

To the silent wilderness

Where the soul need not repress

Its music, lest it should not find

An echo in another’s mind,

While the touch of Nature’s art

Harmonizes heart to heart.

From The Invitation by Percy Bysshe Shelley

In just ten fast and furious years, since the advent of the smartphone and the rise of social media, our lives have changed immeasurably. In this short time it has become so common to hear people talk about their experienced levels of anxiety becoming intolerable with untold additional health challenges accompanying. Alongside this, there often comes an inability to access our creative selves and many of us are suffering, without knowing it, from Nature Deficit Disorder as we become separated, not only from Nature itself but also from our natural instincts and our wilder selves.

As we frantically navigate this world of technology and its ever-quickening pace of life, what many of us forget is that the quiet solace of Nature awaits us. However, we have to slow down to let her in and quiet our busy minds enough to hear her whispering to us and make time on a regular basis to join her.

A few months back I was experiencing a block in my own creativity and on a number of occasions, I forgot to take my iPhone with me on my regular walks through Golden Gate Park. On these particular walks, I started to notice a marked difference between my state of mind upon starting my walk - caught up in to-do lists and distracted by spiraling thoughts - and my peaceful state of mind by the time I arrived home. Not only did I feel renewed and re-calibrated but I had streams of ideas for photographs running through my mind, ready to be committed to paper the moment I returned home. I had accessed a state of mind that was not possible in front of my computer, a state of mindfulness. My creativity had awakened once again.

And so now, with camera, notebook and pencil in hand, I walk, not just to move my body, but to shift the stagnant energy that can sabotage my creativity. It has proven to be more fruitful to walk than to fester away inside. I pay attention when my mind feels frazzled or my body hurts and I head out as soon as I start to feel blocked or stuck. I have come to rely on these intentional walks to reorient myself, to find peace and to gather inspiration and ideas for my photographs. And from these ideas new bodies of work are emerging. A gateway to mindfulness has opened and Nature had become my best creative ally.

In my upcoming Mindfulness in Photography workshop at The Image Flow I will be sharing some useful mindfulness photography techniques for slowing down and opening up to the wisdom of the natural world. We will first gather on Mount Tam and collectively commit to a regular, solitary practice of walking in Nature as a means of calming our minds and honing our senses and from this foundation, as the workshop unfolds, we will share images through a series of critiques and start to explore the photographic themes that surface for us in this new way of approaching creativity.

With time and commitment, my hope is that attendees will develop a sustaining personal practice that will help them to feel more grounded and connected and also bring purpose and creativity back to the foreground of their lives so that they can start to produce the photographic work they always dreamed they could.

And so I invite you, as Shelley did, “to the silent wilderness, where the soul need not repress its music” and may we start to hear our intuition speaking to us from the depths of our being.

I hope you will join me.