Our minds are always busy at work with constant thoughts coming in and out of our consciousness. Most times, we aren’t even aware of how much focus we give to those thoughts and stories. It’s as though we are constantly switching channels throughout the day ~ focusing on a memory and being stuck in those thoughts (“I can’t believe she did that. Why did she say that? What did I do wrong? I wonder if…”) until something happens — a sound, someone speaking, something we see which switches our focus or attention to a different channel — perhaps some future thoughts or worries, or the memory of a random song that begins to play like a broken record. All day, every moment, is spent on switching from one thought or feeling to the next unless we begin to develop the awareness how we are living in this “tv land” in our minds and not living fully in what is actually happening in the present moment. You know that moment when someone asks you a question and suddenly you realize that you haven’t heard a single word they said because your focus was on replaying that scene when you had broccoli in your teeth when you were doing a speech in front of class.
When we are caught up in our thoughts about the past, or about the future, or about something other than what is presenting itself to us in this very moment we miss out on life. Mindfulness has really helped me learn to switch my focus to see the miracles in every day moments.
“Mindfulness helps us focus: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us tune out distractions and improves our memory and attention skills.” (~Greater Good article: “What is Mindfulness?”)
One of the ways I practice being present is through photography which helps me to see things in a unique way and stay mindful in the moment: to stop and notice, with awe, all the beauty around me. When I can switch my thoughts from perseverating on work, work, work or planning, planning, planning or worrying, worrying, worrying to something so simple and beautiful as a leaf on a table, a heart-shaped rock, a baby deer drinking milk from its mama, then I can switch my focus to the miracles of life.
On a recent retreat at “Earthrise Retreat Center” (Petaluma, CA) to finish out my training year with “Mindful Schools”, I was taking photos, as I often do, to capture mindful and awe-filled moments. I was so moved by the whole experience: practicing being in silence, feeling gratitude for what I have learned from my trainings and from my classmates, capturing beautiful moments in my photos, the rich experiences teaching mindfulness to K-5 students this past year, and more. I felt compelled to create a gift for my classmates by compiling my photos into a video I would create when I got home to share with all of them, so I asked for permission to take photos for this purpose. At the end of the retreat I was standing by the entry table of the beautiful cafeteria and talking to one of my classmates, Christina, while waiting for lunch to be served. On the table was a beautiful bouquet of orchids which I noticed all week, well, sort of noticed. Christina was asking me about my photography- she thought maybe I did it professionally. I responded that it was merely something that brought joy and gratitude into my life. I explained, “If I’m out hiking and notice I am lost in my thoughts then I am missing out on the actual hike itself. So in that moment I will look around me and suddenly notice a deer that was five feet from me which I otherwise would have missed out on completely! That’s what the deer was hoping! You see this bouquet? It’s like I’ll see this bouquet as I’m going about my day and then I switch my focus onto its beauty. Then I will look at it. Really look at it. Not just that it’s vivid pink. But look at its detail.” And with that we both took notice of the mother bird in a nest with her two baby birds inside the orchid. Christina gasped in awe. This is the miracle of focus. What will you notice today?
“Mindful Moments” video (on YouTube): CLICK HERE.
Below are some of the responses to the video I received:
“Oh, Dee! This is beautiful!! So many sweet moments these photos brought to mind! Thank you for the labor of love, which we will always have! Sometimes it is so difficult to describe the week, but this does it so much better than words! Speaking for all of us: Thank you, lovely friend!!” ~Debbie
“Unbelievably beautiful and breath taking Dee! I love this so much. Thank you for this very precious gift.” ~Spencer
“So incredible, Dee! Words cannot express my gratitude for this amazing labor of love. I know I’ll be watching it over and over again.” ~Leanne
“It was the BEST Dee! You saw a lot of stuff I didn’t. You have a mindful eye. It brought me back to the safety and peace. Thanks so much.” ~Rita
“Dee this is absolutely incredible all 16 minutes and 12 seconds of it. You’ve captured some of the most beautiful photos of EarthRise at IONS seen. You captured the spirit and the beauty of EarthRise. You are obviously a very good photographer… I also think you could frame some of these and put them in her book store and sell them if you would want to bother with that. I’m going to share with the entire staff.” ~ Debra Jonsson, Director at Earthrise
Dee integrates mindfulness into all aspects of her life and teaching and is inspiring others to do the same. Dee is introducing mindfulness-based meditation in schools as an important and viable practice to help our next generation develop the life-skills and habits proven to relieve the pressures that children face in today’s world, along with the many other benefits it can offer. She recently completed the year-long program to become a Mindful Schools Certified Instructor. Classes and Coaching are available for children, teens, educators, and parents.