I am genuinely sad to see Gosport Queen go although obviously pleased she’s getting a new life on the Thames, she was always my favorite and I would love it when she stepped in for one of the newer ferries from time to time. I have travelled on her most of my life, we are almost the same age, and I love the quirky design and of course all the wood. Below a little tribute to Gosport Queen with some pictures I’ve taken recently.
I was lucky enough to have a lovely head and shoulder massage today and I suddenly had an insight into mindfulness and our need to ‘switch off’.
Having the massage, with my eyes closed, I lost myself in the relaxing feelings and realised that it was akin to mindfulness – that ability to switch off, to step away from our normal thought processes and be in the present moment.
We often have hobbies or pastimes that do this – anything where we might say “the time flew” “I was in the zone” “I lost track of time” – they are all forms of being in the moment, experiencing ‘Now’ and perhaps we do these activities because we need this peace, we need to have some space from the incessant thoughts in our heads – worrying, planning, berating ourselves for something….
I often try to explain mindfulness to people, and yet, it is merely cultivating the ability to conjure up this feeling and peaceful space at will – without having to distract or occupy yourself in order to achieve it. With practice, mindfulness means you can find these little pockets of peace more easily and eventually they fill all the little spare moments in your day, and I believe that this leads to very positive changes in mental health, which is increasingly important these days.
Went for a lovely (and much needed) mindful photowalk around Portsmouth Guildhall Square today, partly to record the incredible temporary entertainment venue that has sprung up (for Oktoberfest) and partly because it was such a beautiful day and I needed some sunshine.
Even Queen Victoria is enclosed in the tent!
So here is a mix of pictures from around the square today (click to see larger copies) – it certainly looks like it’s going to be an amazing weekend for the ticket holders.
I confess that I will look forward to having our lovely square back though!
The feature picture above is one of three iconic Portsmouth buildings, the Norrish Central Library, The Guildhall, and the Civic Offices.
Self-Observation Without Judgement
voice. It’s just a throwback to the past,
and holds no truth about this moment.Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up
for each imagined inadequacy.
Allow the dialogue within the mind
to grow friendlier, and quiet. Shift
out of inner criticism and life
suddenly looks very different.
I can say this is only because I make
the choice a hundred times a day
to release the voice that refuses to
acknowledge the real me.
What’s needed here isn’t more
prodding toward perfection, but
intimacy – seeing clearly, and
embracing what I see.
Love, not judgment, sows the
seeds of tranquility and change.
Love after Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
There seems to be a backlash against mindfulness at the moment, with several articles saying it is harmful and some downright scaremongering about what it is. A religion? A cult? Something dangerous that is going to mess with your head?
Personally, mindfulness is a big part of my life and a big reason why I have found so much more peace in recent years.
My mind is a busy, flighty thing and I need to be able to still it every now and then, to create some peace and space in there!
Below is a list of what mindfulness means to me:
- Taking an extra minute to feel the wind on my face when I leave the house in the morning
- Walking slightly more slowly, and noticing the world around me
- Having moments when I am not worrying about the past or anxious about the future – moments of NOW.
- Numerous moments through the day when I do a “body and mind scan” how am I feeling?
- Noticing that I feel scared / anxious / sad and wondering why – without judgement
- Really seeing that beautiful rose in the garden
- Stopping to smell it
- Sometimes I stop and list what I can feel (my clothing, a shoe rubbing, a cold wind on my face) what I can hear (birds, cars, people talking….) and what I can see. I find this especially grounding if I work myself into a state where my brain won’t stop buzzing.
I don’t sit and meditate for hours. I don’t mumble mantras (although both can be very beneficial for some people). I don’t prescribe to any organised religion. I’m not a Buddhist because I think this way. I just try to stop regularly and see. See the world. See how I am feeling. Observing yourself, like an impartial recorder of interesting facts about human behaviour – it is crucial to have no judgement. I am learning not to beat myself up when I realise I have done something or thought something, but rather just to notice it and after a while you notice patterns – “that’s the second time I’ve had a chocolate bar after xxx happened…..”.
After practicing this, I can stop the chatter in my head, even for a moment or two and I experience a wonderful peace and clarity.
It doesn’t matter what it is called, mindfulness is just a word for calming the mind, paying attention to life within and outside.
Photography and art
I use mindfulness in both my photography and art. I need to be able to see in order to take the type of photograph that I want to take. Take the above shot of water droplets on some grasses. I had been out on foot and was on my way home when I saw this beautiful result of a lot of overnight rain. The sun was out and I knew that it wouldn’t last much longer before the water dried. But I didn’t have my camera! Luckily, I was only a 1/4mile from home so I went home and went back and I am very glad I did! If I had either been in the car or rushing without seeing the world around me I would have missed this wonderful shot.
And I am grateful to Lee at Photential for teaching me that.
I also use a form of mindfulness in my art. I cannot paint if my head is full of chatter. It just won’t happen. For years I painted by having Radio4 playing (in the UK Radio4 is a news / information / documentary radio station) – I found that having the talking in the background occupied my busy conscious mind, and I could paint with my subconscious mind.
Since I have been getting better at thinking mindfully, I find that I can calm my mind without outside assistance and my latter paintings have been done in silence, which I like.
Call it “getting in the zone” or “finding your groove” “getting in the flow” “focus”- it’s that feeling when you can stop the chatter, concentrate on what you love and lose yourself in the creative process. Initially it will be fleeting, but over time you can maintain it for longer periods. It is incredibly rewarding.
Mindfulness involves looking inwards. Sometimes our minds are busy as a defence against dark and harmful thoughts and so for some, this may be best approached with professional help. If you practice mindfulness techniques and find the experience uncomfortable, please seek help.
There are a couple of excellent phone apps that have a series of training exercises to get you into thinking this way – they also have longer meditations – but as I have said above, I don’t think these are a necessity.
Reading The Power of Now and Practising the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle will give you an understanding of that space between the past and the future – NOW – the space in which we live but seldom savor.
This week I was invited to take part in a photomarathon – I’d never heard of one! A friend is doing one in Cardiff soon and wants to train, so we are doing a practice this weekend.
The deal is this, we will have six hours to produce six pictures. Sounds ok so far! However, each of these six pictures will have to conform to a different theme that we will be given at 10am. Since it’s just the two of us, we are actually choosing them ourselves – I am going to do a random book search and look for phrases that jump out at me on Saturday morning (if I do it any sooner, I will start to plan my pictures which I don’t want to do). Lee is supplying three and I am supplying three and we will order them alternately.
But…. and this is a big but, the pictures must be taken in order, with no processing. The idea is that at the end of the six hours, I have just six pictures, in order, on my memory card, which I’ll show Lee (and he’ll show me his and no doubt we will have a little discussion about them too!).
I am very excited about this, it challenges the very essence of the way I photograph. I seldom go out with a subject in mind, I take lots of pictures that appeal to me, I come home and process them (not much, but I do crop into pictures a fair bit, I will sharpen, boost the colours or make them monochrome.) I won’t be able to do any of that except the monochrome because I have that function on my camera (luckily!).
It’s going to be hard work but I will post the results here on Sunday (if I have recovered sufficiently!).
When Lee does the full photomarathon in June he will have 12 hours to produce 12 pictures! That is quite a feat.
Lee is the mindful photographer who taught me so much in January when I first got a proper camera. I will, with the restraints of the above rules, endeavor to be taking the pictures mindfully. This, I interpret as:
- Going to an area to photograph – usually I do not have a subject in mind, but I might be in a particular mood and want to reflect that.
- I wander around and soak up the area, I might sit and breathe and relax – I practice mindfulness anyway so it is not too hard for me to zone in and focus on ‘now’.
- I become aware of the beauty and interest around me. Things start to catch my eye (Lee calls this ‘receiving’ a picture).
- I take some pictures.
- When I am happy that I have captured what it was that appealed to me, I move on.
If you want to know more about mindful photography, I recommend Lee’s site: Photential or see his twitter stream @ – we are still looking for people to join in on Saturday! (We are not geographically close so we are not doing this together in person, so it doesn’t matter where you are – I’m in Portsmouth and Lee is in Swansea). Get in touch!
The picture in the header was taken over the weekend in Gosport. I was walking through an industrial estate to get to a beautiful peaceful beach and this caught my eye…. “Rotation”. The second picture was actually taken about 50ft from the first.