I remember so clearly the moment I realized the simple act of taking a photo could change my life. I had just started taking walks and had spent so much time indoors over the years that nature itself felt foreign and new to me. The variety of plants, the beauty of birds, the feel of the sun warming my skin were astonishing. I was also sad and as it is when you are sad, those momentary feelings of awe disappeared swiftly like the sparks of a sparkler – a quick brightness and then back to darkness.
On this particular walk, my feelings were so full they were bubbling over. Grief, sadness, pain. It felt hard to exist with so much going on inside of me. It was all too much which is why I was walking in the first place. The air was hot, around me the sound of bugs and birds were constant. I looked down and a snail was slowly moving across the concrete path I stood upon. Something in me wanted to remember that moment so I pulled out my phone and took a picture.
There was a magic in that action. Taking that picture extended the time where I was thinking not about how I felt but about the snail, about the curve of its shell, the effort of its journey and the beauty of its existence. This was the moment that I decided to start documenting my walks with photography and that decision made all the difference for me.
What is mindful walking?
Mindful walking is a practice where you bring your attention to the environment you are moving through. By working with your attention while walking you become more aware of your surrounds and you are able to connect to the present moment. It can be helpful when you are dealing with hard things or stressful situations.
Why photography is the perfect tool for mindfulness.
How to use photography as a tool for mindful walking.
On your next walk notice when you are drawn to something. Stop and take a photograph. It is really this simple. You will sometimes find yourself resisting the urge to slow down but stop anyway. Anytime you see something that piques your interest simply take a picture of it.
It is often easiest just to use a phone camera vs carrying a special camera with you. This allows you to incorporate this practice any time you are walking vs taking planned walks. It also takes you out of the idea that the photo you take has to be beautiful. It does not. This is not about becoming an expert photographer, this is about witnessing the world around you.
Make this a regular practice. You will find that over time you are seeing more, feeling more deeply and creating a connection with the present moment.
Have you used photography as a tool for mindful walking? How has it changed your life?