As the crops reach their peak and harvest looms, so the poppies spring into bloom. Dotting the fields and verges with their crimson flowers, they provide a welcome splash of colour as the dryness of the summer bleaches colour from the fields and trees. Poppies are considered weeds of cultivation. The seeds can survive for years in undisturbed soil, waiting until that soil is turned over before they spring into life. As a result, poppies may give a stunning display after the completion of roadworks or on building sites. The poppy seizes the opportunity that disturbance creates to burst in action, a reminder that we too can find new paths to follow in times of change, a chance for new beginnings and for growth. We can learn to see change as a positive experience in our lives,a nd embrace it with both hands.
I love spending time at the sea shore. This image to me represents the constant change, ebbing and flowing of life and the breath that is embodied in the sea and shore life. We like to think that things are permanent, that all will stay the same. We embrace our comfort zone and want to stay there forever. But in reality, life is change. Sometimes infinitesimally slow, sometimes lightning speed, but the only certain thing in life is change. Learn to love change and you will learn to love life.
I am always thrilled by the sight of gannets nesting on the cliffs at Bempton, in Yorkshire. The sheer size of these birds and the close proximity to the path makes it an amazing experience. The breeding season is a hectic time, with huge numbers of birds visiting the area to raise their young. For me this is one of the most incredible times of the year, full of hope and energy for the new season which is fast approaching, a sign that summer is well and truly on its way.
How often when we are moving through our life do we stop to actually look at the small details of the world that is around us? This image shows a close up of a beach. I was fascinated by the variety of shapes and textures in the stones, as well as the detail of the drift wood. The tiny piece of green stem on the branch added a spot of colour in an otherwise neutral palette. Walking briskly along, none of this would be noticed or remembered, yet a closer look reveals a world of intrigue beneath our feet.
It’s been such a hot and sunny summer that much of my garden has been struggling to cope. I wasn’t hopeful that there would be much colour left by now, but these perennial sunflowers have still managed to put on a good show. Yellow is such a happy colour and although they remind me that autumn is not far away, it’s hard not to smile when you look at their cheerful faces.
The bright red of poppies make a wonderful splash of colour on our roadside verges and fields in the summer. Red is the colour of the root chakra, muladhara, and the four petals of the poppy flower also remind me of the four petals of the red lotus that represents Muladhara.
Muladhara characterises foundation and stability, the meeting of our basic needs in order to feel safe. When I see poppies I am always reminded of this connection to the earth. The colour red is also associated with energy and movement, and poppies certainly have plenty of that as they sway on slender stems in the summer breeze.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet
Juliet’s famous words from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet come to mind as we are in the middle of the season for roses to bloom. We like to know what things are called, to be able to name them and this obsession with nouns starts early in our learning of language. Children learn to recite a series of nouns before they speak in actual sentences. As we grow older, we learn to make associations with those nouns, linking them with adjectives that define them as ‘good’ or bad’. These judgements might end up almost subconscious, applied without thought, our immediate reaction.
In meditation we might start to unpick these judgements, to question our habits and innate reactions. We might start instead to see shapes and forms and light, to see that things just are, much as a camera does. The camera applies no judgement, all images are of equal value. The beauty and ugliness are in the eye and mind of the photograph’s beholder.
One of the highlights of my summer is teaching at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. This year the course is slightly earlier, running Wednesday, 15 August 2018 – Friday, 17 August 2018. Our title this time is “Sense and Perception: Bringing Together Yoga, Mindfulness & Photography.”
The yoga sessions will be gentle and suitable for beginners, with an emphasis on mindful practice rather than physical ability. Mats and blankets will be provided, but you will need to bring a digital camera you are comfortable using – your phone camera will be perfect.
The course costs £170.00 non-residential or £245.00 residential and places can be booked online with Woodbrooke by following this link.
I hope to see you in August!
Last weekend I was at Kagyu Samye Ling, north of Lockerbie, for the first meeting of a course I am doing with the Mindfulness Association entitled “Mindfulness Level 2: Responding with Compassion”. Although based in a secular approach, the teaching suggests an analogy with the Mahayana Buddhist metaphor of the lotus in the mud, compassion being the beautiful lotus that grows from the ‘mud’ of our lives. Much time was spent listening to theory and practising meditation
I did the first level course last year, quite near to home, and decided to venture further afield this time. Samye Ling is the largest Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Europe and it sits in beautiful gardens alongside the river Esk.
As a venue it is perfect for this course, offering as it does a whole world away from everyday life. The place has an overwhelming sense of peace. The sound of water is never far away, with the river forming a boundary to the gardens and several pools and water features.
Although I didn’t take a proper camera, I found myself drawn to practise mindful photography in the time I had free around the sessions. The setting encourages peaceful reflection and there is a sense of timelessness. Although it was a busy weekend, I seem to have absorbed some of that slowing-down energy and feel less inclined to bustle around daily life now I am back. I hope the spell lasts a while longer!
This is the month when seabirds flock to the coast to breed. I have made a few trips now to visit them and just adore the puffins. I could watch them all day! Photographing them can be a challenge in some locations, when their nests are situated under the overhang of a cliff, and in others you are almost tripping over them. Either way, time spent with them is mesmerising.
Sadly, many seabirds are under threat, not necessarily because of the loss of breeding habitat, but because of lack of food. Puffins are needing to fly further and further to find food, and are returning with less of it. This leads to greater chick mortality, even in a good year.
Sometimes the ways in which we impact the environment and not immediately obvious, but the net of interference spreads wider each year. Sometimes it seems as if we cannot fight the inevitable, but every little bit helps. If you would like to do something positive today, please consider adopting a puffin with the RSPB – click here to help them today!