“…There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.” – Rumi
One evening a few years ago, I was out for a drive through a nearby town called Glade Park. Glade Park, Colorado sits on a high mesa above The Colorado National Monument, tucked between Pinyon Mesa, a part of The Grand Mesa National Forest, and the state line that separates Colorado from Utah. As a relative newcomer to the area, I was stopped dead in my tracks the first time I visited this magical place, when I looked to the west at sunset and saw the most beautiful old log cabin ruin I’ve ever seen. I’ve since learned that this was the original homestead cabin for a couple named Johnny and Ruthie Miracle. What a great name! And this cabin has really stood the test of time. It was built very well and still looks like - with just a few upgrades - you could move in and start living.
The sun was low in the sky, and billowing clouds of smoke from western wildfires darkened the horizon making the sun look like a red rubber ball as it sunk over the edge of the earth. I pulled over and parked the CRV. I checked my daily weather app to see how much time I had before sunset. I had about 7 minutes. I grabbed my cameras and tripod and got them set up. Then, of course, I dragged them back and forth to try and capture the scene from different angles. I felt my mental focus tighten as I focused my lenses to capture both wide-angle and zoom shots. Focusing on this event was a real peak experience as everything else in the world literally slipped away and the sun lowered itself behind the horizon line over about a 5-minute period. It was an absolute rush and that period that I think of as “moving from time to timelessness.”
Now 5 minutes is a very short time. But when totally focused mentally and physically in those moments, it releases one from the ordinary, and facilitates the experience that Michael Singer calls, “The Untethered Soul,” Jon Kabat-Zinn calls “Mindfulness” and Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi called “Flow,” in his book of the same name. Some people simply call it “getting into the zone” and it can happen with anything we do that commands our full attention and love.
Not every photo shoot lends itself to such an experience, but they all certainly have that potential. We can prepare ourselves for these experiences through daily mindfulness meditation at home, or even when taking a morning walk. When I do this, I bring my cellphone and use that to focus my attention on nature’s beauty, both small and large. Being in the present moment is the key, whether we’re at home or outside in nature at the time. Taking a few moments to center ourselves can make all the difference. At times when something amazing is happening and time is short, it pays to have a constant practice you do that makes you more mentally and emotionally available when the time comes.
Mindfulness meditation is much like any form of exercise, and you can build up your mindfulness fitness by following a daily meditation routine. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as moment-to-moment nonjudgmental awareness. Practicing this for as little as 15 minutes a day can pave the way to more peak experiences in nature! Once you know how it feels to be totally in-the-moment, you can get there much quicker when the right time presents itself.