As I write this I am sitting atop a twenty metre clifftop looking down as the Indian Ocean pummels the jagged coast. This place is affectionately known as ‘Hells Gate’ and you can see exactly how it got that quaint moniker. I wonder what the Dutch must have thought when they first sailed up to this hostile coastline? Something along the lines of “holy fek” I would imagine.
The sun is coming up. There is red dirt everywhere. The clouds look like they’ve had paint splashed on them. Huge humpback whales keep erupting through the surface before smashing back under it. Needless to say, this place is beautiful.
And this beautiful place has reconnected me with my long lost hobby of photography. I’m not talking selfies (except the one above… awkward) this is my real camera. With a barrel and a body and lenses and a kicky little strap to drape from my neck.
With every click I wonder why on earth I let my one-time hobby slip away. It was like being reunited with an old friend, one that you lost contact with over a petty fight. The more you laugh and look and click the more you wonder why the hell you ever stopped talking!
I feel so unbelievably calm here. Calmer than I have been in years. So relaxed I am that as I explore the clifftop, I do something I haven’t done for a long time – I switch my camera off automatic to manual mode. Automatic mode is just so easy, but in this moment I feel like I have the time to look a little longer.
Instantly my photos (and therefore my movement) becomes more considered and I can actually feel the world slow down slightly. My monkey mind quietens down as I pause to set up the perfect shot, look for the perfect light or wait for the perfect wave. I twist the lens and watch as the world comes back into focus; both figuratively and literally. Adjust the aperture. Change the shutter speed. Click.
Lately I have been busy. Really busy. I’d been getting a lot done – lots of pointing and clicking – but not truly allowing any moment to actually develop. Missing out on the beautiful little details of the world, like the perfectly formed branches of coral-reef poking out of the rockpools. Not to mention the big details – like my daughter picking up shells or drawing in the sand.
But with my eye to my viewfinder things are different. I have tricked myself into mindfulness by choosing to do something that required my presence.
Crafting a picture like this pulls me into the landscape. I look for the richest colour, the best angle and the most beautiful details. I am pulled into the present moment without feeling the twitchy anxiety that sometimes comes with sitting cross-legged on a meditation pillow.
This is meditation in movement or – as I like to call it – Meditation for people that hate sitting still.
Society seems to have adopted the viewpoint that doing is more important than being.
That ticking off to do lists is more worthy than sitting under a tree with a loved one and marveling at the clouds. We are being told to fit more hours into our lives instead of fitting more life into our hours.
I gave up photography when I decided that I didn’t want to have a career as a photographer. My hobby couldn’t make me money, so what was the point? The point is that I had missed the point.
Lets just allow ourselves to flick that dial back to manual and spend time doing something for no reason other than that it feels good. Self-expression does not have to have a price-tag. Creativity does not have to be perfect or paid for. Lets put hobbies back on the agenda because they are damn good for us.
Hobbies; The New Meditation
Hobbies have this incredible knack for pulling us into the present moment – even if you have the most monkiest monkey mind around.
Think about a jigsaw puzzle. You are looking at one piece and then intently focusing on every little detail of every other piece to see if they fit together. Or a painting; you are taking in every detail, carefully gliding your brush down the canvas or mixing colours delicately. Crochet? You get into a trance while you hook and pull and loop.
This is playful presence and it is a form of meditation.
So, whether you love or hate meditation I want to invite you to do something radical… schedule in solid time in your schedule to indulge in a hobby. Allow yourself to lose time in the present.
You might end up in the kitchen or a colouring book or a sudoku puzzle. You might take up salsa dancing or join a community theatre or learn the language of a country the you have no intention of visiting. Knitting. Sketching. Pottery. Surfing. Woodwork. Whatever it is!
Just do what feels good and value your hobbies, for they are necessities, not luxuries.