I don’t update this blog as frequently because it is reserved for my more general ramblings and thoughts, which I have less frequently than I used to. 66 days ago, I decided to try out a 365 day photo challenge. I am stopping today. Here’s why:
I’ve been practicing meditation for almost six months now (which I highly recommend), and one of the main benefits I’ve experienced so far is a calmer, more lucid mind. I think that this is in part due to the intense focus that is required to meditate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no meditation expert, but noticing my thoughts rather than chasing them around in my head and trying to deal with them individually requires a great deal of focus and relaxation, two things which I overdraw constantly from my stress account.
I started the 365 day photo challenge as a companion to my meditation practice. My hope was that by documenting the world around me, I would become more attentive to the present moment, and the space that I inhabit. Unfortunately, what ended up happening was that my anxiety infiltrated the process. Rather than attentively watching the world around me, noticing what happened, I would look at my watch every day around 2pm and go “Oh shit, I need to take a photo today.” The challenge forced me to cast around and try and find something that was interesting or relevant to the day. This is bad news for two reasons. The first is that going from no awareness of the world to sudden sharp awareness seems to be to be instrumentalizing something that I don’t think should be. The whole point of the challenge is to live in a mindset where I notice the world of sensory information, find interest in something, and document it in a careful way. Instead, I was starting with the need to document, and forcing the world into that documentation. The second reason is that my noticing of the external world (which was likely already taking place) is upended by a responsibility that removes me from awareness into hyper-production mode. The images are a supposed to be a journal, not an art piece, but my mind ended up making them that way (and anyone who knows anything about photography can tell that these photos were by no means art pieces).
I love journaling. Writing things on paper and being able to peruse them in book form is very pleasurable to me. Writing is a core component of who I am, and I find great pleasure (and often frustration) in taking the time to create something worth reading. Writing is, for me, a long exercise in meditation and careful attention to the world. I believe that ego depletion is a real thing, and by stacking responsibilities on top of themselves you deplete the available will to accomplish a task well.
So the question becomes, what do I care about? What am I willing to deplete my ego for? As I’ve said, writing is one of those things (if you haven’t checked out my creative non-fiction/book review tumblr, please do). I’m also working on a business idea, finishing my MA, and a podcast. These things are fulfilling, but they also require a great deal of energy. The whole point of becoming more mindful is discovering the self, and how that self fits in with the world.
The journey is by no means over, but I have found that you get closer to the self by stripping away the things that are unimportant. The 365 day photo challenge is unimportant to me.