Posts Tagged 'blog'



Practicing non attachment

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A confidence crisis is not confined to an artist.  However, anyone who practices any kind of art will at some point or another face some sort of wobble in their confidence at some point during their creative life.  Probably several actually, and if they are anything like me then they will have them on a regular basis.  They will doubt their technical knowledge.  They will wonder if their creative pool has dried up and they might even want to sell all their kit convinced their last ever piece of create work has long since been produced.

Recently whilst standing before a class of eager and expectant faces I wondered what it is that gives us confidence.  What gives me the confidence to go before people and teach despite the fact that I still have so much to learn? What gives me the confidence to write these words that may will be shunned with hefty giggles and dismissive vocabulary? How do we take confidence into our hearts and lives.

For me confidence simply comes from non attachment to the outcome.  When I first stood on my mat before my very first yoga class I had to overcome a moment of anxiety.  Could I teach? Would they like me? Would they come back?  I reminded myself that every person there that day would have a different opinion of me.  Some would like me and some would not.  Some would eagerly return for the next class and some would go on a search for another teacher who resonated more with them. I let go of the outcome.  I reminded myself that it did not matter what each of their individual opinions were and that it was more important to teach in a way that resonated fully with me.

I believe our education system has to take a great deal of the blame for the collective confidence of the human race.  Imagine, if you will, the young child who stands before her parents and siblings in full confidence singing out a tuneless nursery rhyme.  She has no attachment to the outcome and is glorious in her unadulterated joy.  Fast forward a few years and put her in front of her class where she now has to recite a poem or speak on some inane subject she has no interest in.  Now she is told very clearly there will be a rating attached to her performance.  She simply has to be attached to the outcome.  She is taught to be attached to the outcome.  Each and every day, in everything she does she is learning attachment to the outcome.  In the words of Buddha ‘the root of suffering is attachment’.  She spends twelve years in education being taught to be attached to the outcome of everything she does. She is doomed until she has spent an enormous amount of time working on herself and unlearning this very thing.

There are seven billion of us on this madly spinning planet.  Each and every one of us has a different perception and reality.  If you are creating something every single person that views that work will have a different reality of it and if you attach yourself to the outcome of each of those realities you will end up at the very root of suffering.  Create what resonates with you.  Detach yourself from the outcome.  Write the words that sit pretty on the page before you.  Take the photograph that is breathtaking in your eyes alone.  Paint on that canvas in the way that feels exquisitely beautiful to you.  Run the way that you want to run.  Move the way you want to move.  Sing the way you want to sing.  Detaching your self from the outcome allows you to do and say things that you otherwise might be reluctant to do or say. It frees you from your comfort zone and somewhere out of your comfort zone is where all the good stuff lies.

Try it for a day.  Detach yourself from the outcome of every single thing in your day and see how it feels.  Learning to detach yourself from the outcome is an incredibly liberating thing.  It frees you up to be your true self in all your magnificent glory.  It gives you incredible confidence.  It brings you back to yourself and in that place is all the joy and happiness you could ever want.

 

 

Moving with the universe

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We all tend to resist stuff that comes up in our lives. Human resistors to whatever the universe wants.  We are great thinkers and planners and we set out in our minds how our days will go.  How events will pan out. We make a movie in our minds of what it will all look like right down to the finest detail.  We like control.  It makes us feel safe in our place on this earth.  We like to compartmentalise and box things, putting them in order for our own emotional security.  We plan our photographic shoots.  We imagine how the weather will be.  How gently the breeze will blow, what colour the sky will be and what our final image will look like.  I have done this so many times only to find that the sky is not how I imagined.  That the wind is blowing the wrong way and I realise I have to surrender to how it is at that moment.

We resist when things do not go according to our own mind movie script.  We resist when things do not fit into the boxes we have created….but guess what…sometimes you have to go with the flow.  You have to surrender to what is and stop trying to control everything.  This resistance is what causes our stress.  You really have no idea what might happen in your life in the next hour, or day, or year.

Life is like swimming in the ocean.  If you resist the wave it knocks you over and sends you tumbling not knowing which way is up.  You are dumped on the sand trying to catch your breath and retain your dignity.  Recently in my life I have had to learn to go with the flow in many ways.  I have been tested enormously and when I have resisted what has come my way I have found myself reeling and tumbling.  A good, but small example is that I have needed to change my car.  I have driven a Land Cruiser for the last ten years but I no longer need such a big car.  I like white.  It’s my colour choice for cars.  It’s one of my boxes.  So I make arrangements with a friend who owns a dealership to trade in my big old car and get myself a new small run around.  He arrives with a car to show me and it is red!  Now this is way out of my comfort zone.  Way way out of it.  However this car has extras that I will get without any cost to me.  Big extras….but my comfort zone!!!!

Do I wait another few months for a white one so that life can fit into my box or do I go with what the universe has offered me?  Do I surrender to what is or do I resist. The universe has offered me an a beautiful car with more than I asked for but in order to benefit I have to let go of my preconceived ideas.

So I am pushing my boundaries and leaving my comfort zone, after all, life happens beyond our comfort zone.

 

 

 

 

 

When we forget to see the beauty

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I have in the last three months travelled the 1700km of road between Durban and Cape Town three times. Because of Lesoto sitting in the middle of the country one has to drive half way to Johannesburg before turning down towards the Cape. Starting in Durban this road winds up through the spectacularly beautiful rolling green hills of Natal to the Drakensberg mountains and the winding misty high of Van Reenen’s Pass at 1768 meters. Not long after that one has to exit the main freeway and travel across the Free State to join the freeway that will take you to Cape Town.

Natal with its summer rainfall is lush and green then almost immediately after leaving the freeway one hits the wide open spaces of the Free State. Large expanses of golden grass, fields of sunflowers and big blue cloudless skies. Over the years the Free State has gained a reputation for being ugly. Personally I find those big blue skies and golden spaces refreshingly beautiful.

Eventually this road meets the N1 and so begins the more than 1000km of pretty much straight road through the Karoo. It is almost impossible to imagine that the Karoo covers nearly a third of South Africa given the size of this country. The vastness of this space is overwhelming.  Mile after mile of desert scrub and skies so big they almost seem impossible. When one first sees this the heart cannot help but expand as it takes in the views of this incredible part of our world.

Finally after many many hours one comes over another mountain pass and before you in breathtaking contrast lies a lush green valley of vineyards, so in contrast to the harshness of the Karoo, ones breath is taken away once again.

So you travel this road for the first time and are mesmerised by the size and variety of what lies before you.  Every mile travelled produces yet another gaspingly exquisite scene and so the heart swells and the spirit lifts.  Then you travel the road again.  You know now that it is long and you are not seeing it all with fresh eyes and so the heart closes a little along with the eyes that prefer rest now rather than wide eyed wonder.  Then you travel it a third time and now you are used to the beauty that lies around the next corner and think only of where the next coffee stop is.  You close off to the wonder of it all.  You forget to look.  You forget to see.

We do this everyday in our lives. We live in a place and become so accustomed to the beauty there we forget to see it.  We forget to see the beauty in the people we know. We stop looking at the roses in our gardens and stop inhaling the scent of the coffee before we drink it.

In art we must not do this. We must see the beauty in everything, even the mundane. We must always look with fresh eyed wonder as if we are seeing it for the first time. Shooting stock for Getty forces me to do this. How can I make the ordinary beautiful and interesting. How can I use the light to enhance the most simple everyday scene.

Perhaps though we should not do this just for the sake of art. Perhaps we should do it for ourselves.  When you travel about your world today look about and see it all with fresh eyes. Look at the way the light falls as the hours pass and how it changes what you see.

Do yourself a favour and look again so that you see the beauty in your own world. Don’t close your heart and eyes to this. Open them as if your were seeing it all for the first time and then be grateful for that.

 

 

 

 

 

Who do you want to be?

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I ask you this. Who do you want to be? What sort of person do you aspire to be? What delightful traits do you see in others that you wish for yourself? Do you admire a person’s tenacity or their dedication to worthy causes? Or the extraordinary effort they put in to maintaining good health or perhaps just their desire to learn and grow. So what is stopping you from being all these things? You can be anything you want to be.

When it comes to being an artist I want you to question what sort of artist do you want to be. Now by this I do not mean do you want to be a landscape photographer or a sculptor. I mean how do you want to move people with your art. Do you want to merely take photographs that will be placed on a mantelpiece? Simply reminders of a moment captured with a camera and lens. Or paint a painting that is bought simply to occupy a space somewhere in a home because it matches the colour coded décor.

Would you not rather produce a piece of work that stops people in their tracks? That makes them loose their breath and linger a while. That makes them wonder what your thoughts were when your brush touched the canvas, or what sorrows your soul has suffered to be able to put words together so sweetly that they tumble off the pages and find spaces to settle in their hearts. Do you want to take portrait photographs that make the viewer pause and wonder about the life of the person they see there. Portraits that make the viewer question what it is that draws them in and what beauty they see there in those eyes.

Do you want to travel and take photographs of children in far off places who’s lives are so tragically sad they make the viewer weep at the very thought of it all? Or carve a sculpture that the makes a stranger want to reach out run their hands over it, finding every tiny crevice and think with tenderness of the passion with which you carved it.

Or perhaps you want to photograph landscapes that make people linger and dream of standing there beside you, or capture the movement of an athlete that inspires awe and envy.

Whatever it is….do not be ordinary. Seek to be the artist you want to be. Search out others to inspire you, look at their work and discover what it is that makes you lean in and then find a way to put that quality into your own art. Find a way to make your viewer lean in and linger. It is surely worth it.

You are going to fall…do it anyway!

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Yesterday  I was working on a yoga pose called Scorpion ( Vrischikasana).  This is a very challenging inverted pose.  It involves balancing on your forearms, head raised and a strong backbend so that your feet touch your head.   This pose requires strength (particularly in the upper arms and shoulders) a supple back, a strong core and a great sense of balance. When executed properly this pose is like a work of art.  It has a beautiful flow.  It has curves and balance and is exquisitely beautiful to look at.

Before I attempt an advanced pose such as this I spend a few moments finding my breath and my centre.  It requires all my concentration to find my balance once I am inverted and before I move into the backbend.  I know that it is going to take me many many attempts to master this pose and that before I do I am going to fall, and fall again, and again.

There are so many beautiful parallels between yoga and life and the lessons I learn on my mat I transfer to my life.  I am going to fall in life too. Again and again, but thats OK so long as I keep trying.

I was alone in the studio at the gym on a quiet sunday afternoon.  I don’t suppose anyone even knew I was in there.  There was no one to catch me when I fell…but I faced my fear and did it anyway.  It took a huge dose of courage and intense concentration to even get myself inverted as I am not used to balancing on my arms in that way. It took an even bigger dollop of courage to bend and lift my head.  There is an immediate tendency to fall down as you lift your head as your centre of balance has shifted.  The only way to stay in balance is to bend in the opposite way to that which our bodies are used to.  I concentrate on my breath.  If you don’t breath you won’t have the strength to stay inverted.

Some people use props when trying a new and challenging pose like this.  Support from a wall or perhaps a block or a strap to keep the arms in the correct position.  Personally I don’t like the use of props in my yoga or in my work.  I like to just go ahead and fall, over and over, tumbling about in all my beautiful ridiculousness until I find my way.

So how does this pertain to life and our work as an artist.  Well it’s pretty simple really.  You are going to fall.  Probably a lot of times and if someone is always there to catch you then you will never really master things.  It’s OK for a bit but eventually you just have to go ahead and do it on your own.  You are going to make mistakes that’s for sure.  You are going to mess up and and look silly for a while but guess what….no one is watching.  They are all too busy messing up and falling over themselves.

You need to keep doing it until that sweet moment arrives when you find your balance and your work of art is finished. If you don’t keep trying you will simply never master it.  Go ahead and fall.  It doesn’t matter how many times.  Take a thousand photographs before you find one that has all that perfectly balanced light.  Write a thousand pages until the one before you has all the right curves and sweet spots.

You are all alone in your studio and no one is watching.  Go ahead and fall but but please just do it.  Face the fear and fall because one day you will master that art and the world will gasp at it’s beauty.

 

 

 

Loose the ego, roll out the mat and improve your art

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I love yoga.  Not a day goes by when I don’t roll out my mat and hit those poses.  Yoga is a journey. It’s a journey into yourself.  It strips away the layers and moves you into a stillness so quiet can hear your soul whisper.  You will not succeed on this journey if you are holding onto your ego.  It’s a journey about un-becoming who you are at present and becoming who you are meant to be.  It’s about getting the inside right while working on the outside. It’s about being as conscious of where your body isn’t as where your body is.  It’s about being aware, totally aware, in a way you never imagined possible.

When we create we need to loose the ego.  How can we create when there is an ego in the way?  True art comes when the ego is laid down and we move into our quiet place.  When we dig deep and peel away the layers.  There is not room for ego in art.  If you try to create with your ego in place you will fail.  People won’t hear your whisper.  To make people see your art you need to whisper to them, get them to pause a moment and turn their heads.  When they pause and listen, they will see.  You need to give of yourself,  your real self in your art.  If you write, dig deep and find your stillness.  Create from there. If you paint loose the layers and become aware.  If you, like me, take photographs.  Loose the ego.  People will see that ego.  I see it all the time and skim past those photographs so fast I don’t even have time to blink.  If you create from your centre it will whisper so sweetly people will hear, I promise.

Shooting this yoga studio, was for me, such a privilege.  The joy of capturing someone else’s stillness as I too found mine.  Of the quiet breath of the moment and a room devoid of ego.  Of the exquisite soft light of a winters morning.  Of sharing knowledge and learning.  Of watching someone practice their art as I practiced mine.

Loose the ego and lay down the mat because if you do I promise it will take your creativity to a new level.   Get people to turn their heads and pause a moment.  They will hear your whisper.

 

 

 


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