White on Black

 

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Feather on Block Island State Beach: Photo by Noelle

I am enthralled with bits of light. The hunger for the right sort of light, is at the heart of my interest in black and white photography. It’s an odd feeling, that moment, when the piece you are working with suddenly strikes this perfect balance of white on black. As if a piece of me suddenly solidifies out of the ether, into this very potent now, that didn’t exist before.

Possibly it didn’t exist.

Maybe we are all manifesting ourselves, moment to moment, by what we create and connect with in our lives. Versions of ourselves no different than photography filters. Each choice, each passion, each belief, steadily constructing this moment’s version of ourselves, that could change with the next decision.

It’s said that the distance between molecules is so great within us, that we are really made up of more nothing than something. That at a subatomic level what we think we are is ether, nothingness, vast empty landscapes of potentiality waiting to erupt into existence. Dynamic vapors each of us, winking into existence over and over again at such high speeds, we appear like something out of nothing.

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Visit From My Old, Atlantic Friend: Photo by Noelle

In photography, I can pull out light and deepen shadows, dramatically altering the quality of an image. I can tweak the shades of gray and imbue a scene with opalescent highlights.

I can do this in character and perspective, too. Change who I am, drawing out more of one quality over another. I need only change my mind, make a new decision, intend something I have never intended so powerfully before.

These days I lean toward more light, less darkness, but it’s there – my shadow side. She is, in every sense an old, if not often deluded friend. But her delusions about how the world works, have just become the backdrop for seeing my way into more profound truths. My darker side is not an aberration, but part of my artistry.  A necessary depth in the dimensional me I come to learn anew each day.  She lurks in the dark spots of the wave, the dense parts of mountainsides, the vanishing portion of a blade of grass. My shadow is what sets the stage for my light.

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: Photo by Noelle

It’s clear there is always some focal point or object at the heart of my search in each image. Yet, it can only come by its contrast to structures around it that are darker. The contrast of white on black, shows me something I came to see.

Look at any of these images and the sea of darkness far outweighs the light. In fact, at a qualitative level, the intensity of the light is in direct proportion to the amount of darkness that surrounds it. The greater the sea of darkness the more intense the bits of light.

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Old Harbor, Block Island, RI: Photo by Noelle

Dark matter in the Universe, in a sense, seems to work this way, too. We can’t see it with any known measuring scale or technique because it interacts with nothing known to us. We know it exits however, by it’s gravitational pull on the objects we do see. It is the force that surrounds the things illuminated to us.

I feel this inside of me more and more each day. The more I turn into what disturbs me, darkens my doorway, makes me want to pull away from myself, only accents how powerfully light the other parts of me are. They go hand and hand, this white on black.

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Wildflowers in a dark wood: Photo by Noelle

All of this is really to say we don’t understand darkness.

We don’t appreciate its value, weight and importance in understanding what we deeply wish to see. That each goes hand and hand with the other. We have such fear of pain and suffering we can’t perceive what part darkness plays in our lives, inside our psyche or in how things are unfolding all around us. We break things down into good or bad, right or wrong, but this really robs us of a larger context and meaning to the people, places and things we interact with.

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Wild on the trail, Colorado: Photo by Noelle

I look upon the shadows cast by these mountain trail wildflowers. They are of the flowers, of course, and yet they have a beauty unto themselves that changes throughout the day, as the sun moves across a boundless sky. The beauty of the flowers is bolder against the dark shadows that dance around them all day long. Even more delicious, the darkness of the shadow can only be experienced by the white sand that rests beneath the shadows themselves. White on black, black on white.

When I look at how my own goodness has come to me, or maybe its better to say floated to the surface and shown itself, it’s on its arrival in my darkest moments. It’s weight and quality are not understood exclusively alone, but by how I perceived the darkness around these pieces of luminescence within me. Or how it seems the darkness itself refracts back to me a light, I could’ve only seen by the very darkness I dreaded to face inside of myself.

I look at the image below, and feel a deep sense of peace as the light of small leaves rises out of the dark forest floor. I understand the balance I feel inside myself, as the image finds it’s right balance of white on black.

So much of me is light petals on dark, earthy mulch.

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In a wood near Allenspark, CO: Photo by Noelle

 

If you enjoyed this piece, I would be honored if you checked out my book, Into Your Meditation available by clicking on this link or the one on the upper right  hand sided of this post.

Dead Calm

Waves breaking on Paradise Beach at LEsterre Bay with an old fishing boat on the shore and the turqoise sea and Sandy Island sand bar beyond, Grenada

Sandy Island sand bar beyond, Grenada: By robertharding.com

Today, I send into your meditation the plateau. Many a dieter knows the feeling. Early efforts in their weight loss program brought swift and great results, but deeper into the discipline of eating and exercising they hit a plateau and they feel as if their progress has stagnated. They lose faith and “fall off the wagon” so to speak, believing their set goal is now unattainable.

Meditators can do this, too. Make a commitment to daily sitting, have incredible experiences at the start, see great results, but then after a time it just feels routine. As if we sit day in and day out and we feel like we’re making no meaningful progress.

We remind ourselves that there are no goals in meditation or seeking. It’s not about chasing the butterfly but remaining still that it might alight upon our hand instead and other such notions of stillness. Lovely thoughts, of course, but when we see ourselves engaging in behaviors we’d hoped meditation would’ve rid us of, such as, easy impatience or irritation, we can feel we’ve hit some weird peace plateau. We’re calmer, more peaceful, but there’s a boundary of some sort we can’t get past. We find ourselves still with self-critical thoughts or battling a vague sense of unworthiness.

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Sailboat in a dead calm: from Meditationroom.org

We start looking for other strategies, believing meditation has taken us as far as we can go. Or we come to believe this is just as good as it gets, maybe.

Plateaus offer us two very powerful opportunities. The first is the state of adjustment. We see plateaus as stagnation, when really they are points of adjusting to our newer self. Just like hiking a mountain where the legs dearly love straightaways where they can recoup before the next climb, plateaus offer us the same thing. A chance to regroup and adjust to this newer version of us that has been evolving within our practice.

And too, as losing weight too fast can cause huge setbacks, we need time to adjust to new states of being. Spots on the path where we can integrate all that we’ve absorbed in our practice, before moving on. These periods of integration and adjustment help us advance our practice. It’s those, seemingly uneventful, straightaways that allow us to garner new energy for the next leg of our spiritual journey.

Second, plateaus frequently have important gifts we have yet to see. The wind has vacated our sails and we sit in calm water, because there is something here. Something important for us to grasp, learn, take in, and/or understand in some fashion. This dead calm in the midst of our journey is a gift. The plateau has a deep and meaningful purpose. There is a gem of understanding waiting for us to become mindful to that is right in front of us. Now is the time to double down and really sink into our practice.

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From Pinterest

Rarely is what we’re needing to observe hard to find. Usually, it’s staring us right in the face; requiring little more than true mindfulness. What are we thinking about day to day, minute to minute? What emotions are lingering either clearly like a constant irritation or quieter, behind our general thinking, like sorrow? How are we behaving? How do we treat ourselves and others? What are our complaints really about? What worries hold sway?

If we spend time mindfully watching ourselves in the same detached way we sit, we will often find nuggets of awareness that have become as Story Water’s refers to as ‘wallpaper’. Stuff we’ve been thinking, feeling, doing for so long it’s simply become wallpaper in our lives. Things we tolerate within ourselves that aren’t serving us at all. To see them, we often need to be stuck in one spot, until we stop seeing the spot we’re in as familiar and begin to see it with new eyes.

The plateau is here for us to stop moving, intentionally, and look more deeply at what is before us. It is not a block to progress, but rather a powerful indicator of a place we’ve brought ourselves to, to see, hear, feel, and heal something vital within us. The plateau is part of our progress, not outside of it.

So if we’ve lost our wind and the sails hang still, we need to take a deep breath. Put in check the seductive desire to complain about where we are. Take a seat and recommit to the journey we so wisely stepped onto however many moons ago. Either give ourselves permission, time and space to integrate all that we’ve developed within, to this point, or get curious and alert and look around. There are likely pearls of wisdom and understanding falling all about our feet. The moment we are in now, has everything we seek and will move us forward when the timing is right and the wind’s steady.

If you enjoyed this piece, I would be delighted if you checked out my book using this link or the link above. Namaste…

Bench to Nowhere

Greenway trail at Nathan Mott Park, Block Island: Photo by Noelle

Greenway trail at Nathan Mott Park, Block Island: Photo by Noelle

I was hiking a trail at the Nathan Mott Park while vacationing on Block Island; a small island off the coast of Rhode Island. The trail was well maintained, but heavily wooded. No clear cutting or control burns have ever happened there. Thus, the bramble was thick and dense. Suddenly, I stumbled upon a bench, sitting in the middle of the trail, about half way in. It faced the bramble, with no apparent other view.

I stopped and looked around. It seemed an odd place to have a seat. I thought to continue my journey, but something about how the sun rested upon the seat called to me. I sat down. I was correct there was no other view, but the dense thicket. I decided to give it some time.

Wildlife knows when hikers have hit a trail. Alert calls go out to any who can hear to beware, a human is afoot. If you are lacking a quiet presence when you step into nature, you aren’t likely to have many unusual encounters with wildlife. Sit for a time though, and wood life begins to forget you are there and marches onward.

Deer flies lost interest and continued down the path. Bees returned to the wild rose and thistle. The alarming squawking that had followed me from crow to jay, had subsided and now the wood was filled with bird’s singing their daily stories of berries and dragonflies. Rather than the stir of my own progress I now heard the steady movement of the wind through the trees. The sun came and went as it winked between the branches above. The moment was peaceful without the least bit of silence.

When I was younger I did not understand the power of stillness or the value of doing nothing or going nowhere. That stillness is full and rich, rather than dull and silent, as my youthful mind considered. I don’t know who thought to put the bench in the middle of the trail, but I suspect they were someone like me. Someone who had come to appreciate that sitting in the middle of nowhere, looking at nothing in particular, is likely the best seat there is.