Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Zen and the art of Photography

I found this adorable frog sitting in a yoga pose in my SQO's sister's back yard this spring.  He was just contemplating life in a classic yoga pose, arms resting on legs in lotus position, fingers touching to create a circle, surveying the backyard and springtime in Wisconsin.  Then I came along with my camera and 'shop skills, and introduced him to the finer points of tea consumption.  I hear he is now up to 8 cuppa day of Earl Grey, sun-warmed and liberally laced with honey to attract flies. 

I've received a bill for the added grocery expense...sometimes photography can be expensive in weird ways.

But, I'll do just about anything for a Zen fix.

My workplace has been on a wellness kick since they reviewed the insurance costs last year.  We got the typical posters on the lunch-room board for 'how to eat healthy,' 'how to sleep healthy,' 'how to quit smoking,' etc., which are pretty typical fare in Corporate America:  easy to find, pre-chewed, and ready to regurgitate on command.

This is where a lot of Corporate America stops, rubber-stamping their wellness campaigns and patting themselves on the back for a job well done. All surface, and no real substance. 

A more honest sign would have 'This PSA brought to you by the Health Nazi's who believe they know more about your body then you do.'

**warning** political content detected!  Subject change NAOW!

My company's HR department likes to think outside the box, and aren't afraid to put in the work to do so.

In January, we were all invited to 'walk to warmth.'  Pedometers were offered free of charge, and the participants counted their steps.  Once a week, we reported our steps, which were then totaled together, our combined efforts mapped out in miles, and our progress to a destination charted.  Each week, we'd get a rundown of how far the group had walked, where we now were in geographical terms, and a little bit of history about the location we had made it to.

We made it from Wisconsin to Pasadena, FL, in a little more than 2 weeks (we have some people who walk a LOT).  Since then, we've wandered around the US, occasionally crossing our path, and are finally heading home.  Boy, are my imaginary feet sore.

I can't say that the Walk to Warmth campaign got me to walk MORE, but it did give me a baseline on just how much activity I'm (sadly) not getting.

I love to travel - metaphysically, at least.  

A new wellness initiative they have been working on, and just introduced, was the discounted membership rates at one of our local gyms.

I raced to the place and plunked my monies down.  Not, as you should realize by now, to go sweat on their wall-o-torture equipment (the dreaded elliptical, treadmill, free-weights, etc...) but because this particular gym has a pool.

I absolutely LOVE swimming laps.  I don't go fast, I'm not in it for the energetic splashing or beating the clock or any of the other 'macho' crap that people attempt to get out of their workouts. 

I drift.

           I glide.

                       I create as few ripples as possible. 

I silently flow from one edge of the pool to the other, back and forth, pacing the pool, as it were, much as a person paces the waiting room of the hospital when their significant other is in the operating theatre.

Except I don't have the stress and anxiety of the hospital-pacer.  My pacing is freedom.


When I synchronize my muscles and my breath in a repetitive cycle, my mind is free to wander.  I have times when I think of financial, household, personal, or other concerns that are eating my mind.  I have times when I compose a new story line, or trip down the fantastical rabbit-hole to somewhere I haven't been before.  Sometimes, I brew up a hot cup of tea for a new blog post...

I also have times when the mind simply goes dormant, quiet, an impartial participant/observer of each clear moment of NOW as it happens, there but separate from the automatic body-motions as I glide, stroke, glide, stroke, glide my way through the water. 

This is my Zen.  Achieving thought through no-thought.

I'm sure there are other, more knowledgeable blogs and articles out there on how to 'properly' achieve Zen, who would scathingly lambaste my attempts as a milquetoast attempt with NO foundation in their granite-set rulebook, but I really don't care.  When I swim slow laps, the body goes on autopilot, the mind crystallizes into the now, and Zen becomes my reality.  

See...I don't wish to travel on an already established road, either metaphysically or in, for lack of a better term, reality.  I choose not to follow rote instructions, diagrams or beliefs.  I have studied, and incorporated, bits and pieces from the 'establishments' into my life journey, finding that each has a piece of the ultimate answer ('s not 42) but have lost the way by dictating the minute, day-to-day actions as one-size-fits-all.

Step off the path, put down the holy book, and stop with the rote formulae handed to you by others as a 'go directly to enlightenment' card.  These are human trappings, and if you focus on them, you limit yourself.

And, if you see a figure in your metaphysical journey, making their slow way across an ungroomed field of weeds, stop for a contemplative moment and let me join you for a spell.  I can't guarantee we'll walk the rest of the road together, but, for a time, we can experience things in concert.

Thank you for reading the 'slightly to the left of normal' ramblings...

Let's get back to all things Zen.  My cursory, slightly mad exploration of the 'net turned up an interesting blog. Art Photographer | Life Blogger |

A special nod to the author of this blog - Karen Lynn Sandoval - for documenting your journey for all to see.  I came across your path, and found it absorbing.
Karen does many things...including an art form called Zentangle.

I do remember reading up on Zentangles quite a while ago, and my initial, brief scanning of the quickly available data available on the web gave me a completely WRONG idea on what the art  encompasses.  I thought one simply put pen to paper and drew abstract shapes until a piece of art emerged, following the unconscious design of the creator.

Yea - I was completely wrong.  About the only thing I got right was the pen to paper bit.

Zentangle follows a very precise set of rules.  The area in which you work has to be 3.5x3.5 inches.  The paper has to be white, unadorned, handmade or commercially available is the artist's choice, but the less occlusions or texture on the paper the better.  The true tangle is devoid of color - only black and white...and no pencils allowed.  Mistakes are incorporated into your design. 

Create a border first, freehand, so you don't go outside the lines (remember "the lines are our friends?).  Then start with a 'string' (a few lines drawn within the border) where you will attach your tangles.  You then begin applying your patterns.

And the patterns of Zentangle? - they are many, varied, and precise.  People study these patterns.  People teach these patterns.  There are books and videos and schools for these patterns.

You create your tangle with single-minded focus on the pattern you are choosing, blotting out all other considerations and concerns while you put pen to paper.  This encompasses the wonder of Zen - concentration and mindfulness on the moment, crystallizing your attention on the now, instead of the everywhen.

Have I said lately that Zen is a beautiful thing?

I may just have to take the essence of tangling, and put my own spin on it.  I stepped onto Karen's well-traveled path, picked up a stone, and now contemplate what to do with the pebble in my pocket.  I can hear it nattering in my metaphysical ear even now.

With my love of all things 'shop - I can't wait to see what I come up with. 

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