How do you find hidden treasures in life? Knowing where to look is important, but knowing how to look is even more so. Digital lifestyles are reducing our attention spans and our powers of observation have become limited to addictive screens. As a result some of our life’s most valuable gifts go by unnoticed.
In this mindfulness exercise, we will improve our skills of observation and reflection through photography. These skills are essential for understanding the world around us, making informed decisions and enhancing our creativity. More importantly they are crucial for developing empathy for others – one of the beautiful treasures we can offer to this world.
As an added bonus 3 of the images in this post hold links to some incredible gifts. Tapping on the right ones will transport you to magical lands. Wonder how many of them will you find?
Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.~Thích Nhất Hạnh
Photography as a mindfulness exercise
There is a strong link between mindfulness and photography . Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the current moment, without judgment or distraction. The aim of mindful photography is to hold a moment in your mind that you can treasure forever.
In this forest bathing walk we will take the help of nature’s less seen gems to train your mind as well as your senses. You can do this walk alone or in a small group. The rules are very simple. Take only one photograph for each creative prompt. At the end of each exercise, groups can form a circle to share pictures and insights if any.
You can try this walk in any nature space close to you – even your garden. Just follow the basic principles of forest bathing: Be silent. Go slow. Think less. Feel more.
For a more detailed note on the Japanese concept read our Forest Bathing article or try the Nature Calm course.
Mindful Photography Exercises
1. Finding The Invisible
For the first task, find and photograph a cluster of insect eggs. Did you know that there are over one million known species of insects, which makes up over 80% of all known animal species on Earth. Many insects lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves or on stems of plants. These include species such as caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. Some insects lay their eggs in the soil or on the ground, where they can be protected from predators. Examples include ants, beetles, and some species of flies.
Train your eye to look carefully. Be fully present and attentive when observing your surroundings. Focus on the tiny nooks of nature and you’ll be surprised at what you can find. Observing the beauty of these hidden treasures creates awe and wonder. It helps to anchor the mind in the present moment and be free.
2. Character Exploration
Find an insect with an interesting personality. You can look around a piece of bark or visit the flowers. Try taking a shot that show the subject in its environment. What is the mood of the insect you are photographing?
Insects have been around for over 350 million years, and they have adapted to survive in almost every habitat on Earth. The largest insect in the world is the Goliath Beetle, which can grow up to 11 centimeters long and weigh up to 100 grams. The smallest insect in the world is the fairyfly, which is only 0.139 millimeters long.
Mindfulness photography is not just about the external world. These exercises train you to be able to take an inner snapshot as well. To become more aware of your own moods and triggers that change them.
3. Abstract Art
For this activity observe the leaves of plants and trees around you. Search for abstract pattern of holes left behind on leaves by foraging caterpillars. Some species of caterpillars can eat up to 27,000 times their own body weight in leaves during their larval stage. Some have even evolved to mimic the appearance of leaves, helping them to avoid detection by predators. See if you can spot some of these illusive artists or the nature art left behind by them.
The path to self-transformation begins with observation. Just as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, mindfulness exercises bring about a journey of inner metamorphosis.
4. Insect Eye View
Take a picture from the perspective of an ant. What does the world look like when seen from a unique angle? Be curious. Be curious and ask questions to become a more mindful observer. Expanding our awareness beyond the self is a mindfulness exercise for enhancing empathy.
There are over 12,000 known species of ants, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. Some species of ants can carry objects up to 50 times their own body weight. Mindful photography teaches us to find beauty in everyday moments. Moments that we might otherwise overlook. Focusing our attention on the small details fosters joy in the simple things of life.
5. Water Droplets
Create a picture with a water drop in it. Add a drop of water to a leaf or a flower, and experiment with different angles to capture the droplets in an interesting way. You can also try using a spray bottle to create your own droplets on a subject. And if you are doing this walk early in the morning, you’ll find some amazing possibilities with the dew drops.
For a beautiful photograph, we must pay close attention to the lighting, composition, and subject to create a visually appealing image. This requires us to be fully present and aware of our surroundings. Finding a big world reflected in a tiny drop of water is an interesting meditation on our own mind.
6. Flower Mindfulness
Capture the beauty of a flower that calls out to you. Pay attention to the finer details that make the flower unique. Flowers have a special language with which they communicate with their pollinators. If you wait patiently, you can even take a picture of the flower with its special friend.
It is estimated that one out of every 3 bites of food we eat is made possible by pollinators. Bees are one of the most important insects in the world, as they pollinate approximately 70% of the world’s top 100 crops. Just like the bee and the flower, there are many such invisible interconnections that make our world beautiful. Look carefully, can we try to find those important connections in our own life?
7. Dance of Life
If you could capture the dance of life in one frame what would it look like? Will you include yourself in the frame? In nature there are countless stories taking place simultaneously. Becoming aware of our own role in this intricate pattern can be a humbling experience. In the forest of our cosmos, each one of us is a tiny miracle dancing our way through life.
One of the most overlooked treasure of our lives is the joy of small moments that we spend with our loved ones. Mindful walks with nature offer a range of amazing benefits to improve not just the quality of life but also the quality of our relationships.
Knowing where to look for treasures is important.
Knowing how to look, even more so.
Our Lost Treasures
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.
Things which are hidden from our attention are often neglected, forgotten or lost. We hope this mindfulness exercise provides you with new ways to increase your attention, observation and awareness. It is through these skills that we can make new connections, identify problems, and come up with useful solutions – not just for our own life, but also for our community and the larger world.
This walk is part of our collection of 12 Uplifting Walks. Simple ideas that show you how to make your world wonderful.
To explore amazing new walks, games, arts, meditations, forests – join our free monthly newsletter.
How many of the hidden treasures could you spot? And what did you learn? Please add your thoughts in the comments.
Healing Forest is a volunteer run project. Our goal is to bring people and forests closer to each other through creativity and mindfulness. The aim is simple. Helping people heal. Helping forests heal.
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