Contemplative Photography is not about photography at all, rather, it is the dialogue between the photographer’s inner world and the shapes, patterns and physics in front of his lens. What do the shapes and interactions say to him? What does he reply? The product of this dialogue is not a photograph, but a deeper knowing and expansion of one’s experience of life.

There are a select few friends for whom this image resonated at some level – this post is for them. Why does a greyscale image of reeds and water strike a chord in some of us? Perhaps it speaks to the need for graceful resolution of internal conflicts that we carry within.

Of the reeds, waves, wind and peace

The visual music of the reeds is different from the visual music of the water.

Reeds produce high energy patterns, alternating violently from black to white with strict and straight lines. Those of us who have a hyperactive mental landscape can relate to the frustrations and fun that this type of energy produces in our lives. This energy is uplifting as often as it is depressing.

Water on the other hand, creates sublime shades, softens hard edges and brings curvature and suppleness to straight stiff forms. It absorbs all the energy that is impressed on it and converts it into graceful undulations and continuous shades of gray. Most of us have had ‘water-like’ experiences where we’ve been able to bring grace into an arena of conflict. It may be in helping to resolve conflict or expanding artificially stiff limitations. Bruce Lee’s advice to “be like water” goes beyond being adaptable – it suggests that we have the power to re-frame and re-flect whatever is impressed upon us.

Lastly, the wind is the unseen guest in this picture. Its music cannot be seen directly, but something in this image tickles the auditory cortex as well as the visual cortex – and that is the wind. The wind passes over the reeds and the water and cajoles them to produce a harmony from their differences. Perhaps this is why spiritual traditions invoke the ‘spirit’, ‘ruha’, ‘shekina’, or ‘aathma’ to take residence upon circumstances to produce harmony.

The Bhagvad Gita captures the reed, water and wind in this quote.

“For concentration is better than mere practice, and meditation is better than concentration; but higher than meditation is surrender in love of the fruit of one’s actions, for on surrender follows peace.”

~ The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verses 8-12.

Here, ‘practice’ and “concentration” is the pattern of the reeds,
“meditation” is patterns of water
and “surrender in love of the outcomes of one’s labor” is the touch of the wind.

Peace, then, is not an elimination of certain types of energies, but the harmonious integration of them and a surrendering of our own ideas of what perfection is.

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