I was leisurely walking to catch a bus, snapping some photos along the way, when Barbara, from the picture above, shouted out to me, “Hey! Take my picture! A Thanksgiving picture!” As an aside for the all the burgeoning photographers out there nervous about approaching people for portrait shots, I’m starting to notice that if you have a camera around your neck, appear to know what you’re doing, and keep your body language friendly and open plenty of people will ask you to take pictures of them. It’s a great way to start to feel more comfortable working with humans without having to confront your anxiety. But there’s no reason to feel anxious in the first place because most people like being asked to pose for a shot, it bolsters their egos, makes them feel important and observed, combats secret insecurities about not mattering that all of us share to one degree or another because these insecurities stem from the very real problem of human mortality and with it nothingness.
But back to Barbara, she was having fun, enjoying life in the moment without trying to make things too complicated. She took charge of the situation, saying she wanted to have fall foliage in the shot, wondering which tree would be best for it. Once we selected one to her liking she tried a few different poses before settling on looking up at the orange leaves, reverently raising her arm towards them. I just waited for her to bring her eyes down so that I could capture an authentic look of joy on her face rather than some forced smile divorced from reality. The simple joy that comes from being in the moment, appreciating all the things in life that many of us have come to take for granted, is the ideal from a mindfulness perspective.
Actually, contemplating mindfulness, digging into it from the philosophical side, is for those of us who have trouble living in the moment and therefore need some guidance to recapture that state. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, mindfulness is at once the easiest and the most difficult thing to do in the world, it’s simply giving 100% of your attention to some object of interest, being completely in the here and now. If you can do that you’ll feel more alive, more vibrant, more in touch with reality, and the people around you will notice your presence, not just your physical presence but your mental and emotional presence.
Some people don’t need any training in mindfulness, they don’t really need to think about living in the moment they just do it. And that’s the endgame, to make mindfulness something you are and something you do, not something you think about doing.