Presence as a daily practice

How a regular habit or daily routine can change our lives

Yellow repeating

As I read James Clear book, Atomic Habits, I am reminded of the many times I’ve made small, incremental changes to my life patterns that eventually resulted in daily habits that lasted years and changed my life forever. What I’ve found is that for me the life of a daily habit usually lasts around five to seven years.  And that at each phase, over time, I began to recognize a new identity for myself.

Becoming a practitioner of presence

The first regular habit that I can remember establishing was a daily meditation habit that started shortly before my divorce in 1987. Every morning I would get up at 4:30, do a few morning cleaning rituals (eg. brush teeth, etc), and then meditate for a solid hour. This one lasted about four years and my life trajectory forever changed during that time. Since then, taking time to appreciate the present moment became a life-long practice which has taken different forms in subsequent decades.

Around 1992-3 my daily practice expanded to include an hour of meditation coupled with journaling, followed by an hour of yoga that I considered a practice of embodied presence. This eventually led to my taking a yoga teacher training and five years of yoga teaching.

Discovering the joy of presence and presence of joy

In the early 2000s I attended a brief one-hour workshop where we were asked to list the 10 things in life that gave us joy and then to select the one among them that we could commit to doing every day.

I chose my love of the quality of the air at sunrise and committed to getting up every day at sunrise for a five minute walk to a place where I could inhale the clarified air of a new day, listen to the world waking up, and observe the sun rising over the Boston skyline. The time of day changed from season to season with the most challenging being in June when the sun would rise around 4:30am. I kept up with this daily practice regardless of the weather for seven years until I moved from the Boston area to Vermont.

Finding joy (and meaning) through the lens of a camera

During the final couple of years of this early morning practice I acquired a new DSLR camera and began to take photos during my walk. At that time I was most drawn to capturing the quality of light and shadow that I had experienced during this transformational early morning time. Thus began my journey as a photographer.

What would you like to preserve for the future?

In January of 2009 I was transitioning from Boston to Vermont and decided to make a new commitment (which coincidentally no longer required that I get up at dawn). At that time, I wanted to improve my photography as well as to become more skilled at asking meaningful questions. So I began this blog, committing to posting a photo and a question every day.

My commitment was not to take a photo everyday but simply to select one from my archives. And, most importantly, it didn’t have to be a great photo, just one that evoked my curiosity and gave me a frame for a thought-provoking question. I began to think of it as being released from having to take the typical beautiful sunset or landscape photos to instead capturing the ordinary beauty that we frequently ignore as we go about our everyday lives.

Identifying myself as a photographer and a creator of visual “games”

This daily photo blog lasted for five years resulting in a vast archive of photos and questions. Over the last four years, I’ve let go of my commitment to some kind of daily practice and have devoted my time to consolidating these images and questions into two different kinds of photo decks that some people often refer to as games, the three Revealed Presence®Story Card decks and the Intuitive Directions® boxed set.

And now, Present Moment Photography

While I’ve been focused on the development and marketing of these sets of photo cards, I’ve dearly missed the discipline of a daily practice and the depth of living that each has offered me. So I’ve decided it’s time to once again return to a daily challenge. I’m calling it Present Moment Photography and with this practice, I’m committing to taking a photo every day and posting it to this blog. Here are the parameters of my new commitment as currently envisioned (fully acknowledging that these parameters could change over time):

  • Once again, I don’t require that it be a great photo.
  • Before, during and after I take each photo, I will spend a few moments simply looking at what’s attracted my attention and quietly meditate on what I think is most interesting about what I see.
  • I can take multiple images from my observations and then select a single image to post.
  • I’ll probably be using my iPhone most of the time as it’s always with me. I also see real value in the new portrait feature on the iPhone camera to hone in on what’s most intriguing and eliminate what’s distracting, but it won’t be my only approach to photography.
  • Coming up with a question for each photo will be optional.

The value and benefit of a daily presence practice

I see this new practice as a practice of mindfulness. It is an opportunity for me to take a few minutes every day to contemplate something in my world that has caught my attention. It is intended to bring me fully present into at least one single moment each day. I’m doing this for myself and am sharing it on this blog because it will keep me accountable to myself.

Over the course of my 30 years of committing to some kind of daily presence practice,  I’ve learned that when I immerse myself in something personally meaningful, something of value emerges that also benefits others.  I don’t set out to create value for others, rather I’m simply looking for ways to bring meaning and purpose to my life. That said, in sharing this practice publicly, my hope is that you too will be inspired to find ways to celebrate the present moment in your own unique way.

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