What does it mean to be present ?

Often we are being told to ‘be present’ or to ‘let go’ of our thoughts or ‘be yourself’ or ‘be in the moment’ because to be free of  distractions is a prerequisite for a contemplative approach to photography.

The assumption seems to be that by following these instructions or by following certain steps it will actually happen. This, however is very deceptive.

For most of us it is difficult to be present because there is so much external and internal interference that can not be let go of by our good intentions or will of the self alone . We are constantly bombarded by thoughts,  by images of the past and concerns for the future, by feelings and ideas. Common distractions in photography are ideas of being original, of making great pictures, of wanting to be known and famous, of pleasing and impressing our friends, of beating the competition, of creating something unique, of making financial gains etc. The list is endless.

In short we are often too busy with thinking. Our thoughts are like filters that don’t let us connect directly with what we see. The manager who is in charge of all that ‘noise’ in our head is our ‘self’ or ‘I’. However, contemplation means forgetting this self. But how can we tell the self to forget or erode itself ? The more we tell our self to be present or the more we belief we are present the more we strengthen inadvertently the self, making it impossible to forget itself.

This is a trap we easily fall into. How can we then empty our mind of concepts, thoughts and feelings ? For myself I find my meditation practice to be of help. It helps to set the stage for these precious moments when the mind has stopped processing. With practice the interference by our mind as a thinking machine diminishes and looses its importance.

How do you facilitate the occurrence of these moments of being present ?

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