How Do You Find Serenity?

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 

 

Wouldn’t it be great if we could always do that?  I try to be true to myself and to others, because if there is anything I can’t stand it’s a phony.  Being honest with yourself and others, brings a sense of peace because you don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not.

 

We went on a Viking Rhine River Cruise in September.  In keeping with the theme of honesty, I think of cruising, in general, as something for “old people.”  According to statistics, I now fit in that category, but I sure as hell don’t feel that way. I loved the experience of cruising down a river.  No schlepping suitcases from one city to the next.  No swearing because the road signs are in another language, and I don’t know what they mean.  On the other hand, on a cruise, you give up the immersive experience of spending a week in a country and getting to know its residents. 

 

However, I believe I have made the switch to the “old people” way of traveling, when instead of searching for a restaurant, my coffee and wine is poured within 1 minute of my setting down on my chair.  If I want to relax and read a book, it takes me 5 minutes to reach my room.  If I want to sightsee, I opt for an excursion or climb the stairs to the top of the boat.

 

One day in my red jacket, sweater and scarf (it was in the 50’s), I sat on an upper deck chair, sipped hot chocolate and  was happy. I felt as if I was betwixt a dream and fantasy.  It was surreal and absolutely serene. 

Here is some of what I saw.

Make sure you continue on to Wendy May, Nature Photographer, NE Scotland. She never fails to bring a sense of contentment when I view her images and her rich colors.

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Imagination – The August Serenity Blog

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”  ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

The thing about serenity is that you can’t just call it up and have it delivered.  It’s elusive and fleeting which is why it’s all the more tantalizing. 

 I’ve been working recently with a new yoga teacher.  She’s different from the instructors I’ve had in the past.  She’s slow and deliberate keeping us at just the right pace and level of difficulty.  The class is an hour and half, which is a big junk of time, when you add in the drive.  It’s held in an unattached garage of the instructor’s home, which Lori has turned into a studio.  As soon as I open the door, the scents, from whatever oil she is diffusing that day, wash over me clearing the path to a good session.   She works us gently and deeply urging us to make it our practice and not compare.  I keep my eyes closed most of the session, unless I’m not sure what I’m doing, and have to peek at someone else (which since I am new is frequent).

 When it is near to the end, everyone is almost always surprised that it’s time for shavasana.   I grab a blanket, rest on my mat and go into an almost otherworldly state.  Sometimes, weirdly enough, I feel as if I could levitate, which is ridiculous, I know.  That is my serene moment on Wednesday mornings at 9:30am.

 So since I can’t spend my days in a yoga studio, there have to be ways that lead to that path of serenity.  Contemplation and the gift of awareness can open our eyes enhancing our vision to something deeper than ourselves.  I can observe the complexity of a flower, pause and listen to the soothing sounds of a waterfall, or watch the rise of the sun at 5:00 am in the North Carolina Mountains and feel something greater than myself.  

 We owe it to ourselves to seek it out in our everyday lives, whatever is the right combination that allows us, maybe even for a split second, to forget who and where we are. 

 “If it is a woman’s function to give, she must be replenished too.” ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

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Please follow the Serenity Circle with my friend, Wendy May, Scottish Photographer. She has a beautiful and her own unique way at looking at the world.

May Serenity Blog - The Sounds of Silence

How do you define yourself?  Are you more alive in the city or at ease in the country?  Do you want to lie on the grass staring at the sky inhaling the whispered scent of wildflowers or listen to the cacophony of voices, scents, and visual cues? Do you need the pulse of the city to feel connected with your fellow humans?

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Does a visit to a museum, lunch at an outdoor cafe and an evening concert make your heart beat faster or do you feel more inspired by gnarled trees, spreading roots and bird song? Does lying in a hammock taking a nap feel like heaven. Does the sound of silence stir your inner being and connect you with all that has been and all that will be? If it does, you know where you belong.



To tell the truth, I would have a difficult time telling you where I fit.  I was raised outside New York City and worked there in my early twenties. I loved the vibe, the excitement, the smells and the diversity.

Currently, we have a small weekend cottage on a lake where I take in the open sky, the view of the lapping water and the flitting of the birds, but I don’t want to live there.  There are no good eating establishments nearby and if I have to go to the grocery, it’s a bit of a hike; plus there are creepy creatures hidden under stones and rocks.  Yet, when I access the gravel road to our home, I relish the time I spend there. 

“Learn to be quiet enough to hear the sound of the genuine within yourself, so that you can hear it in other people. ~ Marion Wright Edelman

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Our town-home, where we spend most of our time, is not in the city, but I can get downtown in 30 minutes to go to a concert or play or spoil myself with a special glass of wine and a well-crafted meal.  It’s not something I normally do, but once a month with a group of woman friends. 

Like all Libras, the scale has to be balanced.  I come alive and feel imbued with energy in a city.  I relax and breathe deeply when there is just the trees and me in the country.  I’m conflicted and confused about making choices.  Harmony and symmetry characterize who I am. 

As most of you know, I went on an astro-photography workshop recently. The silence was profound and deeply affecting. There were 12 other photographers, but I was in my own world that was hushed and silent. It was just me, the stars and what felt like eternity. There was no noise, but my breath and I felt at peace with the stillness.





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Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains
Within the sound of silence

My friend, Jill of Jillian Baudry, south of France photographer is the next up in our Serenity Circle.















 



 



 

 


 

"Earth Laughs in Flowers" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

February Serenity Project

 Some of us were fortunate enough to attend the ClickAway conference at Dana Point, California this month.  The best part for me about the event is the chance to see friends and make new ones.  It’s startling, to me, how deeply I care about my on-line friendships. We share so much in common with our art and then when we actually meet we discover we share so much in common in other areas.  I do very little shooting when I’m there because I’m too distracted.  I spend my time observing others’ excitement at being together in a place that feeds our passion.

One day I attended a class lecture given by Ryan Longnecker.  He said something that I’ve heard many times, but this time it sunk in.  He said shoot what you love and then shoot more of what you love.  We all know that, right?  The question is do we make that a practice?

I have taken food photography classes and flat lay workshop, but I pretty much stink at it.  The light never seems right nor does the composition.  It seems to me that it requires a lot of effort to place objects on a blank canvas in an artful way.  It doesn’t come naturally to me and feels forced.  I think they are great exercises, but I don’t feel joy.

“Where there is joy there is creation”  Hindu Scripture

I feel joy when I play with flowers or see a great landscape with voluminous clouds. The sun is shining it’s rays down at the world at sunrise or sunset and it screams for us to notice. So here are a few things that made me happy this month.

Dana Point, California

Dana Point, California

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And just because I just got the Sol.

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Nadeen Flynn, northern California Fine Art Photographer is the next up in the blog. Nadeen has a wonderful eye for detail. She’s an incredibly sweet person who really listens when you speak with her. I recently spent some time with Nadeen and am so glad to call her a friend.

Transitions

Contemplation, Reflection and Intention

 

I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s not the New Year, as much as a birthday that propels me to contemplate where I’ve been and where I’m going.  I had a “huge” birthday in October and it’s been an enriching experience to reflect and think about my life with Intention.  I’m transitioning into a new decade and I accept it with joy and anticipation. 

We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished.

~ Martin Luther

 This month I’m working on perception and uncomplicated images.  My goal is to really see what I’m photographing and not just photograph for the sake of clicking the shutter.  I want to study my objects and treat them with Intention and respect.  As we are transitioning into a new year, I am transitioning into a new phase of Contemplation and Reflection. 

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom. ~ Anais Nin

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We are all guilty of plowing through our lives on a schedule to get somewhere or do something.  Laundry is piling up, floors need to be mopped and, oh yes, I haven’t called that friend in a while.  To live life with intention means, to me, to be aware of those chores and obligations and perform them with awareness. The creation of beauty, when I can, is a bonus to a life lived with intention.

Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life. ~ Seneca

 

 

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I wish you all in the words of Chris McCandless ~

The joy of Life comes from

Our encounters with new experiences.

Hence there is no greater joy

Than to have an endlessly changing horizon,

For each day to have a new

And different sun.

Please continue the Serenity Circle blog with Emily Hamsom of Lavender Lime Photography

Joan Showers Serenity Project

Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us.
— Dag Hammarskjold

December 2018

The on-line Thesaurus doesn’t offer many synonyms for Serenity.  Maybe, because it’s so hard to obtain that the words need to be selective and carefully chosen.  I believe most photographers reach a state of serenity or peace when we are behind a camera.   At this time of year, which often feels anything but serene, the chance to stay inside and play with lenses is one of my favorite pastimes.

I’m not a big fan of winter.  I’d rather skip the season and go right into spring.  I want to stay indoors and stay warm.  Winter makes me think of indoor games and other hobbies like knitting that keep me from venturing out. 

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round . . . So let us welcome peaceful evening in. ~ William Cowper

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I pulled out some games of my dad’s and thought I’d relearn them.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever played Backgammon, but my dad and I used to play cribbage

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Knitting is a hobby I took up many years ago, but put aside when photography took up so much of my time.  I love seeing how a piece of yarn makes something to wear or gift.  It brings me a feeling of tranquility to concentrate on a knit and purl.

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We place a happy life in a tranquility of mind.
— Cicero

Finally in the season of giving when we gather with our family, I wish you all the best and a reminder to take deep breaths when someone says something he or she shouldn’t after having had too many toddies.

Please visit my friend Nadeen Flynn on her Serenity Blog. She is a very talented photographer living in California. https://nadeenflynn.com/magical-morning

The Serenity Circle

19 November 2018

If there was a window into my brain, rather than seeing nerve endings humming along connecting with other nerve endings in a smooth and reliable path, one would see sparks and ignition.  The sparks would look like the sparklers kids ignite on the Fourth of July with light and energy radiating out.  I wish my brain worked more like a yoga master, but it’s frenetic and busy and haphazard at times.  Some people would call me spacey, others preoccupied, but I think I have a brain that is so overloaded with plans and ideas that they rub together causing a minor or sometimes major combustion.

I find serenity by creating moments of quiet away from noise and interruptions.  It’s the sameness and a routine that allows me to be still. My peaceful time is in the morning in my bedroom with a cup of coffee, a pen and a book or two.  The chair is a soft aqua and cushy and I begin to write. I have a journal that prompts me with questions about my life.  The intention is to pass it along to my children.   The last entry was about winter snowstorms in New Jersey.  They may not really believe that I walked a mile home from school in a blinding snowstorm, but I did. 

Next up I read something that is inspirational or sparks my creativity. Julia Cameron has wonderful thought provoking, deeply contemplative ideas. Here’s her quote for today. “Help your brother’s boat across and lo! your own has reached the shore.” Hindu Proverb.

Reading is my way of escaping. I like most any genre except supernatural or romance novels. I just started Thoreau’s Walden Pond, which I found in one of my college textbooks. I highlighted this quote. “. . . for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

This is what I imagine Mr. Thoreau saw when he looked out his cabin window.

This is what I imagine Mr. Thoreau saw when he looked out his cabin window.

We have a weekend getaway cabin that is also on a big pond. The colors in the fall reflect the sky and the changing leaves. I decided to photograph just the water with it’s myriad colors.

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At night before I go sleep and my brain releases and realizes that the day has been full and good, it is time for some spiritual reading whether it is the Dalai Lama or my current read by C.S. Lewis.  His quote, “when you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors.” 

There is always something to learn from contemplation and the words of others. Reading, nature and photography soothe my restless mind.  The combination of sage advice, introspection and seeing through a lens allows me to let go of my anxious thoughts. 

My library is small compared to others. I don’t keep many books donating them to the library when I am done. Here are a few that are on my shelves along with some that are on the shelf of a man, who was far more learned than I. These were taken in Mr. George Vanderbilt’s library at The Biltmore House.

 

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Mr. Vanderbilt’s book in his library.

Mr. Vanderbilt’s book in his library.

My friend Wendy May has her own blog on serenity. Click on https://www.wendymayphotography.co.uk/2018/11/serenity-circle-november-201821.html to read what she has to say.

I Have Been Selected to Be Part of a Photography Group.

May 4, 2018

Lensbaby has selected me along with a group of international woman to feature their Burnside Lens.  The project is called The Traveling Burnside Project and it involves woman from the states, Canada & Europe.  We'll be taking turns with the lens and our different format cameras.  Some of us shoot with Nikon, Canon or Sony.  I shoot with both Canon and Sony, but chose to use the Sony for this project.  I'll be posting images after I get the lens on May 21st.  I'll be at the beach which means I'll be featuring some sunsets, piers and all things beachy.  

There will be a learning curve with this lens, but I hope to catch on quickly and get some great shots.  Of course, I'll be doing the comparison thing with the other members of the group, but I have a suspicion that I won't be alone.

"They are able who think they are able." Virgil

I am ready, willing and able.