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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Seeing #3

1: Pause

Habit 3: Acceptance

This month, Kim Manley Ort’s contemplative habit focused on acceptance and the various ways we can respond to that concept through photography. I found this habit both relieving and challenging. What was challenging? Empathy toward, and acceptance of, outward self. Taking selfies and trying to view and treat the image as if I am a loving friend considering the me in that photograph, as Kim suggested, was difficult. This is one exercise I will have to keep working on!

But the exercise to photograph impermanence, and look for signs of it all around, was surprisingly comforting. To me, impermanence is tightly woven with time, a human construct. Because of time, we chart the past, present, and future. We remember. We envision what may lie ahead. Time as we age can feel like something in short supply, especially when we witness our parents, friends, and pets grow infirmed and die. We recognize, when we pause in any given moment, that even as we observe it, the moment is gone. Yet, to notice impermanence felt like being more in synch with the natural world. It caused me to reflect upon how even the mountains that I see daily were once inland sea floor, once not here, and may one day be gone. But that thought made me feel like we’re all in this together, all headed in the same direction, from birth or coming into being, to death and departure.

The sun rises, moving through phases we won’t witness quite exactly the same way from one day to the next. Clouds form, drift, deconstruct. A cement sidewalk, stamped from its installation date of 1996, is now cracked and will one day be jackhammered to bits and replaced. The trail of a jet overhead leaves an arrow-line (with plane as arrowhead), but that line dissolves and the evidence of that travel's trajectory disappears.

Acceptance, as I looked around this month, was allowance of nature's cycles, including the very hot, dry cycle New Mexico has been in for months. Wild grasses look a little less green. Cholla flowers were more scarce when blooming. Tumble weeds proliferate. And I consider how I have watched the life cycle of leaves from buds to bursting into green or brown supple leaves, to color-drained, brittle, broken, and blown across landscapes.

Perhaps because of the many losses and up-endings I have experienced in the past few years, I am developing the inclination to lean into, rather than resist, the shifts, life-tremors, and even volcanic-like eruptions in the world and within myself. Leaning in is a form of acceptance, and like Kim points out in Adventures in Seeing, it is not passive or an act of submission; it is a way to let go of preconceived ideas and judgments and to allow. Allowance seems a mature vulnerability, which I believe reflects the hard-won wisdom and strength of self-aware growth--what contemplative habits ask us to attempt. My thanks to Kim for another enlightening adventure in seeing this world and myself in it!

Thanks for meeting me here!


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