I recently registered for a photography workshop that will be taught in a few weeks by Catherine Just. Signing up was a totally impulsive act; I didn't know a thing about it except that it would be somewhere in Oregon and the only space left was sleeping on the couch in the living room of a beach house.
What I know about photography can fit into a thimble so I was eager to learn some tips to improve the quality of the the photographs I've been manically taking and posting on this blog. The fact that the workshop was entitled Spiritual Photography gave me just a moment of pause. I'm so NOT spiritual I've always told myself, but I figured I could just ignore that part of the workshop and still have a great time learning how to use my camera better.
Last week Catherine asked each of the participants for their snail mail addresses and their favorite type of tea. I responded, figuring she'd send us some photography tips and techniques that we were supposed to study before the retreat.
Then this morning I got her care package.
Inside was this simple moleskin journal with a beautiful image entitled "Francesca" stamped on the front. A gauzy ribbon, with the message "Listen to grace" loosely enveloped a packet of organic Chamomile tea, a string of pink tickets for 3 wishes, a handwritten note from Catherine and two articles.
One article showed a photo of Andrea Scher and her family and describes how they are intentionally cultivating a gratitude ritual for their family. It started with her young son asking both parents, "What was YOUR favorite part of the day?" Andrea shared how she began paying attention to her life in a new way so that she could report to her son what her favorite moment had been. One day she found herself frightened while having a routine blood test and then being immensely touched and calmed by the technician's compassion. At that moment she saw that by going beyond the superficial into the sacred, THAT moment could actually be her favorite part of her day.
Our pre-workshop "homework" is to write in our journal what we wish for and what we hope to get out of the photography retreat. And to jot down each day what our favorite moment of that day was. And next to the moment, we are to note what the lighting was like at that time...was it bright sun, overcast and damp, the warm yellow glow of a lamp? She explained it was to get us to notice how light illuminates our lives.
I was literally moved to tears at Catherine's generosity, her sweetness, her obvious commitment that each of us expands our experience of the sacred in our lives.
Suddenly I'm not so concerned with coming home with lots of new photography tips. Hell, I can get those out of a book. I got a glimpse of something new for me. Maybe I DO have a spiritual side? Maybe I've been inauthentic in my denial of it all this time?
So now I'm eager to see what opens up for me out of identifying the favorite part of each day and recollecting what the light was like at that moment. How might my life become richer for doing so?
And to think, the workshop hasn't officially even started yet. Wow.