I’ve been hyper-conscious of this in my own life lately. It’s been coming up in the Sisterhood, in my meditations, with friends, with Justin and Zeb. It even came up at the end of my post last week on Celebrations.
How often I am actually in the present moment and all it offers, versus trying to “capture” the present moment?
Over the past few months I’ve noticed how much tension is actually created when I’m not present to This Moment. It was so unnoticed before, when I was Anywhere But Here. Not only did I not see myself elsewhere, I didn’t see the affect it had on me either. The more I’m slipping down this Spiritual Rabbit Hole of witnessing and meditating and (you guessed it) Surrender, the more I’m noticing things I just didn’t get before.
Like, uh, how often I’d take a photo of something for Instagram, essentially inviting the whole world into my sacred moments.How can I call those sacred anymore?
I’ve been very conscious also of the fact that the truly sacred moments create pretty shitty photos. They don’t look magical or perfectly primped. And I can’t capture the real essence of their experience because the experience is happening solely within. Like when I am still and sitting in a dark parking lot and not really doing anything at all.
Even taking that photo broke the magic of it for me. It took me out of the present moment. Got my mind thinking. Stirred up noise within the stillness.
I find my mind wanting to take photos though – photos of my meditation, photos of my yoga practice, photos of my quiet contemplative walks, photos of my great conversations (the one where I’m actually connecting with this wonderful person in front of me) – and then hearing very clearly that Organic Wisdom speaking, asking me why the hell I would take myself out of this moment, why would I break the sacredness that is happening?
Am I bragging? Trying to capture something that I’m afraid of losing? Am I really truly present? Obviously not, if my mind is taking me to something other than this right here, taking me away from this person in front of me that I’m deeply engaging with, even when that person is Me, and inviting in the whole world instead.
And then, of course, the question to play with is this: How do I find that sweet spot between being present in this moment and still capturing the moment forl ater? How do I create these little snippets that we love to look back on without missing the very thing they are offering me – Presence?
This Presence thing is a life-changing thing. I didn’t get that when I thought I was being present, when I was really only present to my thoughts about the past or the future or what I need to capture (or just simply what I need to do tomorrow).
Presence has allowed me to hold a vision for my work brighter and bigger than I ever would before, something that has the potential to freak me out if I allow myself to go out of the present moment and into the past What-If’s or future How-the-Hell’s.
Presence has allowed me to diffuse (because what do we bicker about without drudging up the past or projecting into the future), allowed me to experiment and play and enjoy others because I”m nowhere else but here with them.
Presence has allowed me to say Yes! with enthusiasm and without doubt, without worrying if I could or should or have enough time.
Trusting that each present moment – whether its a parenting moment, a business moment, a partner moment, a self-care moment – will take care of itself if I just continue to show up fully present to it.
P.S. Interestingly enough, I wrote this post two weeks ago, long before we decided in the Sisterhood that Presence would be our Guiding Word and theme for August. I love those kind of synchronicities, don’t you? The word was chosen to allow us to move into August, traditionally a month of transition, with more mindfulness and presence to the moment and what it’s offering. If you’d like to join us through this experience, we’d love to welcome you.
I’ve almost completely neglected my Canon. Between travel and self-care and tons of creating (my new parenting e-course!), adding the taking, editing and uploading of photos to my list just ain’t happening.
But I am loving Instagram (@tarawagner) and the ability to snap a quick photo for posterity, add a cute filter and upload to multiple online places all at once. (If I’m really busy I take them with the regular camera, which let’s me take multiple all at once, and import them into Instagram for filtering and uploading as we’re driving.)
It’s not the same as what would come from my Canon, and there are twinges of guilt I feel for not keeping up with it (I have photos from Christmas that are still on my memory card), but I can’t ignore the sense of ease it brings. And ease is good when you travel full-time.
Some recent photos from our days in Daytona Beach:
But she also has this deeply sensitive side that you only get to see in her photos or videos or in long conversations about Life.
So I knew she was the perfect person to help me commemorate this powerful step. Because she totally “got it”. ♥
We had an amazing weekend that I know I’ll be talking more about later.
But the photos!
Oh wow, the photos.
We started with the before photos (for obvious reasons) and let me just say, one amazing photographer can make you fall in love with yourself.
She captured so much more than either of us felt was possible to convey without being there.
Because, oh being there was amazing!
We laughed, drank wine, ate and talked, shared epiphanies and dreams and laughed some more. I love that woman so much. Yes, I’ll definitely be writing more about that soon.
But back to the experience…
Capturing the “Before”
I wanted to capture it. My dreads. What they meant. I wasn’t sure if it would be possible but if anyone could do it, I knew it would be Tiffani.
And she did.
And I love them, each and every one of the “Before” shots. They so perfectly capture the depth and love I’ve had for my dreads. They leave me breathless. Speechless. In awe and honor of my own spiritual path, of where I’ve been and Who I Am because of them.
I’ll let my favorites do the talking…
I looked at them on her camera between Day One of photos and Day Two. And I had an ache. I saw the beauty and the story Tiffani had caught for me. And for the span of one deep breath, I loved them so much I couldn’t fathom letting them go.
But then that breath passed and I felt my whole body, my whole spirit say “Trust”. Mmm, yes I can do trust.
The During and After Experience
As much as the before photos LOOK amazing, it was (and is) the during and after process of shaving off my dreads that FEEL amazing.
And that feeling of “amazing” was something that the camera couldn’t capture.
The way it FELT to have my husband there, the man who spent 14 loving hours putting my dreadlocks in, handing me the empowerment, the strength to take this next step – on my own this time.
The way it FELT to acknowledge my fear as it turned my hands cold and made my heart pound and asked me to pause, to breath, to give it a just a moment to be heard so that it could willingly let go.
The way it FELT to call forward the faces of the beautiful women, my many sisters, who had emailed or texted or messaged me their love, to feel them circling around me.
And then the way it FELT to remove my dreads, one-by-one, to feel the world shift beneath me, while also shifting me forward, the rushing in of exhilaration, and of an emotion I still do not have a name for.
I’ve said it so many times but it bears repeating again: It was as if my dreads had, over the last 43 months (to the day, I just realized), systematically entangled all the energy of my past, the fears and challenges and limitations and all those things that were not serving me.
And towards the end of my three and a half year journey with dreadlocks, it was “heavy” with the past and the stories that were ready to be let go.
And so, with all the yuck carefully secured in my dreads, I began to snip it all away.
The past that didn’t belong in my present, the heaviness…
The weight of the world fell off my shoulders.
One at a time. Landing on the ground. With only a few feet between us but feeling as though it was the length of the world now separating me from it.
Old and gone and unattached.
And then the way it FELT to see “the past” lying on the ground, to hold it in my hands, to feel as though it was ancient history, detached from me, in my hands but with such distance between us – something to honor and smile upon or ponder about, but not something to ache for or regret or miss.
(To miss them would’ve felt awkward, like going backward, like losing wisdom, slipping into clothes that had once been comfortable but that I had outgrown. It would’ve felt silly trying to wear the things of my past, like a grown women trying on her favorite childhood shirt. It was and is and always will be beloved, but it’s not comfortable anymore.)
I felt LIGHT…not weight-light, but energy-light.
I text my mom an After photo and she said it perfectly in just a few words:
You look beautiful. And FREE!!!
Yes, that’s what this feeling is.
It’s the feeling of being free. Open. Unencumbered. Spiritually cleansed.
A lot of people (my step-dad included) don’t get it. How was I not free before?
But I AM FREE now. I recognize the difference, in the way only a previously and ignorantly unfree person could recognize. I’m suddenly free of the past. I’m free of the expectations I’ve accepted in my life (from myself and others). I’m free of the facade, the props I would use to convey Who I Am.
I’m free of the NEED I had to convey Who I Am.
I am free.
I never expected to feel as free and as feminine and as sexy in my own skin as I do right now with no hair. I’m walking on clouds, in love with my raw self. Feeling as though I’ve settled into Who I am, dropping into my own essence, JUST my essence. Nothing trailing along behind me.
Calm and simple and joyful authenticity.
I can’t stop rubbing my head or reveling in that menthol-cool feeling of the air across my scalp or the warmth of the sun or swimming in the pool, holding my breath beneath the water, feeling the sensations moving around me, no more worry about “getting my hair wet”, nothing taking me out of the moment, out of the experience it.
Present-moment awareness. How does having no hair offer me that?
I don’t know but there it is.
The whole experience. Commemorating my dreadlocks. Preparing to send them off with love. Those two minutes of fear, where my hands went cold and shaky and I wasn’t sure I had the courage to take my next step forward.
Then the instantaneous and immense feeling of YesYesYes! as I snipped the first dread and it fell to the ground, the feeling that propelled me forward like a mad-woman, feeling the heaviness lift from my spirit, feeling the open space begin to fill with excitement and LIGHTness as each knot of hair was shed.
The JOY and smiles and that sense that my whole body was laughing that suddenly came rushing in, not from my mouth or my face or my words (I was pretty much beyond words), but from my belly, from my core. Bubbling up and spilling out of my eyes, my pores, my fingertips, the top of my head.
The way I suddenly felt lit up, nothing getting in the way of SHINING. Radiating. Reveling.
To feel so deeply connected to Who I Am, to the people in my life, to Spirit and Life itself…
It has been one of the most deeply spiritual (yet insanely, hysterically, joyful and downright silly) experiences of my thirty years.
It’s sounds silly to many.
I even have to laugh at how silly it sounds to me.
It’s just hair after at all.
But it’s not about the hair.
It’s about the experience of the hair. MY experience.
It’s about what this small, seemingly meaningless experience (in the grand scheme of life) had to offer me.
And it’s about me accepting that offer.
It’s about being open to a grandiose, breathtaking and awe-inspiring overture in what looks inconsequential, impermanent, and trivial.
This is life.
Mundane. Simple. Momentary. The details small and ultimately insignificant. A blip on the screen of the Universe. A monotonously repetitive story throughout the span of the centuries.
But still never duplicated in the narrative. Consistently renewed in our emotions. And regularly, excruciatingly and inconceivably mind-blowing to participate in.
It’s all “just hair”. Until we embrace the experience of it. And then it’s the whole Universe bursting alive within the space of one fleeting moment.
I’ve signed up for the December Photo Project. I’m not sure I’ll manage a daily photo but it is fun to bring attention to some small holiday details nonetheless.
Sadly my camera seems to be disagreeable these days. Hmm, wonder if I can ask Santa for a new one? 😉
What I’m most excited about is heading to Eugene, Oregon, this week! 😀
We’re driving up with the new Ford to do the veggie oil conversion with Green Eye Auto. Justin could have done the conversion here in Vegas, but wanted the opportunity to play in the shop. And…well, a road trip sounds more fun!
I don’t have our dates and we’re not sure how long we’re going to stay, but I sure am excited to spend my birthday week back on the road.
Susannah is a photographer, writer and the creator of the Unravelling e-courses. A Polaroid addict and very proud aunt, she is currently hard at work on her first book, to be published in spring 2012, and collaborating with Jenifer Altman and Amanda Gilligan on a how-to book about Polaroid photography, also coming out in 2012.
Hi Susannah! Can you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about what you love and the work you do?
Susannah: I am a photographer and a writer and for the last two years I’ve been teaching a self-awareness e-course called Unravelling. The course has been the inspiration for the book I’m currently writing about healing and creativity, and I’m also collaborating on a book about Polaroid photography with Jenifer Altman and Amanda Gilligan. Both books will be published in spring 2012.
You have such a gorgeous creative style. How would you describe it and your inspiration?
Susannah: This is actually a really tricky question to answer! My home is filled with mid-century furniture and I shoot all my photographs with vintage Polaroid cameras, so I guess that vintage aesthetic filters through into everything i do. I’m also very inspired by simplicity – in colours, words, intentions and living. I own a lot of books, and way too many cameras, but everything else is kept to a minimum because i don’t like clutter, either in my house or on my website 🙂
You talk a bit on your website about always having a hand in photography but rekindling that inspiration after the death of your partner. Can you talk a bit about those middle years…the years you weren’t as inspired, and why?
Susannah: Those middle years saw me pursuing a different path for a while. After art college I didn’t have the confidence to pursue my photography dreams so I worked a regular job before going back to university to do a journalism degree. From there I worked on several national newspapers before taking a job as a fashion editor – that lasted two years before I left to go freelance. Writing has always been a part of my world, but I am so grateful to have now come full circle back to photography. The two work together for me – a 50/50 even split that bounce off each other!
I think lots of us have experienced that lack of confidence in pursuing our dreams. What do you feel was holding you back or bringing up that self-doubt? And how did you overcome it?
Susannah: Age and circumstance. When I left college I was 22 and back then (1995) the photography I wanted to do didn’t seem to have a place in the world yet. I didn’t want to be an editorial photographer, which is where most of my peers were headed, and I couldn’t see how I could make a living as a fine art photographer. I also didn’t own a computer and digital photography was still in its early days — i didn’t know how to find an alternative path.
What has changed for me now, aside from advances in technology and opportunity, is that I feel more confident in myself and my voice. As I healed in the years after he died I really got to know myself, a painful yet powerful journey which has changed everything for me — I guess this combo of being older, a bit wiser and feeling more ‘me’ has helped me to feel more confident in my work. I still have my bad days and lots of insecurities, but going through a bereavement like I did means I know intimately how short life is, and I just don’t want to waste any more time. We’ve gotta be brave and put ourselves out there, in whatever way that means for us.
Wow! Such a powerful message to absorb, that life is short and we have to be brave, put ourselves out there and stop wasting time. Was it this message that inspired your Unravelling e-course?
Susannah: Unravelling started as an evening class I taught locally. I didn’t want to teach a regular photography class so I drew inspiration from my healing journey and how I’d been using photography as a way to get to know myself again. The class was a great success and as blogging was such an important part of my life it seemed natural to find a way to share the class online somehow.
Can you tell me more about your course, what kind of transformations it’s inspired in yourself and others, what are your intentions with it, etc?
Susannah:Unravelling is an eight-week course for women that I first led online in January 2009. It’s not a photography class in that I don’t teach any photo techniques or talk about processing — instead, I invite the Unravellers to use their cameras to look at their lives, almost like they’re looking for clues and documenting what they find. The writing exercises get them digging even deeper into how they view themselves and their world.
In week five we turn our cameras to our faces and time and time again it’s the Unravellers who didn’t want to share their face photos who end up making videos of themselves talking to camera! The magic happens when women gather together in a safe space and are willing to delve into their lives with fresh eyes — they support each other and the transformations are always so incredible to witness.
As for me, leading the class has taught me how to be brave on camera as I share a new video with the class every week; it’s given me the confidence to share my thoughts without being embarrassed. Going forward into 2011 I’ll be launching an Unravelling members’ site in June—it’ll be a cosy supportive space where people can hang out, make friends and nurture their hearts. As soon as I’ve delivered the manuscript for my book I’ll be starting work on the new site!
I talk about unjobbing on my blog and I’m always fascinated with the creative ways in which people fulfill their life purpose while also paying the bills. Can you talk a little bit about fulfilling your own purpose with the work you do and some other challenges you’ve overcome (or are overcoming) in the past few years?
Susannah: In the years since the bereavement I have learned how to live on my own as an independent and self-supporting woman. It hasn’t always been easy— and I have the credit card debt to prove it! — but I got a first sense of my true purpose when I moved to a new city (by myself and not knowing anyone there) in the autumn of 2008. That was when I was invited to teach the evening class, and from that small beginning I discovered the work I feel most passionate about — holding a space for women to heal their hearts and reconnect with themselves. Helping them learn how to become their own greatest ally.
I always hated working in an office and have been self-employed in one way or another since 2002, but for the last two years I’ve been creating this online business of mine; there’s no how-to manual so every step of the way I am learning and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve never considered myself to be a business-minded person so it still surprises me that i have a business at all – I guess it helps that it’s not exactly a traditional business 🙂
SO loving what you have to say here Susannah; so many tangents we could talk on. But I want you to leave everyone with one answer: If you had to sum up in a single short sentence one piece of advice you’d give to women, or even one piece of advice you’d give to your younger self, what would it be?
Susannah: Next time you stand in front of a mirror, smile at the woman you see there; she is your greatest ally and it’s time to get to know her.
Thank you Susannah for your beautiful, wise words!
I am by NO means an expert when it comes to photography but I’d like to share with you a little tip I picked up from a pro a few years back.
I had only had my camera a few months and had joined a photography group for fun. We were out shooting the full moon when he strode up to me, gently took my oh-so-precious brand new camera, cleaned my lens and then grabbed this weird round glass thingy from my bag. It had come with the camera but I had zero idea what it was for.
He told me it was called a lens filter and that it had one major benefit.
And that is this: when you bump your lens and this happens….
…you’ll be mighty happy it only happened to an inexpensive lens filter vs. your nice (expensive) lens.
He was so right. Two years later and in the energy of Thanksgiving, I’ve got to give a great big thanks to Dave. 🙂
What little thing are you feeling grateful for today?
These photos were from a recent trip to Floyd Lamb Park out on the northern side of Las Vegas. It was a really great afternoon of frisbee-playing and peacock-watching and and goose-fearing and talkative walking around the gorgeous grounds. (You can see a couple more photos here.)
It was a day away from everything, something I wanted to do again this weekend. But we didn’t.
Because I went and got myself the flu.
Overdoing it, me thinks. My regular tendency is to go full force and then rest – and that usually works for me. Except this time I sorta half-assed totally skipped the latter. My body told me two weeks ago it was time to rest and I firmly told my body I was resting dammit. It apparently had the last word there.
But before I got stricken with full body aches, an inability to eat and extreme weepiness (am I the only one to get really emotional when I’m sick?) I saved a whole bunch of inspiring stuff from my week. Look at me: planning ahead! Sort of.
First, some recent places you’ll find me on the web:
The new website is ready, the giveaway sponsors are set, tomorrow is the big day. The day I “launch” the site. 🙂
I’m excited, anxious, can’t sit still. All my hard work will be put out into the world and I can only hope you love it as much as I do. Oh, no, it’s not perfect. But it’s really good. (Or at least I hope.)
In the midst of all the excitement I also feel a bit of letdown. I’ve dedicated a lot of hours lately to this site. Getting it Just Right has been my project, and although I’ll be continuously adding to it for some time to come, I can’t help but feel a little unsure what to do with all this free time on my hands.
All my passion and inspiration has been poured into it. What do I do now?
The past few days I’ve felt a little lost, not sure what to do with myself. But yesterday I started to remember. I went to the park with my sister and two of my nieces. And for the first time in a long time I felt inspired to capture the moment, inspired enough to play around with the photos, too.
And I’ve enjoyed some other bits of distraction while I pass the time until tomorrow. Here are a few tunes I’ve been enjoying:
I’m over at Kind Over Matter with a guest post. If you’re not familiar with Kind Over Matter, I’m sure you’ll love it. And I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to share my ideas on kindness to children.
You can also find an interview of me with photographer Terrell Neasley on his Photo Anthems blog. FYI: Terrell does artistic nudes, so you’ll see a content warning pop up. There aren’t any nudes in my interview, though, so if you’re uncomfortable just don’t poke around his site too much. 😉
Something both yummy and provoking that challenges my self-doubt and insists I push through the fears I’d rather avoid, thank you very much. It’s exciting and terrifying in the very best of ways.
I’m now selling my photography.
The idea fell into my head several months ago with such determined assurance I felt for sure it hadn’t come from me. And the way it quickened my heart and stirred up my fears confirms (as it always does) that it’s exactly what I’m suppose to be doing.
Of course, as is my fashion when I’m confronted with facing my own self-loathing demons, I procrastinated a good four months. But thanks to Visionary Mom and her awesome teams, I’m finally moving forward with a dream I’ve only toyed with for several years.
I’m still wracked with doubt. As a self-taught photographer, there is much I have left to learn and I seem to insist on perpetuating my doubts by comparing my work to the work of the many other fantastic, experienced artists doing their thing.
I almost gave up completely until this quote was whispered to me:
“Use the talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” – Henry Van Dyke
I am very, very far from the best. You could write encyclopedias on what I’ve yet to learn. And some of my attempts make even me laugh. But occasionally I stumble across a shot that lights me on fire, and am in awe to hear it do the same for others. So, this is me singing my little bird song, adding my voice to the chorus of very best in the woods.
To add to my awe and amazement, within a week of putting my prints for sale, I sold my first! Not only did I sell my first, I sold it to someone in the UK. And I don’t care what anyone says, no one is bursting the bubble of excitement I create by calling myself an international photographer. 😉
It’s where you can find my favorite prints, and order them to your specifications. You can also find cards and postcards with some of my favorite shots combined with some of my favorite quotes. And if there is something you’d like to see added, let me know!
I can’t wait to share my prints with TWO lucky winners:
The first winner will receive an 8×12 laminated print: you choose your fave photo and border color.
The second winner will receive a collection of each of my cards: you choose either postcards or notecards or a combination of the two!
How to enter:
There are FIVE ways to enter:
Leave a comment here telling me your favorite print or what you’d love to see me place on RedBubble
Tweet this giveaway (you can use the ReTweet button below) including the name of your favorite print
Share this giveaway on Facebook, including the name of your favorite print