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Reflections from the Summer 2015 "Self Development" Intensive

01 Dec 2015 4:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

In the eight-week summer Intensive for 2015, participants had the opportunity to personalize and deepen their practice by freeing the mind from habits of body, speech and mind that sabotage well-being and our capacity to live in harmony with others. The eight weeks was divided into four two week sections that dealt with different areas of focused change: a personal habit or behavior, a personality trait, an afflictive mind state/ emotional state, and a relationship (family, friend, work colleague). We thank FCM member David Braasch for sharing his experience from the Intensive.  


One of my personality traits was to harshly judge past, present, future events, and  people. As part of my first intensive, I decided to focus on the present, and particularly people.


Here is a simple example: I am sitting at a red light, and there is a brand new shiny black Aston Martin right in front of me, also waiting.


My afflictive tendency was to start an immediate conversation about not only the Aston Martin, but the person in that Aston Martin. A typical dialog might go like this (this is actually a monolog): “That’s a super nice car. That guy must be really rich. I bet he cheated a lot of people to get that car. What a jerk. Probably cheats on his wife and doesn’t love his children. Bet he lives in a really nice house too, and probably has more than one house. Wish I had a car like that. Why don’t I have a car like that? Life is unfair that I am driving a Toyota Matrix with 170,000 miles on it. Pretty sure it’s going to need a new AC, new tires, and probably 1,000 other repairs soon. In fact, I am sure of it. Every time I go to the Toyota dealership I get screwed.”


As you can probably see, this is not a healthy way to approach every stop light, nor every situation we encounter in present reality. I knew I needed to change, and I also knew that I needed to use a strategy that was very real to me:  photography.


When I say photography, I am talking about actual cameras, not cell phone cameras. I am talking about viewfinders, 35 mm SLRs, and even plastic cameras. The point is this: it is important that I have the sense that I am holding a device close to my eye, and not away from me, as we do with our cell phones. I need to go into that small, honest world of the viewfinder and focus on what I am seeing, a choiceless awareness of what is in front of me. When I photograph, I first look at what I am seeing, bring the viewfinder to my eye, compose, take a deep breath, and then deliberately press the shutter button, and exhale. I decided that this is how I will approach the man in the Aston Martin.


First of all, I don’t know that it is actually a man driving the Aston Martin. It could be a woman, it could be a teenager, I simply don’t know. And I simply don’t know anything about that individual driving that car, sitting at a stoplight, just as I am, and many others.


What I do know is that I can look at this in a different way.  “I am sitting at a stoplight. There is a black Aston Martin in front of me. Let’s photograph this.” This is how the event unfolds.


First, breathe, and wait. Bring the camera’s eye up into the mind, compose the frame, make it a picture, take a breath, press the shutter, listen to the mirror click and close, and then caption it: “Black Aston Martin, sitting at a stoplight, waiting to make a left turn, in October afternoon sunlight.” Please note that I am not actually using a camera….


The effect this has had on me has been this: the negative reactivity is thwarted, and in most cases, stops right there at the end of the caption. And then I move on.


Sometimes a story of compassion and kindness evolves out of the image. Maybe the person is in that car is driving home to take someone to the hospital; maybe that person is suffering, and has no idea where he/she is going. That person is the same as me. Sometimes there is no story, and I just let the image fade away, or remain as it is.


The point is this: Sometimes there is still a reactive judgment, but now it is softer, more compassionate, and more realistic.  All the lens filters have been removed. Lately, there have been moments when it was just this: compose, breathe, click, and move on, because the light is green.

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