[slickr-flickr tag=”Tanjong Pagar”]
Recently, I’ve been to a couple of meditation sessions. Nothing very fancy – just a couple of guided group meditation exercises at work. One of the things that struck me, quite hard, I must say, is how different it is to experience something from just reading or hearing about it. This must be quite obvious to most people – strangely enough, it came as an epiphany to me.
Some time ago, I was in Singapore on work – it was quite a hectic trip with almost no time for anything else. I had carried my camera with me as an afterthought – with no real plans of actually going out and shooting any pictures. It so happened that the hotel I was staying in was in the historic Tanjong Pagar district, and I got the opportunity to turn in early one night while my compatriots were partying hard, which gave me the opportunity to spend a couple of hours early the next morning exploring the district with almost no other human being around. The early morning was also surprisingly devoid of the oppressive humidity that is the trademark of seaside tropics.
I took a leisurely walk along Bernam, Cantonment, Neil and Tanjong Pagar Road. In the cool of the morning, all by myself in the usually-crowded city, stopping to shoot wherever the fancy took me, I had a really calm and pleasant experience. Looking back, I think a lot of that came from the fact that during those couple of hours, I was completely in the present, the only thing that mattered was the shot I was composing at that time. The set of pictures that came from that walk are perhaps one of the most fulfilling set of images I have ever made.
Along with a few friends, I have a Sunday morning ritual. We wake up well before dawn and head out of the city, getting to the wilderness to await the sunrise. We spend the morning shooting birds, landscapes and nature. All of us have found that these weekly trips act as mental and emotional re-chargers for us, leaving us energised and rejuvenated. Those mornings are usually spent in a lot of silence – we each spend most of our time framing our shots, concentrating on whatever wildlife or nature scene takes our fancy. It is only on the way back, when we are done with our sessions for the day, that a lot of sharing takes place, and we talk and discuss what we did, the shots we missed and the lessons we learned.
Though none of us referred to these sessions as meditation, the more I look at them, the more apparent they are to me that the therapeutic and soothing parts of these sessions were indeed the meditative parts. The exercise of skill and the camaraderie were mere bonuses.
If meditation is all about being in the now and letting go of everything else, then for me, photography is the perfect form of meditation. Indeed, on those occasions where I am out photographing for the sheer joy it affords me, everything ceases to exist except for the frame. The camera, me, the surrounding physical circumstances – all are incidental. The only thing that matters is the frame. It is the kind of pure, in-the-moment thing that brings complete calm.