How Images Frame

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“When words become unclear I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ~ Ansel Adams

Meaning “reflection in a mirror”, the word image is early 14th century. The mental sense was in Latin, and appears in English language in the late 14c.

What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel and who we are. Images can be impressive and compelling. They grab our attention. While reading takes work, the brain visually processes much faster.

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Images help educate. They enhance stories. And not surprisingly, vision is the far most active of the senses. Yet, do you intentionally create time to reflect on images and the empathy they can evoke? The teaching moment? Or the underlying sentiment?

When you seek to conjure memories or arouse emotions, do you find it challenging to find descriptive words? Rather than struggle with words, does an image more easily convey feeling, inspiration or thought? There is a reason that we are drawn to the works of photographers, illustrators and painters; there is promise, potential and reality in their renditions.

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Think about it. Would you rather go deaf or blind? To live in silence is difficult but to live in darkness would be devastating. There are messages in images, sometimes deep themes. Just as the adage “Stop and smell the roses” encourages us to pause and appreciate, perhaps some willful breathing space could awaken you to an image’s more nuanced meaning and significance. Just maybe?

When contemplating how you frame images or how images frame your perceptions, considering these points may be helpful:

  1. Images don’t actually change; only what we think about it has. There can be plausible, alternative interpretations.
  2. Be aware of intentional image use in marketing and advertising. The subliminal message may be far from the accompanying, pleasing visual.
  3. Your unique experiences leading up to the moment you encounter an image will shape your appreciation of it. Like what you like, even if you’re not sure why, or can’t put the reason to words.

To close, a warming (perhaps to some) image…

Opening photo: Il cielo in una stanza (2013) credit Loris Rizzi

Intentional Awareness

“Don’t always believe everything you think.” ~ John Fulton

Here are some modern maxims: You are what you eat. You are what you wear. You are what you do. You are what you think. Do you believe any of them? Especially the last one? If your thoughts are like mine, they’re always changing and sometimes have little to do with things that I’m actually doing or want to do. Quite often, thoughts can distract and sometimes capture our attention to the exclusion of all else.

In awareness practice, we become more aware of what’s going on within us and around us by choosing where to place our attention. We can choose to place our attention on our thoughts, or on our breath or our body. We can choose to just notice our thoughts without being them; without having to believe them, judge them, or take action on them. Then we are free to choose how we respond to life.

Awareness can be considered as a simple system which produces clarity around your emotions, thoughts, and feelings, and gives you more choices.

Taking this a step further, awareness can be heightened when coupled with intent. We tend to associate intent with complicated actions that require our full attention and effort to succeed. For example, walking a tightrope, taking a test, or taking a vow are all tasks that require us to be fully present and single-minded. Intent has the power to transform seemingly mundane tasks into significant experiences.

In today’s world, however, we are doing one thing and thinking of something else, or even doing three things at the same time. There is nothing wrong with multi-tasking, which is necessary at times. However, balancing this with doses of intentional activity can provide valuable insight into the benefits of focusing on one thing at a time; being fully present with whatever invites your awareness.

You can apply intent to any situation by simply saying, “I am aware that I am now awake” or “I am aware that I am driving to work” or “I am aware that I am preparing dinner” or “I am aware that I am breathing.” As you acknowledge what you are doing in any given moment, you own your actions instead of habitually performing them. And in owning your actions, you realize how often you act without intention and how this disengages you from reality. Imagine what would happen if you were intentionally aware every moment of every day?

As you intentionally focus, here are three ways to be more aware:

  • Filter your thoughts through multiple lenses. Ask (for example), How would Einstein think? How would God think? How would my father think? This dialogue helps to broaden your perceptions, and open your own views on life and situations.
  • Observe new things. We have so many habits and routines we become oblivious. Start by noticing everything you do with a new consciousness. Begin slowly and build upon this capacity.
  • Take an honest look at yourself. Assess your strengths and weaknesses to gain knowledge and increase performance. An honest self-assessment allows you to identify with and understand the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around you. This will help you excel at building and maintaining relationships, listening, and relating to others.

Awakening to Awareness

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

Defined, awareness is a state of being aware; or having knowledge of something. Awareness can be something you notice, want to tell others about, or already know. It can also be the perception of a situation or fact.

What do you think of when you hear “awareness” mentioned? Many would likely answer: the environment, genocide, obesity, poverty, homophobia, political prisoners, diseases like cancer, racism, the list goes on. There is also an entire field of study and practice focused on situational awareness.

People engaged in awareness are often working to change perceptions or policies. They are frequently involved in events for causes that “make them feel good.” Yet, awareness doesn’t accomplish much unless it’s in conjunction with action. For example, while there exists considerable awareness about breast cancer and oodles are spent on event logistics, organizations involved in creating awareness don’t always direct that much toward actual research on a cure. No matter how much pink is worn or displayed, one might question how much more aware can people become?

Awareness is a stepping stone to finding solutions and effecting change. Some feel it’s just another buzzword, like “sustainability,” “faith-based,” “re-distribution,” or “fusion of ideas.” Others believe that for awareness to exist, there is a need to inform and create tangible ways for people to actively contribute – be it to their personal growth and development or to a larger initiative. After all, people who are informed make conscious decisions and choices, and take action, based on information.

There are many ways in which to become aware. Here are three guiding mindsets that pertain to awareness of your self:

  1. Write down your strengths and weaknesses. Knowledge of your strengths (or what you want as a strength) help you convert your weaknesses (or aspects you choose for change). This exercise helps to focus on good and bad habits, opportunities seized or missed, things you said or didn’t say, etc. Put it all out there, in writing, for yourself to see. This is an essential exercise.
  2. Admit to yourself that you are not perfect – that imperfection is okay, and that you can choose what you want to do or change. Admit to the weaknesses that are holding you back. Then, acknowledge the obstacles in your life that you want to change for the better. Revisit this process frequently so that it becomes a habit. Realizing the roadblocks that are hindering your journey is a precursor to taking action.
  3. Listen to your heart; your compass. Approach actions in your life, work, and relationships by asking yourself: How can what I am doing and being best serve myself and others? The act of thinking about how you can make a difference, will inspire you and your actions. Awareness of the heart encourages us to try new things, to invest in ourselves, and to find our true voice.

With all due respect, all the yellow bracelets in the world isn’t going to cure cancer.  But conscious awareness, focused effort, and intentional action – might. The same holds true for your own life.