I’ve always been terrible at meditation. I dropped out of yoga class in college (yes, it was yoga for credit!) because I couldn’t get my mind to quiet down.
But I’ve been doing 10-minute Headspace meditations for almost a year now, not every day, but almost every day. I can’t say that I’m that much “better” at it - my mind still wanders, some days more than others.
But I’ve learned that it’s ok.
Meditation does not have to be done perfectly.
Just sitting down for ten minutes a day to focus solely on myself, on being present, on how I feel in my body, on my breath, even if I don’t really succeed - the amazing thing is that I’m finding that it does make a difference.
It took me a while to put it together, but what I've realized lately is that I’ve been feeling my feelings in my body, in a way that feels present and productive, even if the feelings themselves are difficult.
It feels powerful.
And it’s the result of my daily attempts at meditating.
Gratitude can seem trite during times of struggle. We know it’s good for us, so we go through the motions. Sometimes it helps. Other times it feels empty.
One method of gratitude that I’ve found is much more likely to bring about a meaningful shift in perspective is to think of some of the people I am grateful for, and to reach out and thank them. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy - it can be a quick text message or email, but it helps.
In the same way, sometimes I’ve found that when I most feel like I need something, what can help is to offer something. When I need support, I do make sure to reach out and ask for it. If I can also reach out and offer it (which is not always the case, and that’s ok), it can shift the dynamic from feeling helpless and like a victim, to tapping into my strength and compassion for myself.
My photography story as a women’s leadership story
I’ve talked a lot over the past year about photography as a tool for finding joy, connection, courage, mindfulness and gratitude.
Lately, as you know if you’ve been reading my posts or signed up for the 5 myths of women’s leadership series, I’ve been exploring women’s leadership coaching, as well as diversity, equity, inclusion, and specifically race.
How does this come together?
Well, I’ve been thinking of my photography story as a women’s leadership story.
And photography as a women’s leadership self-development tool.
What I’ve experienced for myself and have been exploring with clients is how photography offers the opportunity for exploration in a different medium, a different language, to the language we most predominantly use, which is a language of words.
Don’t get me wrong, words are important and powerful.
As someone who typically uses quite a lot of words(!), I believe many things have to be said in words.
But many things can best be, or only be explored and communicated through imagery.
Current western culture, and corporate and educational culture specifically, despite some inroads, still predominantly favors the written word. How many written essays did you write in school compared to photo or other visual essays? How much of your business communication is written vs. visual? (And no, hastily sticking a stock photo or icon into a powerpoint presentation doesn’t count!)
The power of imagery (and other non-verbal forms of communication such as music, dance, even smell) is recognized as powerful in branding, marketing, and the media, but up until relatively recently, this has largely been deployed in a one way “broadcast” model.
But now most of us have access to a camera in the device that we carry with us at all times (i.e., our phones). We also have the ability to build our own audiences, large or small, through social media.
We have the opportunity to shift the paradigm.
We can tell our own stories, not just in words but in images, not just to ourselves but to others with unprecedented volume, speed, and ease.
As with any tool, however, it can be used for good or bad.
Are we telling stories that falsely put ourselves on pedestals at the expense of others (intentionally or not)?
Or are we telling authentic stories that speak powerfully and truthfully to what we are experiencing and enable others to relate, connect and find their own voices?
Are we shoring up existing paradigms that seek to silence anything but the status quo of how our lives are supposed to be, and what success and happiness look like?
Or are we allowing ourselves to feel and express all of our emotions, and speak up for what we believe?
And yes, this can be done through photos, even through something as simple as sharing candid rather than posed moments that show real rather than fabricated emotion.
Photography can be used to attempt to control and manipulate others into thinking or feeling or believing a certain narrative.
Or it can be used, as we’ve been taught with words, to make the photographic equivalent of an “I statements” about how we feel, what we believe, and who we are.
And that is a leadership story.
Put this in action today: Take a photo that reflects how you feel. Not how you wish you felt, not how you think you should feel, not how you want others to think you feel - but how you feel.
Next week I’ll be back with some more concrete examples of how this works.