Refocus to Reconnect: Finding Perspective through Photography

December 21st, 2017 | Posted in For Adults, For Couples by

The days may be shorter, but when viewed from a different perspective, this time of the year affords opportunities for light in alternate ways. We cozy up by the fire, illuminate Christmas trees or the Menorah, and launch fireworks on New Year’s.

I’ve also noticed that in the wintertime, light touches places previously shaded by leaves. Sunlight streams through our living room window in the late afternoons, casting a crisp shadow of the houseplant on the wall. I’m able to see the sun sink lower to the horizon at dusk through the bare, silhouetted trees. I appreciate these seasonal experiences and sometimes snap a photo, knowing they are temporary.

If the hustle and bustle of the holiday season has you feeling stressed, or if you’re dreading the dreary winter months ahead, try adjusting your perspective. What moments throughout your day are worthy of a mental snapshot?

Adjusting Perspective with Camera Aperture

Finding Perspective through Photography

Photo taken with a narrow (top) and wide (bottom) aperture. A more open aperture brings the tiny string lights into focus.

In photography, adjusting the camera’s aperture setting widens or narrows the lens hole through which light passes. A wide aperture lets in more light than a narrow one. It also drastically changes the perspective of the image. Objects in the foreground become sharp while the background blurs. (See image to the left)

A wide aperture provides an up-close view of the world. It captures “raindrops on roses” and “snowflakes on eyelashes” that might be overlooked in the bigger picture. It quiets background noise that may distract us from potentially delightful details.

Consider your perspective. There’s value in seeing the forest through trees, but there’s also joy in noticing their bark and branches. Adjust your focus from the big picture and zoom in on micro-pleasures. Opening your “aperture” to allow more light into your life will help you cultivate gratitude and brighten your spirits.

Put Life into Perspective with Naikan Practice

I want to share a practice from Japanese psychology called Naikan. The word stems from the roots nai “inside” and kan or “looking.” Coincidentally, the word is pronounced like the Japanese camera brand, Nikon. The practice is introspective, helping you gain insight on favorable and unfavorable exchanges you have with the world— and with those in your life.

The daily meditation centers on three questions:
  • What did I receive today? Examples: A soft peck from your child in the school drop-off line. A stranger held the elevator for you. 
  • What did I give today? Examples: A “good morning” greeting to your co-worker. A long hug to your spouse. A text to an old friend.
  • Did I cause any troubles today? Examples: A cold shoulder. A last-minute cancellation for an appointment or dinner date. 
Deepen the practice by applying these questions to a specific person:
  • What did I give my [partner, parent, friend, etc.] today?
  • What did he or she give me?
  • Did I cause him or her trouble today?

Note: Share and discuss your reflections with this person when possible. 

Considering these questions on a regular, daily basis brings positive experiences and people into focus. It captures moments that might otherwise get lost among the complexity and chaos of life. It suspends fleeting experiences long enough to “look inside” or take a mental picture. And, it also reminds us of ways in which we ourselves may have created conflict or trouble. That awareness might encourage us to minimize negative exchanges in the future.

Integrating Naikan into your routine can help you develop deeper connections, mindfulness and gratitude.
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