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Hunting for Pictures

Where is your mind as your head rises from your pillow?

Is there clarity?

Or are you lost in your thoughts? Adrift in your list of meetings and to-dos?

Consider this scenario:

“He jumps out of bed early and sets off only if his mind is clear, his heart pure, and his body as light as a summer shirt. He doesn’t take any food or drink. He’ll be drinking fresh air and sniffing healthy scents. He leaves his weapons at home and will be happy just opening his eyes; they’ll be nets to capture pictures: the pictures will enjoy being captured.”

This excerpt from Jules Renard‘s “Hunting for Pictures” is a reminder of the importance of clarity. Clarity of mind and heart allows us to see life’s details. These details bring an abundance of beauty into our lives that we often reject by choosing to be lost in the busyness of our day-to-day.

……

Consider going on a walk with the intention of noticing. Take only you on that walk.

Turn on your eyes.

Turn on your ears.

Turn on your other senses.

Turn everything else off, including your cell phone.

As you move through your walk…

Do you look up?

Do you see the shapes made by the clouds?

Notice the particular hue of the sky?

See that the moon is smiling?

Admire the clear lines of jet streams?

Do you look down?

My friend has a big glass jar in his house filled with bolts, screws, and washers he’s picked up over the years. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of them. Where did they come from? Were these screws replaced? Are those objects still standing minus a piece of its support?

Recently, I found an Instamax Polaroid on the ground. The day was a sad one, but as I picked up the photo and saw the faces of four smiling strangers, it reminded me that my feelings were temporary. It was the bell at the beginning of a meditation. A reminder to Stop. Look. And Go. The photo still sits in the pocket of my favorite jean jacket as a gentle reminder that all emotions are transient.

Do you look around?

On the flower next to you, there’s a bug the size of a period. The little one is particularly busy today, trying to find food. We should feel lucky that food is an abundance for most of us.

In the lake, you hear the occasional “flop.” They are the concentric circles. The movements of invisible creatures. We should feel lucky that there is music available to us at almost any moment.

Early in the morning, you see swallows and pigeons swarm around the park doing whatever it is that birds do in the morning. We should feel lucky that we get to share this park with them as the radiant hues of daybreak surround us.

In the city skyline, you notice that the busy on-ramps are perfectly parallel. We should feel lucky that the world is filled with so much art.

As you continue your walk, notice these small details. Over time, you may sense a shift in your mind and your heart as they clear. As you learn to be still, you’ll separate yourself from busyness, from negativity, from hate. You’ll see that much of life is a gift if we only take time to notice.

……

And when you put your head on your pillow tonight, reflect on the images that you captured with your eyes and your mind.

“At home, his head full of pictures; he puts out his lamp and before going to sleep, enjoys counting them.”

Count the pictures you hunted today as you drift to sleep.

……

You can find “Hunting for Pictures” in Jules Renard’s Nature Stories, a beautiful collection of stories about on the beauty of nature’s details.

Pair this article with Oliver Sacks on Gratitude.

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