A Photograph Per Day: Practicing Mindfulness through Art

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By Niki Sol

Two years ago, a friend of mine started a photography project where he took one picture each day for the entirety of 2015. For him, the project gave him an opportunity to experiment with his photography and try new techniques. He posted each new picture to Instagram and I found myself looking forward to seeing what he chose to share with his network each day. Some photographs were of his family (including his infant daughter), people he saw on the streets, objects in everyday life, or places he might visit (his pictures of a trip to Dachau were particularly resonating). As 2015 wound down, I began to flirt with the idea that I should try my own photography project for the coming year. I was starting a new chapter of my life, moving back to the UK after a two-year absence to start a new career as an academic. I had no idea what might unfold and the idea that I could share that journey with my own network of friends and family appealed to me.


Day 45: Jarabe Tapatio


The Artist Within Us
I believe we each have an artist of some sort in us, but too often many of us feel we cannot “indulge” that part of us. The past decade of personal trials and tribulations taught me that indulging our creative side is often exactly what we need for our well-being. I too often get caught up in my own headspace about what I have been doing wrong or what I should be doing, instead of simply being mindful of what was happening around me in that moment. Thus my photo project, titled 2016, commenced as I arrived in the UK on 1 January, 2016.


Day 191: Up


If you were to look at my 366 photographs in one sitting, you would notice certain themes emerge: dogs, nature, and architecture. You would probably also note that I like to play with light a lot in my pictures. Some of the pictures (particularly of architecture, performances, and street art) are already meant to be admired by the passerby. These pieces call out to people saying, “Look at me! I am art!” Capturing those instances of someone else’s art reminded me of other people’s interpretations of their experience. We should, more often, take the opportunity to stop and enjoy what others have created for us to engage with.


Day 261: Doubles Anyone?


But I also love the moments that simply occurred around me: the beauty of a moment that is finite whether because of movement (of myself, others, or the sun) or time. I found myself looking beyond my destination (must get to work, need to start this, have to finish that) and enjoying my journey through the day. Walks to somewhere became adventures. What would I see? Who would cross my path? And my photographs reflected this. I found humour and splendor, sadness and hope. I paid attention to creatures big and small as they went about their days. I saw moments where nature punched me in the gut with its awesomeness.


Day 99: Morning Nap


Being Mindfulness 

Interestingly as the year ended people in my Facebook network reached out to me to thank me for 2016, even individuals that I am not particularly close with. They told me how much they enjoyed my photographs and the feelings those photos conveyed. On social media (even though we might have a large network of friends), those we might not engage with regularly often move to the periphery of our lives even if we all still have a window into each other’s worlds. The connection that my art made beyond my intended audience of family and close friends reminded me how linked we are.


Day 216: Raindrops


Now that the project is done, I notice my increased mindfulness in my daily life. I attribute this in part to 2016. I engage more with the world around me in a way that allows me to appreciate moments like those captured in my photographs. Instead of hurrying to “what’s next”, I intentionally experience the time and space I am in. And I am grateful that sharing these instances with my social circles (small and large) has brought more of a connection to the beautiful world around us. I take these lessons with me into the new year and look for new ways that I might engage with my surroundings.

Niki Sol is a dog lover, redundancy collector, and scholar of intersectionality and interculturalism in higher education. Follow her on Instagram (sunluff) and Twitter (@DrNikiSol).”

Have you heard about the Miracle Mornings?

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By Nina Gustafson

I work in academia in Cambridge. Lately I have felt that this work takes the best out of me. Although I like what I do I have had an increasingly strong feeling that this can’t be it; there has got to be something more to life. There are always friends and family but everything seems to follow a given path. Moreover, I don’t seem to be alone having feelings of doubts but many of my friends and colleagues have given voice to similar thoughts of questioning and discontent (deep dissatisfaction is probably closer to the truth). So I started wondering what to do with my life: potential new careers, new hobbies and life changes in general.

While I was browsing the web for things to spice up my life and give it an extra spark, I spotted the book  “The miracle morning: the 6 habits that will transform your life before 8am”, written by Hal Elrod. Of course I had to buy it! The main thought is fairly easy: get up one hour earlier in the morning than you are used to and do things you didn’t think you had time for. In return you make things happen, become a doer, which hopefully transfers into the rest of the day and keeps you energised. Hal decided to squeeze in six different short, energizing activities in his hour: silence/meditation, reading, affirmations, visualisation, journal of gratefulness and exercise. Too good to be true? Well, I decided to give it a shot.

My very own miracle morning

Early December I started my own miracle morning journey. I drew on Hal when I decided on what to do during my miracle mornings and my first version included affirmations/visualisation, meditation, yoga/workout, reading and developing a skill (initially I tried to learn how to play the guitar but I have put that on hold to not annoy my neighbours). Soon enough I felt it became too stressful to fit six activities into one hour and I skipped a few of them to be able to give 15 minutes to each activity. This approach suited me better. Left was:

  • Reading. Devoting some time each day to read books I never have time for otherwise. I decided to go for inspiring or happy books, after all it is supposed to be a miracle morning. First out was of course the Miracle morning itself.
  • Affirmations. What a positive way to start your morning! The web is full of them. I like the ones I found on chi-nese.com but there are several others.
  • Yoga. I have practiced yoga for fifteen years on and off, and always dreamed of practicing it daily, but never succeeded. Kino MacGregor is a Miami based yogi which I have followed for years. She is a very advanced Ashtanga yoga practitioner (I believe she managed to get through the fourth series of five which is quite an achievement) but very good at explaining the basics as well. On her Youtube chanel KinoYoga, I noticed that she had a one month beginner yoga challenge with daily practice which I decided to commit to. I am really surprised that I managed to stick to this new routine but so far I haven’t missed a day. It is probably a combination of me dedicating a specific time for me but also that this yoga program started with only 10-15 minutes practice each day and slowly built it up to longer practice (me being used to 50-90 minutes which could be too much when you first aim for a daily practice).
  • Writing. I have talked about writing books for several years and with my new inspiration I signed up for a writing course aimed at writing a first draft in ten weeks. All done in the mornings.

The Result

A few weeks later, I feel much happier, more energized and my only problem is how to fit in everything I want to do in my mornings. I have thus started to get up even earlier but I also find myself restructuring my days to fit other activities in as well: lunch walks, taking up running and meditation in the evenings which makes me sleep much better and thus getting more productive in the days. It’s a win-win situation really. What had to give way? Mainly reading e-mails and other activities on the web which I realized were stealing too much time but also the time I spent on work. It is sometimes more effective to take a break than to continue when your brain needs to rest. I finally realised that.

With the new year coming up, I encourage you to create time for your very own miracle morning. It doesn’t matter what you do, but do it! Make it a daily habit to do something important for you for one hour each morning, which will give you more energy during the rest of the day. I wish you the best of luck!

Nina Gustafson is originally from the Stockholm area in Sweden but currently lives in Cambridge in the UK. She is a sociologist by training and works in academia. Her blog posts cover high and low subjects but with a clear focus on the academic life and other joys of life such as cooking/dinners, yoga, travels and much more.


What makes me happy?

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Every Thursday I wake up in anticipation. It’s the day that a column called ‘That which enriches my Life’- ‘Was mein Leben reicher macht’ is published in the German newspaper Die Zeit. People like you and me let us know about a special  moment that makes them happy. Let me tell you about some of the moments that readers have shared recently. I hope they will make you smile, too.

That which enriches my life

Waking up each morning to see the tousled mane of my girlfriend. Very sexy! (Joachim)

In the morning after the US elections, I talked with my six year old son about the results. After that, he stormed over to his mother and yelled: “Mama, Mama, Donald Duck is president!” I continued with my breakfast thinking why can’t it be like that? (Christian)

A little while ago, a man asked me for a coffee to go in our coffee shop. I told him that we do not use paper cups for environmental reasons, and offered him a porcelain cup with the request to bring it back. The weeks passed and I promised myself to never, ever….until yesterday when this young man appeared again in our coffee shop and pulled the cup out of his coat. (Bernd)

Our dog hunts with great pleasure the fallen colorful leaves. At yesterday’s evening walk, he found a shimmering blue leave: a 20 Euro note. The discovery was rewarded with three cookies. (Claudia)

The smell of quinces, sweet blue figs, and above us the cranes are passing by. (Peter)

I was expecting a storm and instead experienced a sunny autumn week on the island ‘Hallig Hooge’. (Peter)

The driver, who was driving really slowly through the huge puddle when she came around the corner in order to avoid splashing me – ‘the pedestrian’; and there was also time for a smile. (Lars)

The last fruit fly this year went home in peace. (Angela)

(Adapted from a column called ‘Was mein Leben reicher macht’ in ‘Die Zeit’)