I am pleased to introduce to you Christine Valters Paintner and her new book Eyes of the Heart. I read the book because of my belief that photography can increase both our mindfulness and our ability to attend to ourselves, others, and our world. The book shows us why and how the way of seeing facilitated by photography can be valuable. I asked Christine a few questions that may be of interest to conflict professionals.
The law can be a very stressful profession. In Todd Kashdan's book Curious, he talks about the relationship between curiosity and anxiety: the more curious one is, the less anxiety he or she will be experiencing. In your book, you talk about the promotion of curiosity through photography. Will you say more about that, please.
Curiosity is a wonderful quality which promotes spacious inquiry. Rather than needing to figure everything out and extract the answers, through curiosity we can hold ourselves open to new possibilities. To be curious means to let go of my own expectations about how things should be and discover what is really there. It means softening my desire to be right and listen into new ways of thinking and being.
Since reading your book, I have repeated in conversations several of the points you made. People seem uniformly intrigued with the notion of receiving photos rather than taking them. Please explain that to readers.
This is one of my favorite aspects of talking about photography specifically as a contemplative practice. Our favorite and common language for photography is “taking” a photo. We use it all the time without much thought as to the deeper meaning of the words. But we live in a culture of taking, where we often grasp at things we want, look for life to meet our desires of the moment, feel impatient when things don’t go our way.
To “receive” a photo means to shift our intention in the process of creating an image. For me, receiving is about acknowledging that all of life is a gift. When I go for a walk with my camera, rather than look around me thinking about what images I can take, what kinds of beautiful things I can record as a trophy to my experience, I try to cultivate this sense of receiving gifts. I pay attention to moments that shimmer before me, even if I don’t understand exactly why. Something calls to me, stirs my energy, quickens me and I create a sense of spaciousness to receive that through the lens of the camera to see what might be revealed to me.
Mediators and other conflict professionals often use the process of reframing. How can your approach to photography help a person to become better at reframing in other arenas besides photography?