The extraordinary ordinary

Mindful Photos mindfulness reminder –

My most recent posts have involved photographs taken a long way from home in locations that are guaranteed to stimulate the senses. For balance, I thought I’d show some examples of how, with mindfulness and a camera, it’s possible to see the most ordinary moments of life as though they are extraordinary.

At the weekend I went shopping with my wife. We split up to share the “chores” and I got back to the car first. Instead of sitting in a stuffy car, I relaxed by the open door and decided to see if any images unfolded using my car mirror as a photo frame. Sure enough, people walked into frame, I pushed the shutter and a photograph appeared –

Tesco wave

If you’ve read the “about” page of Mindful Photos, you’ll know that I’m using “mindful photography” as an enjoyable method of keeping me awake to life’s pleasures whilst adjusting to the impermanence of living with a motor neurone disease.

One thing I’ve started doing is having a small camera with me all of the time.

Using that carry anywhere camera, this is a picture taken whilst I trundled down our local high street on my mobility scooter –


Keeping a camera with me and trying to stay mindful seems to keep my visual senses more alert when I am out and about. Before it dawned on me to use photography as a mindfulness technique, I would quite often “hunt” for pictures. Now when I notice this, it’s a signal to me that my “grasping” habit has manifested again – then it’s time to stop momentarily and come back to my body and my breathing. This is a basic mindfulness technique that calms the grasping mind and allows the senses to become naturally more aware, and anyone can do it, almost anywhere and anytime!

Here’s another photo taken last weekend as some scouts overtook me –


It was the colours that caused me to take the picture, then later I noticed that the girls green hair and the McDonald’s sign echo the colourful neckerchiefs of the two other scouts!


I’m very lucky to have had more than fifteen years of meditation experience and attended retreats and teachings with mindfulness luminaries such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Sharon Salzberg before my illness was diagnosed.

snow Jan 2010 015It’s also been a blessing to have had an enjoyable career working in photography and as a TV cameraman and director for the BBC. Now I get to use those skills purely for pleasure!

I’m not at the stage of a buddhist monk I read about who said he welcomed a serious illness he had as it was a constant reminder of the fragile impermanence of life. I’d definitely rather not be disabled, but Mindfulness and Photography are helping me appreciate life’s pleasures whilst not getting bogged down in the inevitable challenges.


You don’t have to go on retreat or be a professional image maker. I believe Mindful Photography can re-awaken the joy of life in anybody. It’s also not about the end results of your photography (although I promise they will become better if you develop a mindful attitude).  It’s about the awareness we bring to the process of making images.

These are a couple more pictures taken last weekend during the same shopping trip –

looking room

shadow hands

Whether, like me, you get around with the help of crutches and a mobility scooter, or you’re still an A1 physical specimen, we all have the capacity to re-develop the fresh “Beginner’s Mind” that we each had once upon a time as children.

Why not take a mindful attitude and a pocketable camera next time you head out, and give it a try?


These pictures were taken using a Ricoh GR compact camera – a pocket-sized camera with a DSLR sensor – so small that I forget I have it with me until it’s needed for a mindful photo.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Why not let me know what you think?  🙂


words and pictures © Miles Pilling all rights reserved

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