Our personal growth can fuel
our photography and our photography
can fuel our personal growth.
                                 —Brooks Jensen

I attended John Daido Loori, Roshi’s photo workshop at Naropa University because the title “Zen of Creativity” struck a cord in my core being, and I wanted to experience how someone could teach such a concept. Having been a photographer for over thirty years, for me the mechanics of recognizing and composing an image had become intuitive, blissful and without much conscious effort. Yet I attended the workshop to learn how to do what I thought I did naturally.

A few weeks prior to the workshop, I came close to dying from a serious post-surgery infection, and this experience initiated a profound change in my life. The weekend workshop was integral to my recovery, opening my mind, my heart and my spirit. As I worked with each assignment, I began to develop a relationship with the subject I was photographing, and to feel emotions I had suppressed far too long.

What was most enlightening about the creative audience was that each individual who examined my photos expressed clear visions of my near-death ordeal without my ever mentioning it to them. I had not intended for the workshop to become cathartic, but it had and I was grateful.

It is now a year later and I am part of a group of workshop attendees who have continued meeting for creative audience, sharing our photography as well as creative and spiritual growth with each other. Each month we give ourselves assignments. At first, they were koans out of Roshi’s book, but then we began to make up our own.
My favorite, and one that continues to affect me deeply, was to “become one with movement.” The outcome of that initial assignment was a series of whimsical abstracts of light, created by setting my shutter speed at one second and moving my camera while aiming at Christmas lights.

I’ve pursued images of impermanence by becoming one with movement, either by moving my camera, or allowing the movement of the subject to carry the image. They include the sea, the surf, the wind in giant ferns, silver strands of waterfalls, streams skipping over boulders—Mother Nature’s fleeting patterns and textures transformed into luscious tapestries in the web of life.

Now I find myself looking forward to sharing images, insights and inspiration with our creative audience group, and learning more about what I have seen and photographed through their feedback. The physical opening of my body and near-death experience I went through released old emotional garbage and made room for new and profound understanding. Our ongoing creative audience gatherings have helped me to find my voice in my photography. My new friends are beacons of light guiding me on the path. The journey has been incredible, and I can’t wait to continue.

Love spills forth from every pore, hearts
            appear at every turn,
making certain I remain mindful, that what I
            put out will come back to me.

Lisa Winston is a fine art photographer who also runs her own strategic communications consultancy, Peak Exposure, in Boulder.

* * *