7 October 2016

Mindfulness and the Busy Bee

So what's in a busy bee? If we want to be really literal, just think of Andy from  The Devil Wears Prada. *Note to self: sprinting and Starbucks will always end with your drink on the floor.. and sabotage that snazzy Instagram snap. The busy bees are go-go-go, running faster than Pheobe Bouffay through Central Park. Sound familiar? Maybe. Perhaps you're too busy to just be

On the subject of being, I've often used the word 'buzz' to describe my own experience of anxiety.   For any mental illness, your mind is in a constant state of alert. Your thoughts race like a hamster wheel; overthinking becomes your default and you crave the sound of silence. Forget running to a bus stop, you can be buried among a blanket fort and still here a relentless buzz. Nevertheless, sometimes it is the loudest buzz that goes unnoticed by others

Yet anxiety is not an anomaly; the more I engage with the blogging community, the more I realise just how common anxiety is; how many people are exhausted by the mind's own busy bee . In fact, I think most of us could use a pause button at times: a recovery remote. But, alas, Hogwarts and Earwax Bertie Botts exist only in fiction *sobs*, so magical solutions are off the cards. But I may have found something pretty close... Mindfulness!

It has become a bit of a buzz word (pardon the pun), but go with it; the Mindfulness hype can hold its own. I've mentioned is a few times on here, including my guide to managing Anxiety Abroad and Home Truths at 21 (see 12 & 14!) However, my favourite form of mindfulness has to be photography.

I first started using my camera way back in April (can you believe that's 6 months ago?!) I was just out of treatment and adjusting to life back home, so my mind was a abuzz with anxieties. I was distracting myself with 16693820 different craft projects - seriously, you couldn't see the wool for the trees - but I wanted something to get me outside. Then I read Nicole's brilliant post on mindful photography and something clicked.  

Despite buying Olympus Penny over a year ago (student loan priorities), I only started snapping in May. Somewhat ironically, anxiety got the better of me; I'm always hesitant to start new things, for fear of not being 'good enough'. However, I bit the bullet and have never looked back!
These photos were taken on a particularly anxious September morning; the eve of my 22nd birthday, to be exact! As I sat down to a bowl of less-than-cheery Cheerios , my mind reflected on a year of 'failures': University, friendships, recovery... I was trapped by my own thoughts, which were quickly joined by the  OCD fears of balance/contamination. Before I even picked up the breakfast spoon, I spent 10 minutes simply trying to find a 'balanced' position on the sofa. My my morning tea, meanwhile, was hardly touched; every time I tried to pick it up, I panicked that one hand was absorbing more heat than the other.

In these moments a way out can seem impossible. Nevertheless, on this particular morning I found a silver lining... It started with the arrival of the postman, which prompted Millie's daily leap onto the windowsill - she never learns. Yet as I moved to bring her down, I spotted these bumblebees out the window and had a moment of respite. I knew I needed to get out of the living room at the very least, as the thoughts were only growing more obtrusive. So 5 minutes, 2 chewed letters and a tug-of-war later, I decided to fetch Olympus Penny and gave mindful micrography a go. 

Within minutes of my  'shoot' (just call me Mario Testino), my anxieties faded into the background. It was all about the humble bumblebee! I snapped away for over half an hour, as bees will do their own thing; 90% of the time you'll be a split-second too early, yet this makes a successful shot all the more magical. Moreover, as I followed the bee's buzz from sprig sprig, it shifted all focus from the buzz inside my mind. 

Beyond my blogging namesake, photography has given me a newfound appreciation of the great outdoors. I'm no stranger to woodland rambles, but with a camera in hand you see things in a clearer light. I've also found that, since taking Penny on dog walks, I no longer rely on Mr iPhone to distract me. A few months ago, any solo trip outdoors would be accompanied by headphones. I used music to try and drown out anxiety/OCD, which partly worked... but I was still in my own world and disconnected from the outside. It was a sticking plaster, not a solution.

With photography, I'm relearning to be in the present moment. It's still a work in progress and, some days, I do lose sight of this; it would feel dishonest to present myself as a 'mindful messiah' when, to be blunt, I spent today in a bit of a slump. Nevertheless, tomorrow is a new day; perhaps, on my way back from work, I can make time to stop and see the roses sunflowers. Sunflowers, always.

For now, I'll leave you with some snaps from my Sunday stroll with Penny! Along with mum, dad and Millie, we popped along to Bath Spa Campus and caught a glimpse of Autumn awakening. The Campus is a stone's throw away from our house, but sometimes the simplest treasures are right on your doorstep....

What are your thoughts on capturing a frame of mindfulness? 

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