I resisted taking photographs for a long time because I felt it was removing myself from directly experiencing the world. I finally relented and borrowed my mother’s 35mm manual Fuji camera when she became sick with cancer because I wanted to share images from the Hoh Rainforest, one of the places she wished to see but never made it.

Shooting in the rainforest, I quickly realized that shooting photos does not create distance but rather invites a closer look at the phenomenal world. Over time, the practice of photography has helped me develop a way of seeing light, color, and shape beyond our common agreed-upon labels of objects. Photography has become an invitation to actually see the qualities of an eagle rather than passively looking and only recognizing what we remember an eagle to be like (not even really experiencing this eagle).

Along with my meditation practice, photography has deepened my attention to detail, not only when my camera is in hand but throughout the day. This attention to detail has naturally led to appreciation of visual appearances.

For example, I was recently walking down a neighborhood street and noticed a mud puddle. For a flicker of a moment I witnessed my habitual experience of a “dirty mud puddle,” but then I actually looked and saw the beautiful blue sky scattered with puffy white clouds reflected down near my feet in direct contrast with the sharp line edges of concrete.

I now view photography as a practice of appreciation where we can train our minds to appreciate our experiences regardless of whether what we see is commonly considered pretty. This practice can permeate our life: as we practice noticing and appreciating, we are training our minds to appreciate all of our senses and experiences more often. It is too easy to fall into a culture of complaint and, with a ground of appreciation, we can skillfully know what to accept and what to reject. 

--Jason Ruvelson

In addition to photography, Jason works as the Finance Director for North Cascades Institute, a conservation nonprofit with the goal to inspire deep connections, appreciation, and care for the places in which we live. He is also a teacher and practitioner of Shambhala Buddhist meditation for over 20 years. Raised on Mercer Island near Seattle, Jason currently lives in Bellingham, and drinks a lot of tea.

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