From a very early age girls are taught how to look, move, hold themselves, and speak to be attractive. As girls get older, the programming to “be sexy” becomes synonymous with being desirable and lovable. Photography can reinforce this false conditioning, or it can interrupt it. The difference comes down to the quality of mindfulness brought to the photographic experience.
All of my photo shoots start with and are directed by intention. I’m rather insistent on it because I’ve found that without a clear, empowering intention we tend to revert back to the conditioning we’ve all internalized that tells us how to “look good,” which has us move away from ourselves and our authentic expression and towards persona – thus reinforcing the false programming we’re all trying to free ourselves from!
But with a clear, empowering intention we drop deeper into ourselves and move from a place of authentic, centered expression. It becomes a mindfulness practice, an authentic expression practice. And it becomes a portal for amazing creative magic, healing, discovery, and fun to enter because this deep, dynamic listening is also the place within us that our muses speak to us through.
During this shoot Erin and I kept saying this is “spiritual boudoir.”
Yes she was in lingerie in her room. Yes she hoped her pictures would express her sensuous beauty. But instead of “doing poses” that would make her “look hot,” we let all that head-stuff go, started with a long meditation, and made the whole thing a mindfulness practice of moving from within and being real. This requires a lot of trust, as well as a willingness to drop any and all expectations. But what came through, and what always comes through when we move from this pathway, is gorgeous, authentic, and meaningful. I’ll let her tell you more about that herself…
“I have sat down several times in the last few weeks to write about this experience. But each time I start to write the words seem to follow a story. And the story feels contrived by someone other than me. So my goal is to keep it simple and honest.
I have noticed through the process of these shoots that my tendency is to want to hide and to protect myself from my feelings. I am scared and afraid to be hurt. I utilize “my look,” my body and my vocal persona, to create not only a buffer between me and the outer world but also an internal buffer to the judgements and feelings I carry about myself.
I have pinpointed my characteristically fierce persona as the working mechanism to keep all my potentially hurtful thoughts, feelings, and emotions at bay. As I prepared for this shoot the intention became clear that to drop this persona, to let go of the protection that my fierce self provides, would lead me another step closer to the deep experience of self that I want. Without this comforting ferociousness leading the way…
I instead asked myself to dissolve into softness and that alone.
When I think of myself as being soft, I think of the word honesty. There are no walls, no identifications, no excuses when I am softness. There is no pretending.
We chose to shoot in my bedroom because it is intimate, a place for softness to thrive. We started very slowly. I noticed how uncomfortable I felt “posing” for the camera and was acutely aware of my face and my expressions in particular.
I had a deep programming to unravel that I could not make a beautiful face. With the camera about four inches from me the whole time, I had to suppress the urge to hide. Even if it was just by keeping my eyes closed or keeping my head down. I wanted to curl up in to a ball and bury my face at almost every moment. But Robin gently urged me when I was stuck to feel in my body, breathe, relax and move as my body naturally felt drawn.
We continued on like this for quite sometime. Toward the end of the shoot Robin suggested that I move over toward a large mirror I had at the end of my bed. She asked me to softly gaze at myself. Look myself in the eyes and generate love toward myself.
This is where I hit an actual wall. Up until now I made it through without having to deconstruct any beliefs I had about myself. I was able to coax myself through movements.
But when asked to be 100% present and still with myself I couldn’t turn in the direction of that mirror. It is a miraculous thing that these pictures of me looking at myself in the mirror exist.
The extent of insecurity I felt about my own reflection and what I would see is baffling. Literally, it is just me with me. How is that so terrifying? How can I judge myself so thoroughly and viciously that I can’t look in the mirror and send myself love?
I battled myself (and Robin) for a good 20 minutes on the edge of my bed. I truly believed I could not look in that mirror and be soft… honest… loving with myself. Absolutely not.
Yet I so deeply yearn to see myself. To experience the fullness of me… the light and the dark… the soft and the fierce. I wanted to believe that my truest self was a softly radiant beautiful being that does not need to hide. The desire to believe eventually won and with all the courage I could muster I looked in that mirror.
I truly believe these photos are a miracle.
When I received these photos from Robin I was blown the fuck away that they were me. And that is not an exaggeration. I sat jaw dropped in front of the computer saying over and over in my head, “That is me?! That is me?! That is fucking me!! Holy shit!”
I was in complete and total disbelief that the immense beauty, radiance and softness I was looking at was me. And I realized that I knew her… well of course I do… but no really… I do know her. It is me. Feelings of elation, joy, love and peace spread throughout my body.
It was a truly transformational moment where the “story” of me was re-written. Every belief and judgment I held about what I lacked, from beauty, to love, to tenderness dissolved into the softness I created for myself… in one moment, where I gazed at myself, with only love in my heart.
As I said in the beginning, I sat down several times to write about this experience. And each time the story and the judgements would surface. The walls would go up and I’d say fuck it and walk away. But eventually I knew I’d have to own what is. I had seen too much to ignore. So finally I sat down to write.
My words a declaration of love. The moment of ownership of a new story and a set of new beliefs.
“I want to unfold.
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere.
Because where I am folded, there I am a lie.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Forever in gratitude to you Robin.”