Friday, May 14, 2010

Time to Go

This is the last day of this retreat. In many ways it is already over. I am gathering my things, doing laundry, and I have started to pack. I have some travel arrangements to make and other such busy things to do.

I note that I am still present. I have not started to think about what I will do when I get home. I am reinforcing the thoughts that I will remember to stay present when I resume my “normal” life.

I have many reasons to be grateful for this entire experience. Yesterday I worked in the gallery, and I received some very positive and genuine feedback on my images. I accepted the praise, and realize that it did not go to my head, but I do realize that I am fed from feedback.

I acknowledge that the act of photographing is the first element in my work. The second aspect is the filing, sorting, processing and printing of the selected pieces. The third component is the framing and hanging of individual photographs that I combine with other pieces to create a theme. The next element of the photographic experience occurs when someone views the show, and they realize their own connection with either the entire body of work or with some of the individual photographs. The culmination of my photographic experience occurs whenever I receive feedback about the work. I receive the feedback either directly or from the knowledge that someone decided to purchase a piece. This feedback somehow validates the work, and becomes fulfilling for me.

I have noticed that over the past few years that my ego is less involved in the need for feedback. I am unsure as to when and where the ego was subdued because it has been a slow transition. The process may not be complete – I know better than to tempt an egoic uprising. I am confident nonetheless, that I have made some genuine progress toward that end.

And that is what I am so grateful for regarding the past three weeks.  It has been about photographing, and that has led to the practice being in the state of Being. What joy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


A passage way reveals itself
Dare I enter?

The mystery intrigues
The uncertainty brings fear
Should I embrace the unknown?
Or just pass this door?

I turn back
But I feel the pull

To pass this door is to be safe
Sure in the known

If I pass
Will I wonder

What was waiting for me?
Perhaps I will never know

I pause and listen
Inside a small voice beckons

With faith
I turn back toward the light

I leave fear at the threshold
And step through in peace

My Special Purpose

In my meditation this morning I asked “what is the higher purpose of this three week retreat?” I know that this time offered me opportunities to refine my photographic vision in that there were so many wonderful places to practice my craft. I feel that I took advantage of this experience to do just that. I think I have a collection of images of which I am sure I will find many keepers. I am looking forward to working with these and to print a portfolio from this time in New Mexico.

The greater gift of this three week experience is that I am experiencing a solid block of time where my ego has been held in its proper place – that of being subservient to my higher self (awareness). This has been a safe place to practice this state of awareness because I have been free of the “normal” things that would distract me from this state. It should serve as a reminder for me whenever Mr. Ego becomes boisterous that I can and have spent time being relatively ego-free, and that I can always reclaim that state of being.

So that is the bottom line. It is not about the photography. It has been about solidifying the control of my life, and accepting that I have done enough work to be able to at least for three weeks, live relatively ego-free. The photographs are part of the fruit of this labor, but so to is peace and understanding.

I have kept a journal for thirty years, but this is the first time that I have made it pubic. That is what this blog has been; an electronic journal. I trust that those who read these pages benefit from my experiences.



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thoughts On This Meditation's Rewards

My time here at Santa Fe is time that has been well spent. I feel a greater connection to my own being. I think it has been important that I break from my routines, and responsibilities. I have embraced the freedom that this retreat has provided. I don’t feel like I am a changed man, but I am definitely more aware of whom I am. I know that I will get back into the flow at home, and that I will be grateful for that wonderful sanctuary. I will again step back into my relationship with Lisa, and both of us will step back into the state of “our”.

I think that habits of how I live my normal life have become just a bit too engrained. My passions gather dust, and my motivations wane. I think that these retreats that I take from time-to-time, serve as good reminders for me as to whom it is that I am. They allow for me the opportunities to have my life’s values and priorities regain some of their newness. These retreats provide boosts that at least temporarily, rekindle my gusto for life.

I feel that this experience is in subtle and substantial ways that reflect in my photography. I experience on a near daily basis, a deeper and clearer connection with the experience of photographing. My years of technical practice are combining with my vision, and are forming a union. This union becomes its own element. I will paraphrase Minor White by saying that when I am one with the subject that the camera, subject and I become something else. Perhaps we three become one.

I know that when I am in these situations I feel as real as I ever have, and that this connectivity continues into the rest of my non-photographing life. It is as if I have made a pilgrimage to the temple only to discover that I have been in the temple all along. It is just that my eyes have been opened, and now I realize that the temple is everywhere.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spirit In The Sky

Sunset of a Soul Set Free

You’ve been on my mind
Since you passed
I think of you when the wind blows
Or when I see a colorful sunset

I thought I saw you today at a National Park
She was a vision of a younger self
Before the tumors
And before the hospital

She had a daughter with her
Both were giggling as they sat at a picnic table
I wanted to say hello
I miss you

My brain told me that this person
Was not really you
But that she made me remember you
It was not my place to interrupt their special moment

I left and went on with my day
Photographing old churches
All the while reflecting on
How fortunate I am to be here

Later, I am still attune
Photographing the sunset and the clouds
Then a cloud reminds me of your painting of
A Soul Set Free

I see you
I feel your presence
I acknowledge your status
Fly free dear friend

Friday, May 7, 2010

Night Prayers

I am fully actualizing and manifesting the reality that I am here now. I awoke at four this morning having just completed a very clear and powerful dream wherein I was fully connected with Spirit. The attitude that I was in was like what I imagine lamas experience when they get to higher states of meditation. I truly felt that I was in the Presence of the Divine. That state carried with me as I ventured out into the dark and quiet of the early morning. I stood in the cool night air as the light from distant stars bathed my being with their ancient light. I felt like I was taking a shower in pure love. Visions and revelations saturated my soul. I accepted that the knowledge that I was receiving was of the highest and purest Truth that I had ever known - a true state of rapture and bliss.

I won’t share what was revealed, because it is not important that I do so here. I will say that the truths revealed to me came as no surprise. It is as if I had always known these things, but I was always reluctant to accept them because I was not ready to believe these truths that church and society had worked so very hard to hide.

What I will share is that I understand why I needed to go through what I did last week (see earlier postings). I needed to be free of my busy mind and ego so that I could be at a place where I would be free to receive Spirit. That plus my commitment to make this truly be a three week meditation opened the door for me to receive this blessing.

I fully get why it doesn’t matter that my preferred access to Spirit is through my Christian and Buddhist experiences. I get too that I am free to embrace my pathway to God which is one that is free of the spiritual tyranny of organized religion. I understand now, more than ever, that the most important work that I can do is to work toward the end of manifesting my own fullness of being. In so doing I truly can participate in creating The Kingdom of Heaven.

I decided to drive to Las Vegas, NM so that I could photograph in the early morning light. I had already surveyed the shots that I wanted in this lighting earlier this week so I knew exactly where to be when the sun rose. As I started photographing I experienced oneness with the camera and the subjects. This is not a new feeling to me, but today I was as open as I think I ever have been. I don’t know if the photographs will reveal any of this over the ones I shot last night or earlier this week, but that doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is that I was able to put aside my need to buy the best camera, and my need to engage in matters of the world via Face Book. Instead I fulfilled the act of being Thomas Allen Bethune – fully present.

I can truly say that for today, May 7, 2010 I up to this point, have been the most ego-free that I have ever been. For that I give thanks. It likely will be different when I get back to my routine, but it is my experience that these spiritual advances will mostly stay in place.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Early Morning at Lamy, New Mexico

Being free of any schedule or commitments surely has its rewards, and maybe a few drawbacks, but it is how I am mostly operating these days. I am committed to a daily practice of Tai Chi, Hatha Yoga and meditation, but that is about it. The rest is entirely up to me. I don’t have to take in the best restaurants. I’m not compelled to check out all the galleries, nor am I feeling any pressure to experience New Mexico beyond what I am doing now.

I am free of the things that needed to be addressed last week. I am off of Face Book, and I am leaving the issue of purchasing a camera until later. I now feel a lightness of being, yet I feel grounded and focused. I eat when I am hungry, sleep when I feel sleepy, and photograph every day.

I awoke just a bit too late this morning to catch the early morning sunshine at Las Vegas, but I did have enough time to go to Lamy. I thought that I had pretty well exhausted the photographic opportunities at Lamy, but I was wrong. I greeted the sunrise with my tripod, camera and presence. My mind was free of all thoughts, and I was just there (I am still present as I write this). I think some magic happened, and I recorded some of it with the camera.

I suppose that the lesson for the day is that plans or not, I may experience fullness of being by allowing/cultivating Presence. I am becoming free of the need to fulfill any wish list that I may have made prior to arriving in New Mexico, or of any list I may have made the night before.

I realize that this format may not work every where and every day in my normal life, but for the duration of this three-week venture is suits the bill just fine. That said I still intend to get to Las Vegas for a morning shoot before next week comes and goes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hanging My Show

Today Kelly Lyons, The Gallery Director, and I hung my new show at Gallery Chartreuse in down town Santa Fe. This show includes three main bodies of work, representing my work over the past twelve months. The first body of work is comprised of pieces that I shot at Lamy, New Mexico. This body of work includes two subjects, the Lamy Church and the Lamy train station. I think that these photographs could be described more as conventional studies. I do believe that my unique vision and life experiences with religion and with railroads add to that convention. The net result is that they convey my depth of understanding for my subjects.

The next group is of work I have been doing in Arcata. It includes a portrait of a local bar, and some closer studies. I think that with this group of photographs, the subjects reveal some of their secrets and hidden beauty. These also reveal more about who I am. I know that I transcended my mind jabber while photographing in the early morning hours in downtown Arcata. These became the product of a walking meditation and to me they start to express a description of the unknown that may only be reached in deep meditations.

The third group of images is a trio of pictures from what I titled my Spirit Tree Series. It includes two images from 2009 and one from this year. These images best describe what it is that I see and feel when I am in the present. I saw similar images in my travels through Prairie Creek State Park for years, but I never could “capture” them until recently. I suspect that I just was not ready until then.

I have a solo image of The Buddha’s Feet. It is from 2008, and I think in many ways acts as the “Presence” for the gallery.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Picking Myself Back Up After Stumbling

The past few days were stormy and cold here in Santa Fe. The contrast from just a couple of days ago is very dramatic. We went from basking in seventy degree weather to bundling up with jackets and gloves. It seems like my energy followed the weather.

I am not as calm as I was a couple of days ago. The bliss was supplanted by a duller sort of feeling. Not a bad feeling – just one with less luster. I think there are two issues working on me. The first is that I am trying to decide which camera to purchase. I am working every angle possible on making the decision. I have very specific needs, and a limited budget, so I know that whatever I decide on will be with me for quite a long time. It is just that I spent lots of energy and time on that task when I could be reading, meditating, photographing and so on. I will get that sorted out easily enough.

The other issue dragging me down is some of my experiences on Face Book. My use of Face Book was kind of fun at first. I reconnected with some people from my past, and I liked using the chat function. What became troubling to me is that there seemed to be quite a bit of acrimony on many the postings. I even started getting invidious comments from “friends” of friends. They were not messages that came from a place of reason nor did they promote the greater good. I didn’t even have any ideas as to who these people were that were invading my walking meditation. I just knew that I did not have the ability to shed the negativity. There was only one way for me to regain my bliss. So I pulled the plug on Face Book.

I know too that in the ideal, we all need to take stands where we know that the truth must be told. I am grateful that there are those who are doing so now. It is just that this is neither my venue nor my time to do so. I have been derailed from my current mission, and I need to get back on task. I will continue to reveal my truth through my photographs. That is the way for me, and now I can get back to doing that. I feel that images such as my Spirit Tree Series convey some of the essence that we are all interconnected. I say it in best in my images, but not in a confrontational manner.

Now I know that ideally I should step up and be present in this situation and let my light shine. I firmly believe that one may change the energy of a given situation by manifesting godliness. I just don’t feel like Superman, and I don’t want to take on that task right now when I am on another.

I came to New Mexico for several reasons, but one of the primary reasons is so that I may strengthen my connection to Spirit. Another related reason for my being here is so that as my spiritual connection grows, I will be more attune and in the zone when it comes to my art. Both of the above mentioned issues were hindering these quests.