The beginner’s mind

Seeing the light at my yoga studio yesterday afternoon.
Seeing the light at my yoga studio yesterday afternoon.

I seldom write about my yoga practice because, on most days, it defies words. But many of the concepts we discuss at the studio percolate into other aspects of my life. One of those notions — what Zen Buddhists call “the beginner’s mind” — has seemed especially relevant as I’ve navigated my new job teaching journalism at UNH.

The beginner’s mind calls for abandoning preconceptions and staying open to new possibilities, no matter your level of experience. For me, this means remaining always a student, both of writing and of the many platforms on which stories will live in the years to come. Many of my students adore Tumblr, something I’d decided I was too busy to use. That changed last month when, at their urging,  I launched a Tumblr of my own. It’s called 1,000 words, and it’s a venue to publish some of my photography.

Yes. Photography.

Taking pictures is wildly intimidating to me. I’ve worked alongside dozens of the finest photojournalists in the business and worried that picking up a camera myself would somehow dilute the value of their work. (Or encourage a short-sighted newsroom bean counter to eradicate the photo department in favor of “good enough” images from reporters’ smartphones.) But I don’t work in a newsroom anymore, and I needed to better understand the visual nature of the web.

About a year ago, I started taking pictures with intention. At first, I used my iPhone. Later, I bought a Nikon D5100 and began learning about aperture and shutter speed and focus. Thousands of pictures later, I still have no idea what I’m doing — but I’ve decided that probably makes me a more compassionate teacher. I’m no expert, just one beginner in a classroom full of beginners, all looking for great stories to tell.

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