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Photo Essay Series
By Jenny Leigh Hodgins
This is the first of my photo essay series featuring images from my newly designed 2020 nature photo calendars. The calendars include monthly self-care themes highlighting strategies for nurturing your creativity and inspiration.
I enjoy taking nature photos because each captured image represents my excitement, joy and appreciation for the wondrous beauty available within an ordinary moment. My pictures are symbolic of my personal dreams and inner prayers for experiencing life to its maximum potential.
It helps that I live in beautiful Lexington, Kentucky, surrounded by agricultural and horse farms, near enough to the Kentucky Horse Park that I can ride my bike there. I also lived in sunny Florida for half my life, enjoying the gorgeous beaches of Venice, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Clearwater and Dunedin.
I snapped the photo above at Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, during a sunset walk with a friend, determined to capture the serenity of the sun’s gentle departure beyond the horizon. This memory reminds me of my sincere friend, who graciously spent the weekend with me there to literally force me to enjoy some relaxation in between my whirlwind of events surrounding that time period.
The kindness of my friend’s compassionate gesture, the therapeutic nature of the deep, pulsing waves of the water, the setting of the sun as it sprayed its pastel wash of colors across the sky, and my deep love for Sarasota, as the place my Buddhist practice began (the starting point of hope in my life), exist within this momentary pause. Just as an entire lifetime of memories, personality, knowledge and emotion are represented within a person’s name, a single photo is full of kaleidoscopic meaning.
My photos are about slowing down enough to take one, solitary second out of a busy life to celebrate myself, my progress, this chapter, and the hope of the next one. It’s about letting my creative heart lead in my daily life, not my head.
I don’t compare my nature photography to other great photographers. Though I admire and deeply respect the works of others who’ve dedicated their lives to mastering technique and skill, that is not what inspires me.
I began taking photos because I was deeply moved by Daisaku Ikeda’s photography and underlying philosophy. He doesn’t claim to be a professional photographer. He began taking photos to commemorate experiences with others and leave something behind to encourage them.
I bring my photos to YourCreativeChord with a similar hope and intent; to inspire us to continually expand our lives by letting our true authenticity be the ultimate authority of our creative process. My photos are about seeing the world through the lens of my Greater Self (not my lesser self, ego).
I share my nature photography as a way of recognizing and celebrating our universal yet vulnerable point of human connection, and to experience the rejuvenating power of nature’s beauty within my images.
My photography is meant as an example of courageous creative exploration, as that is a prime point for me as a creator. I blog and podcast about the importance of allowing creative adventures, setting aside the theoretical mind, to allow one’s heart to express itself, unhindered by any limitation.
I’m a writer, poet and composer, but I venture into photography without my thinking hat. Instead, I bring childlike wonder and profound appreciation for nature’s astonishing allure.
I want to share this with you as a way of encouraging you to see your world as the artist within you knows it to be. When you see my photos, my hope is that it sparks your belief in your own creative vision. Enjoy the view.
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by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Why You Should Dream Too Big
Josei Toda, a deeply humanistic man who gave his life to rejuvenating the spirit of Buddhism, encouraged others to dream ‘too big,’ explaining that we only achieve a percentage of our goals in life.
“What we can achieve in a lifetime is always but a fraction of what we would set out to achieve. So if you start out with expectations that are too low, you'll end up not being able to accomplish anything at all.”
I’m learning the importance of expanding my perceived limitations. Honestly, thinking big is new to me. I need more practice with envisioning my goals, dreams and my life’s future. Without analyzing the specifics of how I’ve arrived this way, suffice it to say, I don’t think I’m unique in this struggle.
The fact that there are incredibly successful achievers in this world, standing out above the masses of mediocrity, is proof to me that many people have this same issue of living within the boundaries of lower expectations. Though I’ve embraced Buddhism for 32 years, I’m still finding I have much to learn about living more joyfully and successfully.
Buddhism teaches that our lives contain everything necessary for our victory, happiness, success and fulfillment. Looking outside ourselves is not necessary. Believing in our greatest potential is the key to these qualities in our lives. (Cultivating this belief in ourselves also paves the way for believing in the potential of others.)
Theoretically understanding this, and being able to manifest my greatest potential are two different matters, though.
Use The Power of Imagination To Expand Your Vision
I’m immersing myself in a process of learning from others, particularly those who have achieved success at the things I want to do, or who have acquired fortune. I especially value learning from those who have overcome great obstacles. Their stories prove the power of one individual life.
Athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs are my role models, as I value creative thinking. Creative professionals seem to be adept at envisioning an outcome, which becomes the fuel for the targeted actions they take to make their desired result a reality.
My mentor in faith, Daisaku Ikeda, clarifies, “The more specific and detailed the blueprint we have in our hearts, the better. The point is to continue vividly painting the target we have and to advance toward that goal single-mindedly. Then, at each instant, the reality of our lives will gradually approach the painting that is our aspiration.”
Expand Your Dream Too Much
Taking this into account, and reflecting on Josei Toda’s advice to dream ‘too big,’ I encountered a similar thread in Gary Keller’s #1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller, The One Thing The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Keller points out how expanding our vision dramatically beyond our limitations has a powerful effect on the results.
Instead of thinking about what’s immediately in front of us, Keller advises to “set a goal so far above what you want that you’ll be building a plan that practically guarantees your original goal.”
Keller also encourages the power of imagination, persuasively suggesting to ask a bigger question of ourselves and “pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer. If you still can’t imagine it, go study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits, and relationships of other people who have found the answer? As much as we’d like to believe we’re all different, what constantly works for others will almost always work for us.”
I’m not discounting the value of making consistent and significant effort. The most successful, creative and happy people I know work regularly at their craft and are striving for self-improvement in a disciplined manner.
Harness Your Power of Imagery Toward A Larger Vision
But the power of envisioning a clear, expansive, larger goal is effective. People use this power of the mind, and the spirit of pushing against or cracking open boundaries to accomplish incredible things.
Written language was invented to convey ideas. Music was created from noise. Both the written word and music are languages now used to communicate broadly and intimately. Airplanes enable people to fly through the air. Rockets explore outer space. America was resourced as a result of finally challenging the theory that the earth was flat.
How To Achieve Your Biggest Goal With Your Imagination
These outcomes are the results of humans thinking outside the box, questioning their perceived reality, and going for it. This is an inspiring lesson. Here’s my takeaway:
How I’ve Used Imagery, Prayer & Preparation Successfully
Let me share an example of how this has worked for me. For many years, I made my living as a performing musician. This did not come easily for me, because I initially had debilitating stage-fright. But I was able to overcome my nerves, allowing me to make a living as a performer, and perform well because I followed this formula:
Along with my daily Buddhist chant to raise my life-state, my thorough preparation and mental effort laid the groundwork for my success as a pianist/vocalist, teacher, facilitator and public speaker.
Now performing or speaking publicly has almost zero effect on my nerves. I have eliminated stage-fright through the use of imagery, prayer, preparation, and repetition.
Since I’ve had success using imagery to overcome stage-fright and perform, I now harness it for other areas of my life too. Visualization is a transferable skill. Currently, I practice it toward my business, health and creative goals.
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if you find it helpful to dream 'too big,' practice imagery toward your goals, or if you have questions or suggestions!
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COMING SOON: Watch this space for new ebooks, products and courses for nurturing creativity and inspiration!
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