About 43 Intentions
Early in 2015, I spent 6 weeks at Sherabling, a Buddhist monastery in Northern India. Life had thrown me a few curve balls over the previous few years (possibly an extended mid-life crisis!) and I had become disillusioned, dissatisfied and I’d lost direction. I’d stopped working, was broke and overwhelmed. I needed change. I needed clarity. Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend, I got both. I was gifted this amazing opportunity to step away from my fearful and increasingly depressing day-to-day existence… to immerse myself in the unfamiliar… to re-evaluate my life… take a deep look within… and start actioning some of the dysfunctional behaviours I’d been addressing recently (and there were plenty for me to look at).
The first thing I did after settling in, was to introduce some routine into my life; one which included daily exercise, regular mealtimes and meditation (… and virtually no social media). This regimen saw me walking for a couple of hours every day, up and down a couple of hills, through forests festooned with millions of prayer flags. My aim was to head over to the Stupas (small buildings which housed religious relics and MASSIVE prayer wheels). There were 8 Stupas, each with its own prayer wheel.
Just beyond the Stupas lay a café, which, as well as making excellent paranthas, occasionally had wifi reception – the only place where I could access the outside world and my only chance to stay in touch with (and slowly woo) a woman I hardly knew. We fell in love remotely and we’ve been together ever since.
I wouldn’t call myself ‘religious’, but being in such a pure, sacred and magical space had a profound effect on me… and I became fascinated by the prayer wheels… and by the devotion shown by the local people who went there every day to improve their karma (some even took their animals with them for the same reason). I watched how these beautiful, smiley and generous people were so happy with so few modern trappings. Yet they all had faith. I questioned whether I might be missing out. Perhaps I’d been doing something wrong.
I started to think about how I could make improvements to my life. What were the qualities that would make things better? Everyday, on my walk over to the Stupas, I would consider and contemplate a different quality that felt lacking; qualities such as ‘dignity’, ‘courage’, ‘purpose’, ‘enthusiasm’, ‘gratitude’, ‘focus’ and ‘joy’.
Where attention goes, energy flows!
At the Stupas, whilst turning the prayer wheel, I would focus my intention on ‘inviting’ that particular quality into my sphere (some people might call this ‘praying’, but that holds religious connotations that do not resonate with me). I would repeat the word like a mantra as I visualised that quality in the form of a kind of light energy that saturated my being… and try to imagine myself with that quality. I’d then give the huge prayer wheel one final big spin before taking lots of deliberately blurred, close-up photos of the wheel in motion. I kept a record of which photos correlated with which qualities (and took over 3000 images).
This was never about making art. Aside from a deep desire to acquire or improve these qualities, I was interested in seeing whether focusing my attention on particular words and their qualities might affect the outcome of the photographs. I wanted to see whether the essence or ‘energy’ of each of these particular qualities could be captured on film. There was something mesmerising, fascinating and beautiful in this collection of photos, which I called ‘The energy of intention’… but I can’t say that there was any discernible difference between any of the photos.
When I returned home, I pretty much forgot about the photos for a year or so, but one day I stumbled across them… and started playing around with them on my computer. I liked what I was seeing. Slowly, over the course of a year, I picked photos at random and manipulated them through a variety of filters and apps to create the images you see here. The collection consists of 43 pieces*, which are rich in diversity, colour and meaning… with each piece correlating to the specific quality that I’d been ‘praying’ for. So, although you can’t necessarily see that quality, you could say that each piece has been imbued with it.
The interesting thing is that, over the last year or so, whilst working on this project, all these qualities have started to manifest. It is testament to the saying ‘whatever you shine your light on, grows’!
* why 43? although there are more images and intentions that I prayed for, 43 happens to be my lucky number!
10% of profits will go directly to Sherabling monastery.
If you’d like to see more photos and a little video from my time at Sherabling, go HERE