Category Archives: Be Your Own Beloved

The Words Underneath the Photo

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When you arrive at the garden just as it starts to rain but something draws you in.

Your feet lead you right to that flowering Camellia and you pick up a fallen blossom and take a photo. Knowing that you took nearly the same photo last year on an April Day, towards that same path, with rain falling in the background of that photo too.

And you take it all the same because these photos are like pinpoints in the visual map of your life. The kind that loops and cycles and brings you to the same points again to reflect on what has changed.

While you’re standing in the same place. In the same conditions, with a flower in your hand.

You are not the same and at the same time you are. You have answers you didn’t have then. Puzzle pieces now found and many left to find.

You think of how different (and also the same) things could be next year.

And you look forward to this future date with yourself. In the pouring rain, camera in one hand, camellia in the other.

I’ll meet you there.

***

Sometimes the photos are the catalysts for the words to spill out too…if a photo you take today feels like it has more to say and you let the words spill out too…tag me in it or use the #beyourownbeloved hashtag and I’ll be on the lookout for it. I’d love to hear what #thewordsunderneaththephoto are for you today too.

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14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge

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I’m so excited to bring you something this February leading up to the start of the Be Your Own Beloved class on Valentine’s Day…a photo challenge!

Each day from February 1st-15th we’re going to take a selfie (or a photo in general if you’re easing towards taking selfies) inspired by the theme of the day.

You can see all the prompt below and join in each day taking a selfie of your choice. I encourage you not necessarily to try and plan it out, but instead to invite in the energy of the day’s focus and see what arises during your day as a moment you could tell your visual story and invite yourself into it in some way.

Or, come on over to my Instagram account at @viviennemcm each day where I’ll be sharing my response to each day’s prompt and giving some ideas and insight on how you might explore it!

As well, I’ll aslo be sharing the daily prompt over at the Be Your Own Beloved Instagram as well as featuring images of folks who are joining in!

If you’d like more inspiration to get you started on this journey, join the Photo Challenge mailing list (you’ll also receive my Be Your Own Beloved newsletters by signing up) and I’ll send you over a welcome post with more information about the 14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge as well as a free E-Book 30 Tips for Exploring Selfies (with Love) which contains 30 helpful tips to support you on your selfie path.

Join the 14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge Mailing List here to get your Free E-Book!

If you’re new to selfies but want to give it a try, you might want to get the Selfie Starter Guide where I answer all sorts of common questions that folks have when sparking the journey to see themselves with compassion through their camera!

Now without further ado, here are our themes for the 14 Days of Self-Compassion Photo Challenge! Keep watch on Instagram for some tips to get you started with our first theme on February 1st and be sure to use the hashtag #beyourownbeloved to share your response to the daily prompt!

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As well, be sure to check out the #beyourownbeloved hashtag on Instagram to get inspired by one another as we explore these prompts together throughout the first two weeks of February.

And this 14 Days of Self-Compassion is going to be a great warm up and way to dip our toes into selfies as a tool for self-compassion before the Be Your Own Beloved E-Course that begins on February 14th where we’ll dig even more into the process of using the camera as a tool to change how we see ourselves and I’ll guide you through the variety of kinds of selfies we can explore, tips for taking them and how the lens can help us reclaim how we see ourselves back from our inner critic. Come join in for Be Your Own Beloved as well as the free photo challenge!

I’ll see you over on Instagram where we’ll dig into the first challenge Feb 1st! Everyone is welcome by the way! Even if you’re not comfortable sharing your selfies publically yet (there’s no pressure to) you might invite a trusted friend to join you and text one another your daily selfies! Tag someone in the post that you’d like to invite to join you for the free challenge!

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Meeting the Season with Curiosity

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I confess this is the season I struggle with the most.

When all the plants are returning to the earth. When the grey is near constant. I find myself picking up the camera a bit less and when I do, everything doesn’t look quite as radiant as every other season.

But this year I’m taking a different approach. I’m getting curious about fall and winter, in the same way I so easily do in other season. I’m getting curious about the places (like this one in the above image) that I don’t often photograph in the spring or summer as there are lotuses nearby that draw me in.

I’m looking for the unxpected, perspectives I haven’t seen before. 

That which I can’t predict or assume. That which I don’t know yet.

Even if I feel resistant to it. Even if I can’t imagine another perspective or assume my initial perception is the only possible outcome.  

Curiosity is at the heart of all the work I do but I don’t often give it the credit and voice it deserves because it’s always there woven into every photo, every selfie, every class I create. Maybe it’s when we find we aren’t feeling something that it’s importance becomes clearer than ever. So bring on the lens of curiosity…fall, I’m coming for you…

What could you approach with curiosity today? 

Perhaps the spot you are sitting right now, seeing it in a new way through the lens? Or maybe see the people around you with curiosity, being open to new ways we can relate to one another? Or maybe even how we see our bodies? Could you take a selfie today with curiosity and not assume what the outcome might be before you take it?

I wanted to share this to remind both you and myself that new perspectives await, often when we least expect them!

Here are a few more images from today’s curious photo walk in the garden.

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  • RachelOctober 22, 2016 - 4:56 pm

    The first and last photo of this series are incredible! I love the mysterious quality of the first photo and the more dramatic nature of the last photo.ReplyCancel

  • Alison MOctober 24, 2016 - 9:38 pm

    Beautiful images, Vivienne. Thank you for sharing them, and this lovely perspective. Be Curious. That will be my new motto for today…ReplyCancel

Into the Wild Unknown

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We sat on the beach for a while, chatting, with the thought of going in the ocean on our minds.

I assumed it would be incredibly cold, being mid-September and all. Painfully so. I imagined how hard it would be to get in the water, how I wouldn’t want to be in there, and how cold I’d be afterwards. I was assuming the worst.

But I was going to try, maybe even just wade in, if my friend wanted to.

The sun set further and the air temperature got colder, I felt further away from the possibility of getting in the water. The idea had passed in my mind and I’d convinced myself not to.

Until Danielle said “Let’s go for it”.

I still doubted the possibility that I would actually get in. But I was willing to go on the adventure and support her.

And really, what if it was okay? What if it might even feel nourishing?

We took only a few steps into the ocean when the first big wave hit. And then followed up by 2 more.

I literally howled with laughter. Doubled over with when not jumping gleefully over the next gigantic wave approaching. And they kept coming. Within 10 seconds I was soaking head to toe (forget wading in) and in a full on laughing fit.

It felt amazing. Not just the water (which wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d feared) but the waves and the laughter. I laughed because the idea I’d had of slowly wading in, at my own pace was well…really just being lovingly mocked by the ocean in these gigantic waves in the most beautiful way.

It felt utterly divine. Jumping in the waves like I did as a kid, howling with laughter with not a care in the world what anyone on shore (and yes, there were lots of sunset watching folks) might think.

You see, when I’m laughing I feel most inherently me, closest to my true self.

So this moment that I’d been fearing, theorizing how it would go, placing outcomes on.

Was completely out of my control. And magical. And beautiful. 

And invited me home to myself. 

 

Before we left, I put the camera on my bag and snapped a few selfies, arms wide to the sky.

The usual thoughts that would come with this moment arrived and were swiftly dealt with. Thoughts like “I wonder what people might be thinking about me right now” or  “Maybe this will look better if I put my hair down” or “I wish I had of worn my cooler bathing suit” came and left quickly because the ocean had just swooned me with it’s wildness and these things didn’t seem as important as that.

And I wanted to remember this.

Because the camera helps me cultivate this conversation with myself. It reminds me of what brings me home to myself. It invites me back into that moment, again and again. This one moment in the ongoing visual story of my own life.

Since that moment yesterday I’ve been thinking about the fear, the expectation, the choice to go into the water and the wonder of getting caught up in the joy of it all, realizing how it was so different than I expected and that the hardest part really was that first step in the water. It made me think of folks before they join me for Be Your Own Beloved.

It made me think specifically of folks who email right after they have signed up for the class sharing how utterly terrified they are (and by the way that is exactly who I create this work for…not for folks already comfortable with themselves in photos). Those emails I’m getting these days as the next Be Your own Beloved class gets started in October.

I know this work can feel scary.

I know the idea of cultivating a compassionate conversation with ourselves is hella vulnerable.

I know that often we come to it with whole list of expectations of ourselves and how it’s going to go, often defined by our past experiences with photos.

And then it’s almost always those same people who feel that fear but do it anyways, who write me after often just a few prompts or the first week and it’s though they are standing in that big wave with me, shocked at how playfully they are jumping in the waves, prepared for the white caps where you kind of need to brace yourself for the vulnerability and standing in that energy that I experienced in the laughter last night…knowing that it was far different than what they’d feared and far more nourishing (and fun) than they could have imagined. 

Feeling closer to their true selves than they have in ages.

Sometimes it’s the ocean that brings us home. Sometimes it’s the camera.

And it’s always worth taking that first step into the wild unknown.

*

If you are interested in joining in for Be Your Own Beloved you can find out all the details here but also don’t hesitate to use the contact form to connect with me and ask any questions that are coming up. I’d love to hear from you.

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  • LeonSeptember 13, 2016 - 9:28 am

    This is such a beautiful, joy-filled story, Vivienne. And that photo is stunning. You already know how much I loved Be Your Own Beloved. I highly recommend it to anyone who feels drawn to it but is hesitating. Do it…you won’t be sorry. Love and hugs!ReplyCancel

Inviting in our Beginners Mind

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For 8 years now I’ve been going to the same dance class almost every Tuesday led by my wonderful teacher Jana. Each time she reminds us how the hardest part if often just showing up and that she’s so glad we are there. She also reminds us that in Nia (the kind of dance class it is) we use our beginners mind. We show up each time, not thinking we need to achieve perfection or even know what the next dance step is, even if we’ve done the routine before.

We show up with our beginners mind, meeting the moment and connecting with our body open to the sensations, the emotions, the wonder of the moment.

It takes the pressure off of our shoulders to get it right. Letting go of those expectations and just letting my body move has been a pivotal part of healing how I feel in my body.

If you’ve taken a class with me before, I’m sure you know exactly how this has all influenced both the way I take photos and teach about them. Every single time I pick up the camera I try to meet it with a beginners mind.

With curiosity. With wide open expectations.

I pretty rarely plan out a photo though I may have a starting point or general idea. But what happens in the process is all spontaneity, all exploring what the potential of the moment is and well, all magic.

Even 10 years into my own photo journey that’s how it feels every time I see the world through a camera. Like magic.

And that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to know the left brain information to learn the how and why about photography, but I try and approach that with a beginners mind too, with curiosity.

I wanted to share about this because before I got into photography and especially exploring self-portraiture as a tool for self-compassion. I thought photography was intimidating and overwhelming. I thought I had to know everything about my camera in order to take a great photo. I thought that it was my technical skills that would help me see myself with kindness through the camera. But I was wrong.

It was being willing to approach it with a beginners mind.

Being willing to approach ourselves with a beginners mind.

I credit that beginners mind with the fact that I’m still so smitten with seeing the world through the camera and imagine that I will feel that way the rest of my life. I also credit it with helping me heal how I see myself. Because when we allow ourselves to set down expectations of what our photo or ourselves in a photo ‘should’ look like, that’s where we truly get to meet ourselves and the world around us with the wonder that the camera so beautifully translates.

Over these past 5 years of teaching the online photography classes it is honestly the biggest roadblock I see people put in their own way. That pressure to know exactly what our photo will look like before we take it and then achieve that photo. It’s getting so caught up in our left brain that we block out our right brain wonder or don’t even give ourselves a chance to experiment with it.

This also relates to when we’re talking about our relationship to how we see our bodies in photos, doesn’t it. We probably all have a rock solid opinion of how we see ourselves, likely based on some outtakes of ourselves we’ve seen and old stories about ourselves. But that is kind of the opposite of using our beginners mind.

What if, for ourselves too, we met ourselves with the playfulness and curiosity that we would if we were seeing ourselves for the first time?

What if we were willing to begin again and again each time we find ourselves caught up in those old stories?

What if we were open to what lies beyond our pre-concieved notion of how we look in a self-portrait and were willing to take LOTS of photos (including outtakes) in the process of learning to se ourselves with compassion.

That’s what’s at the heart of this work at Be Your Own Beloved. It always has been even though I haven’t quite put it into words to share with you in this way before. It’s especially on my mind this week as I’m teaching the Beloved Beginnings class with an amazing community of folks.

The Beloved Beginnings class is always available as a self-paced class but if you’d like to join in on a community class, the 30 day class is always taught in community so you can experience the support of both myself and your amazing peers in this class. Come join the Be Your Own Beloved starting July 1st!

Both of these classes were created with folks who aren’t necessarily comfortable in front of the camera and are wanting to make space to explore selfies as a tool for self-compassion. And they all have this energy of playfulness and using our beginners mind at heart!

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