Profile of Reverence: Kim Manley Ort

April 1, 2013

  • Photography is a practice that teaches me how to be. When I experience a connection with something just as it is, it becomes more than a subject. It reveals something universal that resonates deep inside. It is magical. It changes me and the way I see. It opens me up just a little bit more to the world and how everything (including me) belongs.  ~  Kim Manley Ort

As a contemplative photographer, writer, and lover of life, Kim Manley Ort is serving up a beautiful and reverent vision of the world. The practice of attention and living a contemplative life are her life’s work. I believe that practicing attention or conscious presence is the critical challenge of our times.

Flora Courtois writes, “True attention is rare and totally sacrificial. It demands that we throw away everything we have been or hope to be, to face each moment naked of identity, open to whatever comes and bereft of human guidance . . . . Another name for such full attention is love.”

What has your attention these days? What is calling out for your attention–our attention? What would it look like to be fully attentive–to bring a high quality of presence to life, others, ourselves, the Earth?

I invite you to pause and savor the contemplative wisdom of Kim’s thoughts about reverence and a small sampling of her photography. I am grateful for Kim’s deliberate focus on seeing and attention. We are all the better for it.

What are your thoughts on reverence as it pertains to the world today?

I believe that at the root of many of the world’s problems today is the illusion of separation. There is a perceived separation between humans and nature as well as between humans and other humans.

Reverence is one way to dissolve that perceived separation. 

Reverence holds all things and beings (including ourselves) with respect. Everything and everyone is worthy of being here and has a unique contribution to make.

If we approach everything and everyone as worthy of respect, having a right to be here and having something to teach, we will realize how deeply connected and interdependent we all are. We will see how our actions affect others, and how others’ actions affect us.

To approach the natural world with reverence would mean that we would be more conscious of the fruits of our actions – how they affect the world we live in.

We would not be blowing up mountains for coal, or overfishing, or destroying the soil.

When we practice eating our food with reverence, we are mindful of where it came from – all of the people and resources it took to get it to our table. We realize how dependent we are on others for the food we eat. We also feel how the quality of our food affects our body and how this in turn affects how we approach others.

To approach each other with reverence means that we listen to everyone we meet with a desire to understand them. We approach conflict with a view of what’s best for all, not just ourselves.

What are one or two ways that you practice reverence regularly?

Firstly, I try to practice reverence towards myself, taking the time I need to replenish and know myself better. I do this through meditative sitting or reading or walking. When I am able to do this, my actions seem to come from a place that not only serves me but others as well. When I am true to myself, I inspire others to do the same.

Through the practice of photography, I connect with the world, seeing it as it is, without filters and judgments. The camera helps me to experience and appreciate a world filled with wonders.

Here is an example. My husband and I were staying in a cabin in Brown County, Indiana. We awoke in the morning to fog and this field filled with cobwebs and dew. By the time the sun burned off the fog, the cobwebs were no longer there, or at least not visible. It was truly a magical moment. I didn’t have to photograph this moment for it to have an impact, but I’m glad I did. It always serves as a reminder to be in wonder.

What advice can you give my humble readers for becoming more reverent?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that everyone should take up photography! But seriously, any kind of art (painting, drawing, writing, etc.) is wonderful for teaching us reverence.

Taking time for silence and paying attention to what’s around you – whether in a room, outside taking a walk, or meditating – is an important practice to cultivate.

Silence teaches reverence. Silence also helps us be more aware of our own actions and reactions, defenses, judgments and opinions.

Kim Manley Ort is a contemplative photographer who loves her life. She gets great pleasure in seeing things with reverence and helping others to do the same. Her workshops in seeing are both online and in person.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing. Leave a comment on any blog post in the month of April and be eligible to win a Despacho Blessing Bundle personally handcrafted by me. One winner will be randomly selected and announced in May.

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