“When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.'” Exodus 16:15
Wandering in a desolate wilderness, the Israelites discovered a bizarre nourishment. It was a white seed similar to coriander, which they used to make flour. Mysteriously it appeared each morning, but no one new what it was. So it became known as “manna”, or “What is it?” They believed it to be nourishment from the divine to sustain them on their journey.
I’ve been thinking about other forms of “manna” that we might experience today. An unfamiliar person or experience or place or object gives us a boost for our journey, and we wonder, “Who was that masked man?” We are nourished even though we don’t know who or what it is. Sometimes the mystery is precisely what feeds us.
Being surprised and fulfilled by beauty doesn’t only come by accident. We can intentionally seek it out. One way is through a practice I call “Manna Photography”. I take snapshots that obscure the subject or compose the shot in such an unusual way that the image evokes a sense of wonder. Other times I am captivated by something unexpected or otherworldly that stops me in my tracks with amazement, and I capture that experience in a picture. The photo above is an example. What do you think it is? (See below for the answer.) If you look at it long enough, do you feel yourself opening to life’s marvelous mysteries and possibilities? Is your sense of wonder stoked?
Manna Photography is just one of many ways to practice “mindful photography”. Through the lens of a camera, we can observe and take informal snapshots at home, at work, in nature, around the neighborhood, in fact, anywhere we go. Reflecting on the sense of aliveness or connection that arises while taking and reviewing the photos can open us to a more mindful way of experiencing the world around us, whether or not we have a camera in hand.
Almost every experience can nourish, enthrall, evolve, and liberate. Whether or not it does depends on the quality of our attention. Even the tiniest wilderness creature can inspire awe, whether or not we know its name.
P.S. Please join us for a Mindful Photography course in June, starting Monday, June 3. For more information and to register, click here.
P.P.S. The photo is of a Red Velvet Mite (of the Trombidiidae family), which I saw in Big Bend National Park. Except for a few hours a year, it lives underground and only comes top side after a heavy rain.