How the Natural World shaped me as a Filmmaker
I’ve had a love of nature and photography since I can remember. My first memories were on our farm, seeing dramatic, Norwest sunsets against the Southern Alps mountains. I’ve never managed to see sunsets like these anywhere else. They occurred during summer and seemed to turn the whole sky multitudes of orange and red.
My other first memories include my parents developing photos in their self-built darkroom. I remember being in awe, looking at all the different images that were drying.
Growing up on a farm installed an appreciation for open, calm spaces and the feeling, of peace and clarity that arise when one spends time in natural areas.
I remember all through my twenties. As I took my love for photography and turned it into my career as a professional cinematographer, I would always crave returning to nature and calm spaces.
After spending a decade working away on commercial projects for major brands and labels, I seemed to forget about these calm natural spaces.
No wonder I slowly became to feel more stress and unhappiness. I was working on great projects on the one hand; on the other, my inner world was one of anxiety.
I decided to return to New Zealand to study Natural History Filmmaking, an internationally renowned Post-Graduate course taught at the University of Otago.
As I moved back to Dunedin, my love for nature and open spaces began to rekindle. Dunedin is a beautiful small city built around rolling hills, the Otago peninsular, and the central Otago planes’ open spaces.
On my weekends I would take adventures to different places, always with my camera. After spending a short time in nature, I became curious about why I would feel so easily refreshed and happy.
Yet, when I went back to my daily life, I would notice feelings of stress and anxiety under the surface. I remember thinking to myself — “there must be an easy way to experience all the good things that I experience in nature so easily, even in my daily life!”
I had heard about mindfulness, so I set myself a 30-day challenge to practice, yet after a week or so, I remember finding myself becoming almost as stressed trying to remember to practice. I realised that there were some benefits, yet overall, it didn’t feel anything like natural happiness and calm I experienced in green places.
I happened to read an article where a wellness expert was talking about benefits that she and her clients had received from a practice called ‘Open Heart Meditation’ — by Irmansyah Effendi. I looked up open heart mediation and managed to download the recording. I set myself another 30-day challenge to listen to Irmansyah Effendi’s Open Heart meditation.
Even after the first day of listening to it, I knew that this was something special. I didn’t quite know why, but intuitively, I felt it was because it involved the heart, and was about feeling, rathered than trying to cultivate something or learn another practice.
I realised that this natural feeling from the heart was what I had already experienced many times while out in nature, or when I witnessed something profoundly beautiful. I understood this was also a feeling, and it comes from the heart, not necessarily the brain.
After trying this for 30 days, I was pleasantly surprised that I seemed to carry around a sense of calm, happiness, and peace even during daily activities. Even my friends were asking me what I was doing, saying how much happier I looked.
Looking back, I believe it was due to my appreciation of nature, that I could appreciate the benefits that were on offer with ‘Open Heat Meditation.”
Since then, I’ve concluded that this meditation by Irmansyah Effendi, really reminds us that the sense of happiness, calmness and peace we all search for on some level, can already be found and enjoyed naturally, from within the heart.
I now enjoy bringing this sense of natural calmness and happiness into all the videos I make.
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#happiness #life experience #documentary