A Journey of Beauty, and Work, Guided by Spirit
by Eric Hellman
I have always loved nature. However, I’ve never been a photographer of it – until one day, six summers ago, when an intuition prompted me to buy a pocket-sized digital camera.
Since then, I have taken this camera with me almost everywhere. While walking or cycling around the neighbourhood. On trips across town, and on vacations. You never know where beauty will raise its head and say “Hello.” But when it does, I like to take its picture. And I now take between 5-and-7,000 of them a year.
For me, beauty and love are to be shared. That’s why I was an early Tablet/iPad user, so I could show my pictures to those who wanted to see them. I also began creating what I call photo-music shows – putting these pictures to music – as my annual Christmas/New Year’s gift for family and friends.
Many times during the past six years, as people have seen my photography, they’ve suggested I make ‘a business’ out of it. And to each person I would usually say: “I’m open to the idea. It may happen. But first and foremost, I want to stay with the ‘love’ of this. I don’t want it to be about ‘money or business first’.”
Prompted to Go Further
In March this year, I visited some cousins at a local seniors’ residence. While there, an intuition came to me of showing my most recent photo-music show to residents. Called Progressions, it’s a 17-minute look at the beauty of nature I’ve seen in Vancouver, and I thought people might enjoy seeing it.
Feeling it was the ‘right thing’ to do, I contacted the building’s Activities Coordinator, told her about the show, and invited her to watch it online. She liked it and arranged for me to show it there in April. And to my delight, people enjoyed it. She also received good feedback. So several days later, she posed a simple little question. “Do you have anything for Canada 150?” she asked. (For those outside of Canada, our country’s 150th birthday is this year.)
“No,” I said, a bit regretfully. But the idea didn’t end there.
Over the next few days, I kept having thoughts like: “How can I not do something? I love this country. I’ve lived in five major cities and travelled to nine provinces. How can I not do something on Canada???” The idea just kept coming up inside, and it again felt right. So several days later, I decided to jump. I called her up, said “I’ll do it!”, and we set a date in late July for its first showing.
An Incredible Journey
From the start, I knew that I could not create this show from my own photography. To do justice to a land so vast, I would need to draw upon pictures taken by people across the country. So I turned to the Internet; specifically, to photos which others had already given permission to use, even for commercial purposes. (I received an honorarium for my first show, so I knew money would in some way be involved down the line.) I also started searching for Canadian music which would represent every region of the country. And with that began an incredible journey.
Over the past four months, I have travelled across Canada virtually: from the most eastern point (in Newfoundland) to the most southern point (in Ontario); from the most northern point (on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic), to the most western point of the country. (Mystery question: What is the most western point of Canada?) I estimate very roughly that I’ve travelled over 24,000 miles (38,000 km) virtually, and looked at over 20,000 photos.
It has been a compelling experience, and an intense one. Not realizing the size of the project I’d decided upon, I agreed with not just one, but two, seniors residences to ‘show the show’ near the end of July. And wanting to keep those commitments, I had to compress all of my work – both music and photo selection – into under 15 weeks.
More than just a ‘photography’ project, however, it was also a deeply practical application of “spirit at work.” Let me share why...
Staying with Spirit
Early on, I began getting ‘inner impressions’ of what the show might look and sound like. For example, images came to mind of approaching the east coast of Newfoundland, by air, from over the Atlantic. I also had a sense of an ethereal kind of music that might go along with that. Listening to a CD several days later, I heard that type of music and realized it was just what I was looking for. On another occasion, while watching a movie on TV, I heard an old French Canadian folk song and began humming it over the next few days. It too became a part of the show.
A somewhat different thing happened with the photos. Initially, I was looking to create a show about the beauty of nature. But rather quickly I found myself dissatisfied with just looking for ‘beauty.’ My inner wisdom told me that I needed to connect with the show in a deeper way; to bring more of what I love and where I’ve travelled into it. I did, and re-found my love for what I was doing. The stories in the music then led me to bring in more photos of people as well. I wasn’t just guiding this project; it was guiding me.
Because of my commitment to keep this work centred in “love,” I made another key decision in the first couple of weeks: this project would be “a hymn to love and joy.” I wanted these feelings to be my ‘north star’ along the way, so that when temptations to let business or the shadow side of work take over, I would stay on course. And believe me, they did.
The further I got into it, the ‘largeness’ of what I’d taken on became evident. And with that came fears. like: “Where will I find the right music, the right photos? How can I possibly cover this whole country - yet create a show short enough for a seniors audience to watch? Will it be finished on time? And will people like it and want to see it?”
The inner temptresses of worry, self-pressure, “work harder” and fear of failure or rejection were with me daily. Sometimes they were like mosquitoes on the Prairies, small but biting at me whenever they got the chance. Other times, they were like big seas with rolling waves, swamping my thoughts and emotions as if I were a toothpick on the ocean. Yet each time, I kept coming back to Spirit – and the North Star I had set for myself. The joy of the music I was hearing. The beauty of the places I was seeing. The inner listening to what I needed to do next. And the trust, that I was not doing this project ‘by myself.’
So What Happened?
This has been one of the most intense work projects of my life. And it’s been like a test of all my spirit/work training and practice.
Since May, I put most other projects aside and worked on this one almost every day. The more work I did, the more I knew I needed to keep going. And the closer I got to my deadline, the more my ego-side ramped up the pressure. Yet each time, I would re-find myself... my purpose... my intention... and come back to my commitment to making this about love and joy.
I also still took care of myself throughout: eating, taking regular walks and bike rides, getting enough sleep, helping family and friends, completing other work projects where needed, and always doing my morning healing/spiritual practice.
On July 17th and July 24th, I showed it for the first two times at seniors residences. It was actually not yet fully finished; it didn’t have titles and photo credits on all the slides. Initially that thought really bothered me. Yet I came to accept that it wasn’t perfect, but was ready enough to be shown. And the reaction was still positive.
I was then asked if I would show it publicly, as one of the ‘headliners’ at a Seniors Expo in West Vancouver on Sept. 13th. The show DID need to be finished for this event, so I took a few days off and then kept working. At 3:00 a.m. that morning, I put the finishing touches on it. And at 11:00 a.m., after a brief introduction, I pressed “Play Slideshow” – and a 50-minute show called “Canada: From Sea to Sea to Sea” began.
In spite of the fact that a computer problem interrupted the show mid-way through, and a quarter of the 600 pictures did not even appear (the Apple computer it was playing on didn’t translate my Windows PowerPoint fully), people stayed through to the end. The show was a hit. And I’ve been invited back twice this Fall to show it to more people at the West Vancouver Seniors Centre.
Also important to “spirit and work” was that I have been paid each time it has been shown.
And Now What?
The work of creating this show is mostly done. Now the communicating and marketing of it to others begins. My inner direction has been to show it to seniors groups, residences and homes across the Greater Vancouver during the next year – along with my other photo music shows as well. And I’m sure that will be the subject of another article, down the road.
However, what stands out for me right now are five things:
a) The technology we have available today - from Google Maps, Street & Satellite view to photo sharing sites - is truly incredible. So, too, is the generosity of so many people for sharing their photos online for others to use.
b) Listening to my intuition, about sharing something I love (my 'photo shows'), has led me to add a whole new ‘service line’ to my business.
c) Creating such a large show, in under four months, has been a significant accomplishment.
d) Despite all the pressures while doing it, I still love it. This is the energy that fills me up as I talk about it. And I am grateful for this.
e) It has been a successful test or demonstration of my ‘spirit at work’ practice.
I’ve seen this 'work' succeed, in very practical ways, under quite intense conditions. And I know that I could not have done it – or wanted to – without the help of that greater Self and Source of which we are a part.
Call it what you will... God, Spirit, the Christ... the Way, the Tao, the Universe, or even the Big Love... but IT has been there to help and guide me at every step of the way.
Eric Hellman is the Director of the Centre for Spirituality at Work, and a life, work and change coach.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) The Website for my new photo-music shows is here.
2) The Canada show is described here.
3) The show is not yet online, but a four minute ‘sample’ can be found here.
4) The Progressions show can be seen here.
Finally, the Answer to the mystery question: What is the most western point of Canada?
Mount Saint Elias, on the border of the Yukon Territory and Alaska.
Much joy and success in your work!