Seeing grasses as forest and ants as loveable steeds comes naturally to my generation.
That is, it’s natural to those of us who grew up loving “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids!” the 1989 Disney movie in which two teens and their little siblings get shrunk to the size of bugs. It’s Rick Moranis being adorable and it’s special effects wowing far before CGI was a thing… plus top-notch family dramedy about reconciliation and understanding each other better.
As an added bonus, those of us near Disney World in Florida got to live it, too. Until 2016, the park had a movie-themed playset, where you could ride the ant, climb in a netting spider web, and slide down roll of film (see why they replaced it?). Here’s me (left), on an ant in 1992 at age 13:
It was one of the fabulous features of Disney of that era: to take you out of your humdrum mindset and shake it up a little. Things are different when you are small. Puddles are places to drown, an Oreo is valid nourishment for a crowd. The film also taught me that French kissing is perplexing and that you should look twice at your cereal before you eat it. People you love could be in there, after all!
And so I should have been prepared for years later, in tenth grade English, when the teacher rocked my world with the phrase “your perspective is your reality.” He was probably discussing Shakespeare at the time, not Rick Moranis, but the idea is nonetheless crucial either way: you are seeing the world through the lens of your own eyes, and that sight is limited in many ways – and by no means the same as others’.
That phrase stuck with me through college. As I read more (and got into photography concepts), I realized that “your focus is your reality” might just as well be layered on top. After all, in our field of vision (both literal and in our mindscape), we can perceive many things but ignore most of them in favor of what we think is important.
Now as I approach my 40thbirthday and my fifth decade on planet Earth, I think there’s more to it still. To keep in the photography metaphor, you might say that “your depth of field is your perspective.”
Depth of field is basically how much of your image is in focus. It is the distance between closest and furthest objects – so a shallow depth of field means only foreground objects are in focus with the background blurred. A wide depth of field means all objects are more or less sharp.
We like portraits to have shallow depth of field because that’s how we see people we love – that someone is our focus and we like the image to remind of us how they were or are often the center of our world. A shallow depth of field makes something not only framed, not only the focus, it makes that something rich and profound. In the case of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, a shallow depth is used to show how the grass forms a nearly-impenetrable forest for our heroes:
Then again, there are times we need a wide depth of field. Landscapes benefit from all elements in a photo being more or less sharp, as do exterior shots of buildings. A wide depth of field invites you in, it creates a window into a world you aren’t in. In the movie, a wide depth is used to show the whole yard at once, including Rick Moranis’ vain attempts to find the kids there:
In our mind’s eye, I think we can have shallow and wide depths of field, as well. Our minds can function as a telephoto lens, sliding out and zooming in for shallow depth and sliding in and back out for wide. And that’s your reality while you are in it.
If you in shallow depth mode, you are hyper focused on one thing – a person perhaps, or a task, or an idea. But it might be hard to see the forest for the trees. You might say that at the beginning, Rick Moranis was too focused on his work to figure out his marriage and his kids.
In wide depth mode, you are taking more in, you are open to absorbing new people, tasks, and ideas. But it might be hard to see the trees for the forest. It’s a tricky balance – if he’d been more distracted, Rick Moranis might not have achieved success with the shrinking machine.
What mode are you in right now? Does your mind lens tend to get stuck one way or the other? Do you slide it back and forth hoping to get your images in focus, all the while not quite sure what it is you are seeing? Do you never quite process it into a picture that makes sense?
Do you long for the balance of the family at the end, gathered around a gigantic turkey dinner?
Here, perhaps, is where yoga and meditation can come in to bring some balance. In fact, when in a yoga/meditative mindset, I’d say you aren’t in wide or shallow depth of field at all. In fact, your mind isn’t a lens at all. It’s a simple pin hole camera, which uses a very tiny hole as an aperture to let light in. Without the messiness of adjusting settings, our world is a bit simpler. It’s framed and in focus, so maybe we can understand it more when we try to add depth of field later on after yoga.
Or maybe it’s the shrinking machine in the movie, setting aside our normal perspective for a second to let us see things in a new way. After the adventure, Rick Moranis can appreciate his family more and the kids are bonded more closely together. Sometimes you have to get out of your mind-set to get back into it, I think.
To remember all this, we can get into Plough Pose. It’s like a Shoulder Stand, with your weight balanced on your shoulders, but you gently dip your legs towards your face (and onto the floor, if you are flexible enough.) You see your body differently that way, upside down and around, and you might just see everything else differently too.