Put Your Camera (or Phone) Down and Experience Life

Taking photos at a Shinto fire ceremony in Kyoto. 

The next time you pull that camera or phone out of your pocket to take a picture or video. Don’t. Put it back.

Instead just look at what you wanted to take a picture of.

Experience it. Listen to what is going on. Smell it. Feel it. Be in the present.  Life is now. It is not later when you are looking at your photos on Facebook.

When you breathe your last breath and your life is flashing in front of your eyes, will you be thinking about the pictures that you took, or of the experiences you had and the people you loved?

Stop, Look and Listen

Life is about living. So live. Don’t worry about your next Instagram post. Just look at what is in front of you. Really look. Feel it. Breathe. Be alive.

Living here in Kyoto, which is a very popular travel destination, I often see hoards of camera toting tourists rushing past truly amazing cultural wonders so that they can snap the same photo that is sold as a postcard in a gift shop.

Or recently when I was traveling in the States, I went to a rock concert (for the first time in years) and was surprised to see so many people filming the entire concert with their phones. Wouldn’t it be better to enjoy the music now then watch it later with bad sound and image quality?

Is Taking Pictures Bad?

No, it is okay to take pictures. But do you really have to do it all of the time? With that advent of digital cameras and smart phones, it is so easy to take a photo or make a video. That does not mean that you should.

Just take a break for a while.

There is a time and place for everything. Moderation is the key. At the moment, it seems like many people are over indulging their cameras and smart phones. Just like with wine, one glass is fine. After that, it might become a problem.

Are You the Master or the Slave?

One of the great challenges of living in the modern world is our relationship to technology. An iPhone is an amazing Magic Brick. There are so many wonderful things that you can do with it.

But you still are a human. It is all too easy to search for happiness outside of ourselves. And it is easy to become addicted.

Take back control of technology in your life. Like anything else, it has its good and bad points. Be aware that taking pictures and videos all of the time is not necessarily good for your soul. It is more important to live your life than record it.

What is inside of you is what is really important. That deep, inner place that is your essence. To feed that, sit down for a bit and really look at that vista of the Grand Canyon, or enjoy the laughing of small child. Do this and you will feel the awe and wonder of being alive.

Of course, it can be nice to share special moments. But somethings it is better not to.


I plead guilty to being a photographer. I worked for several years as a full-time photojournalist back in a time when there was this stuff called film. And since then I have worked as a photographer in varying degrees ever since.

One of the reasons I quit my job at the newspaper was that I wanted to live my own life rather than record the life of others. I thought I should share that sentiment with you here today.

PS: If you do come to Kyoto (it is a wonderful city) please don't chase after geisha to snap their photo. The are simply people walking to work. The Golden Rule works well: treat other people how you would like to be treated. You wouldn't want a mob of tourists hounding you like paparazzi every time you went to work. 

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Paul Crouse

Paul Crouse is a spiritual teacher and advisor, life coach, writer, speaker and photographer based in Kyoto, Japan. He helps people who consciously want to change their lives for the better. He helps people build a strong inner foundation, while helping them to clarify and achieve their goals. He works with people worldwide via video calling or face-to-face in Kyoto. He also leads workshops and seminars, both online and in person, for organizations and companies.