Mel Sauerbeck, a professional photographer now residing in Fairfield, Iowa, reveals how he discovered Transcendental Meditation and the art of sharing the beauty of life.
Stumbling upon the fullness of being
The very day I turned 18 I moved out of my dad’s place and took the first step toward independence.
Of course this meant I had to support myself too so, to make ends meet, I worked 50-60 hours a week at a large 24 hour supermarket.
Like most teenagers I was still wondering what I would do with my life, thought maybe college had the answers. I started taking a few classes at the local community college, just to see to see how it felt. But college at that time in my life was way too much like high school (and I was still in my last year of high school too).
My life was packed, yet nothing seemed real, nothing seemed to connect. It was all so uninteresting in every way I could imagine and I knew something was missing.
During breaks at school, while everyone else was out sneaking a smoke, I would sit quietly in the hallway and, eyes closed, slip into my quiet self. Something in me was searching for a deeper truth, for understanding.
As it happened, one day I heard about this lecture about something called TM, Transcendental Meditation. Deep inside me a light of recognition burned brightly, wasn’t this what the Beatles had done! Within days I had learned to meditate and almost over night everything started to make sense and, most importantly, everything I saw now seemed so much more interesting, more beautiful. Where had all this fullness been hiding!
At work, during breaks, I would make it a point to meditate, and I had found a secluded place deep in the stock room, about 20 feet deep down into these huge stacks of tissue boxes.
One day my boss was taking a count of the stock and walking across the top of the stacks of boxes, saw me at the bottom of this huge stack. He almost had a heart attack! He thought I had fallen and was dead! He “suggested” that maybe from now on, I could find some other place to meditate.
The light and the lens
During this time I also visited the department store next door, where I found myself drawn to the camera department.
There was this Yashica rangefinder camera that caught my eye, I kept coming back to check it out, eventually, saving enough to buy it. Between meditation and photography, my whole experience of the life was rapidly changing.
You see, I was always a very shy kid, I was never comfortable approaching strangers or engaging in conversation with any sizable group, even with friends. But with meditation and camera in hand I became a little more adventurous, more curious how the world looked through the lens.
One clear sunny day I took my camera with me on a long drive and I found myself at a beach.
I meditated in my car and then went out along the beach to take some pictures. Snapping pictures here and there of scenic things, drift wood, tidal pools, whatever I found interesting, when I saw a couple packing up, getting ready to leave. The young woman was attractive, strong, interesting and I suddenly thought she would make a great subject.
Without even thinking about it I walked up to them and asked if it would be alright if I took her photo. Her boyfriend kinda gave me a strange look. He was a much bigger guy than myself and I had surprised him, and myself, with being so bold. However, the young woman was happy that I had been nice enough to ask and agreed to let me take her photo. So just there on the grassy edge of the beach I took a few shots, with her boyfriend keeping a watchful eye.
When I got the photos back from the film lab I showed the prints to some of the people I worked with and everyone commented on how great they were. This little encouragement was exactly the nudge I needed and the idea grew that maybe I could make something of photography.
By meditating, I was able to transcend the mundane, find my inner Bliss and, through photography, I explored an ever more amazing, beautiful world around me!
As a teen in a small town I never imagined that I would one day photograph presidents in their palace, hang with celebrities, photograph iconic top models, drink chai in the desert with nomads, climb ancient temple stairs to catch the first pre-dawn light-infused air, meet and be the selected photographer at one of George Harrison’s last concerts… or, sit at the feet of the enlightened, listening to the mechanics of how creation unfolds!
All that was required was to dive deep within and then get out of the way of the universe giving me more that I could have ever imagined!!!
P.S. I loaned that first Yashica camera to a friend for his trip to Europe and, sadly, it was stolen from his car. But I replaced it with my first SLR camera and began doing whatever I could to learn, on my own, how to create better photographs. Poring through every photo magazine I could find, trying the things they talked about and learning from my many mistakes. Eventually, I seemed to figure a few things out. But the joy of learning has never stopped, and along the way, I have been blessed to uncover so much beauty in life.
To see more inspirational photos by Mel Sauerbeck, please visit his online gallery!
The article was originally posted on Mel’s website