THE BLOG

How Contemplative Photography Will Change Your Life by Changing How You See

03/05/2014 03:57 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2014

Sometimes in our lives we have to stop and take stock. We feel that we have gotten off-track, that we are just going through the motions. We are caught up in a big swirling web that seems to have a life of its own, holding us firmly within its grip. Our life feels like a struggle to be seen and heard, to get the most we can out of our lives.

When we find ourselves feeling this way, we may start to contemplate our lives, in the brief moments we aren't on our cell phones, surfing the Internet, or texting, or tweeting. What do we really know about ourselves?

The way we see ourselves and our world is held together by the way we sort our experience. We constantly evaluate everything we see and hear based on what we think we know about it already. That way, we identify what is positive, negative, irrelevant or uninteresting. Sound familiar?

It's like we are putting on layers and layers of clothing. Each layer is a point of view about something. What is good to eat? Who do I want to associate with? Who has something I want? How can I measure up? And what is it I'm measuring up to? Some days we feel we can hardly move because the burden of wearing all these layers is so immense. How can we get some fresh air and freedom from the overlays of judgment, value, memory, and associations that limit how and what we experience?

Somewhere deep inside ourselves we know that there is a way to connect with the simplicity of being a human being on this planet in this time. We can get down to the basic, unaligned truth of our experience. This is the challenge for us, to open ourselves to fresh experience in the midst of constant distraction.

How to begin? A complicated solution to a complicated issue is like solving a problem with the same mind that created it. So we have to apply a different mind to the question of 'who are we really?' In our heart of hearts, who are we way down deep? How do we connect with that and start to have living experience from the way down deep?

Fresh Seeing as the Way to Fresh Living

I have found that if I can pay attention to my senses, and my experience of them, that I can begin to recognize the genuine experiences I have as I respond to things that happen to me. I can start to see the patterns of how I think about what I am experiencing, and how my thoughts take me outside of my experience. To evaluate and categorize my experience I have to observe it, and as I observe it I am no longer inside of it.

I have passion for seeing and expressing my experience of seeing through my photographic images. I have trained myself to pay attention and stay open and available to see no matter what. There is so much that I don't see when I'm distracted and preoccupied -- a world that is amazingly vivid, unexpectedly gentle and often surprising, elegant, and jarring. There is an infinite range of possibility of what I can see when my mind and eye come together in a moment of direct seeing.

We see, and then we have thoughts about what we see. That's how our minds are. I choose not to put my focus on the thoughts that come up about what I see, but instead to simply rest my mind in the experience of seeing, to take it in fully. I resist the impulse to jump to something else.

I can do this because I don't care what I think about what I am seeing. As soon as I fix on a thought about what I am seeing, the experience becomes the memory of the experience. It becomes fresh frozen. The freshness is gone.

Fresh is good, it is really alive. I choose to express fresh, because that really aligns me with the juice, the electrical voltage of living, not the idea of what living is. My images don't express a point of view or idea about what I have seen. They are expressions of living experience, and the living quality doesn't diminish by being photographed. It's locked into the image like a magic prism that radiates when you see it with an open mind. The open mind is the key to the magic moment. 2014-02-28-MomsHair.jpg

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Is this good? I can tell you, it is wonderful. And it is important because it is simple, and grounded, and inspiring. It can make us feel happy to be alive on this planet. We can all see and photograph in this way, all of us, even those of us who don't know anything about photography or cameras. All we need is an eye, a mind, and a heart, and the desire to connect with our world visually, to see it as it manifests to us, as it is. Being present in this way invites the full dimensionality of our experience to unfold.
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I have written a book called Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind, and Heart. It describes how we can use our sense of sight to wake us up to our world and our cameras to express our experience of seeing in this new way. If you want to learn how do this, visit our website at The Miksang Institute for Contemplative Photography.

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