Essential Simplicity


Hello Julie,

I was touched by your remark in your last blog:
‘The obstacle of familiarity and labeling is a root of not being able to shoot a product with freshness….’
That’s exactly the point I’ve been wrestling with for the last month.

I was feeling so much resistence (hate..hate!) against ‘already seen’ Miksang images.
Even if I had a real ’yes’ flash while editing, I couldn’t be glad about it any more.
At a matter of fact I couldn’t see any more bicycles, glasses, mannequins (sorry Michael!!), cups of coffee, half legs, mac mouses and after Michaels ‘sink in the kitchen’ also my kitchen became a forbidden area!!

On the other hand I came back to myself in the images of other miksang photographers.
That made me feel less bad.
Then I asked if it is my my fear of losing myself, losing my authenticity?
And then a little bit later I asked myself.
Does real authenticity exist ?
Does pure authenticity in perception exist??

I know, we are not only individualist, but also social beings. We are influenced our whole lives by where we come from and what we have learned and experienced
conciously or unconciously.
So, perhaps it’s my ‘big ego’ that wants to be authentic.

And I decided, I cant’t release myself if I keep on fighting!
As long as I feel resistence and keep my eyes closed ,my heart and mind are closed too.
I’m fighting against myself.
So I try to say to myself…
Let it be as it is, don’t walk away, be quiet , stay where you are..
Perhaps that’s a way to go BEYOND…..

So there’s the rest of your sentence, Julie
‘As usual we need to get beyond this limiting view’
Is it that also what you meant to say?


Hello Margriet.

Thank you so much for your very thoughtful question.

Authenticity is not so much about expressing an experience that has no reference points to any other experience, but it is more that we express our experience without drawing upon reference points to interpret it. These reference points are our labels, our point of view. They are identical to what happens after you are tapped on the shoulder, you open your eyes wide, and just see. Then a split second later the labeling process kicks in. So while your attempts to know and be certain that you are not emulating the expressions of others or drawing upon perceptual clichés are based upon all good intentions of doing this practice whole heartedly, they involve the imposition of an external arbitrator whose job is to determine if our perception is an imitation or derivative from anything else. The observer is no other than our conceptual mind.

The obstacle of familiarly doesn’t mean that we don’t want to shoot what is familiar to us, it means that we don’t really look at our everyday world because we assume that it is not worthy of looking at due to it’s familiarity. Our habitual pattern is to believe that we have to go somewhere new and unfamiliar in order to have interesting perceptions. In your case, your observer is rejecting the familiar as subject matter because you think you are drawing upon a database of familiar subjects and images you have seen all of us shoot. This is reverse discrimination, but it is still discrimination. The problem is not that you are seeing things that have been shot before, many times, but that you are not seeing those things through fresh eyes. The issue is never with what is being perceived, but with the state of mind that is perceiving. Your reference point is kicking in really fast, almost as quickly as the perception is arising in your mind, and that can be truly annoying. You are experiencing the obstacle of ‘second thought’ and then many more thoughts about the second thought. The result is frustration.

You have been wrestling with this conundrum with the determination of a dedicated student. As with all contemplative arts, the process or path is the point, not your final realization about all of this. Because once you think you have realized something about your process, you solidify that and now you have a new guideline or reference point about whether you are doing a good job at this. This is still not an open mind.

Fortunately for all of us, the end result of this struggle is its abandonment. It is just too much mental work to figure out whether we’re having a perception that is new to us. We would all like to get back to the basic enjoyment of our world. There is a simpler way in to this, an approach not based upon the watcher judging what we do. The watcher splits us off from the moment and our experience, and is actually counter productive.

Go with how a perception makes you feel. Stick with the qualities of the flash. I would memorize them. You can say to yourself, ”am I shocked, disoriented, did the perception come out of the blue, is the experience buoyant and joyful?” Just go back and forth between the words, what they mean, and then check in with how you are feeling. In time when you recognize the familiarity of a perception, your appreciation of it will be there as well. And because you are confident and relaxed, you can let go on the spot of the back and forth, the self doubt, the second thought. But if you are unable to simply let go of all of it, this could be an excellent time to turn away from the perception, close your eyes, turn back, and then look again in a fresh way. This is just like ‘hitting the refresh button”. If when doing the refresh you can connect with the perception once again, then you may want to continue. At some point in your process you may decide to abandon the relationship, that you don’t feel motivated to actually seal the experience. Or you may photograph it. In the end, what does it matter?

Are you fooling yourself? How do you know? When the experience is flat and you are working hard at it, not feeling confident, then you are not seeing, you are looking too hard. That is a sign that you are busy observing and editing your version of your experience. Whether or not we are having a fresh perception is not a problem that we have to solve with our conceptual minds. It’s only a matter of being fully present. Coming back fully to the present moment, clearing our minds, is the antidote for the conceptual knot of second thoughts. All of the thoughts about our experience of our perception do not exist. They are just our thoughts. Let them go. Dissolve the layer of judgment and observer in your mind. Be patient, take your time, relax and enjoy.

The discipline of Miksang Training is quite simple. It is always simple. In the advanced courses it is even more simple. You do not have to be really smart to do it. You actually have to abandon your strategies of success.

Warm regards,

© Julie DuBose 2010
May not be reproduced without the written permission of the author