Letting Go In Miksang

The following is a conversation between Julie and a student: 

Hi Julie,

I noticed that very few people seem to be asking questions related to practice on your blog. I am not sure why this is so, as I know you are more than willing to share your thoughts on a variety of topics. But regardless, I thought I would ask you about an experience that seems to occur in my practice somewhat often.

I am on vacation in Pittsburgh right now, and went on a shoot this morning after a peaceful meditation session earlier on. As I walked out into the city, I felt as though the peace and calm I had been experiencing should continue into my Miksang practice. However, the speed and bustle of the streets were very distracting and I found it very difficult to maintain that sense of clarity and relaxation. My mind seemed to jump from one place to the next, and I found it really hard to relax. Then I remembered what Michael said about walking slowly, but not too mindfully. That helped for a little moment of clarity, and I was able to see more clearly. I seem to really struggle with this question of how to rest my mind. How do I rest without becoming stagnant? How do I keep momentum without rushing past my perceptions but instead, allow them to emerge and exist on their own? Maybe you could share some thoughts on this anxiety that seems to be such a problem at times.

(Two Weeks later) Julie, in the time since I sent you this message things seem to be going better for me. I find that I can be more relaxed and present sometimes when I am not trying too hard. It helps to remember that there is no “Miksang Police” that are watching around the corner to make sure I am being genuine or authentic. No one cares if I captured that last perception that I thought was so important and is weighing on me. In fact, letting that one go and opening again to what’s next can be the best part of the practice.

Peace, Cody

Hi Cody. I know it’s been long enough since your first email that you have come to some good insights on your own. You brought up letting go of some of your projections about your experience, and I thought it might be helpful to talk about letting go as the way to work with whatever comes up for us when we are out shooting or even whenever we feel a sense of struggle with what we want and what is happening. We can hold on to our thoughts about what we wish or want, or we can let them go. We can be conflicted about our experience or let go of our point of view. This is always our choice. When we do let go, we enter into an open situation, full of possibility. This is where fresh, unfiltered visual perception arises.

The Miksang Journey as a whole could be described by saying that in each step of the way we are developing the ability to let go of whatever is coming between us and our ability to perceive in an open, direct way.

Gradually as we work with our Miksang discipline, our understanding and awareness of what comes up in our minds as we attempt to stay still and steady becomes more refined and precise. This is the result of our assignments and discussion in classes, as we look at our process of discernment and where we stray or stay in the continuity of the original flash of perception. As we become able to be still long enough to actually notice when the labeling is happening or the thoughts crank up, we can recognize and let go of them in that moment of recognition. This is the pith of the Miksang practice, letting go of our habitual patterns and tendencies as we make our way through each stage of the journey.

This letting go is the active intention, the active principle, which allows us to open out and to be still so that we can perceive more deeply. Without letting go we can’t be still, because even if we want to stand there and look at our perception, our minds are still producing thoughts, still perceiving, still thinking about what has been perceived, still deciding whether it is good bad, ugly, whatever. Through our intention to see, we turn our awareness outwards, we make ourselves available. Then our intention to let go of what stands between us and seeing is activated. We let the thoughts come and go without disturbing our equanimity. The intention to let go is the basis of the effort in this practice. It keeps us rooted in an open, fully present state of mind. We let go into right now.

Letting go is the doorway to perception. It strengthens our sense of stillness and stability. We let go, we open, and then we receive. This is how the whole thing works. It is the ground, the path, and the fruition of this practice. This is what we are always developing throughout our Miksang Journey.

Lately I have been watching some really great letting go happening by students in various courses. In Opening the Good Eye, I have seen them letting go of their ideas of what they are looking at, their impulse to want to improve upon what they are seeing, their attachment to the product of their labors. This is a lot of letting go— it’s the first big bite of the Miksang pie. First we notice what we are doing to distract us from our perception, and then, as we develop the ability to notice more, we become more still and able to see more of our world. It takes effort and motivation every day of our Miksang practice to continually come back to these first lessons so that our practice doesn’t become a new way to hold onto what we have accomplished, a subtle expression of a new database of acceptable Miksang perceptions. Those of you who have been doing this practice for a long time know what I mean. What we learn in this first Level is the basis of everything that we work on in subsequent courses. As we go along, it is always helpful to hit the refresh button in our practice by coming back to the basic orientation presented in our first Miksang course.

It takes the wisdom of experience and some humor about ourselves to realize that the fundamental genuineness of direct visual perception that we have worked so hard to fully manifest and express in our practice and images was fully presented to us at the beginning of our journey, in our first introduction to Miksang practice. The first course is presented simply, and yet it is not something to get through as quickly as possible to move onto more “advanced” courses. This is why Michael and I feel that the first Miksang course is so crucial, so profound, and why we want our Miksang Level One instructors to have a good deal of experience practicing Miksang and incorporating the discipline of direct perception into their beings before they teach. To manifest the importance of letting go of their own habitual tendencies and ideas and preferences about what they see, they must demonstrate a deep allegiance to freshness in their shooting. To transmit the importance of having a still mind, they need to manifest the qualities of a still mind. They must have gentleness, openness, and confidence.

And Cody, how do we have a still mind when we are distracted, restless, and ill at ease? Give the whole thing some room to aerate, to breathe. Feel your basic being, standing there, feeling the ground, the sky above, the air around your body. Relax, let your mind open out into the space around you. Gently work with yourself to let go, to expand your awareness into your environment. Remind yourself why you are out shooting with your camera.

Why are we willing to let go, to be so bold, and to explore beyond our zone of comfort? As you realized for yourself, it is because we have found that our strategies are only good so far. At some point along the way, as we are trying to do what we think is being asked of us, what we feel we must do, we realize that the struggle is not actually going to solve the underlying situation. It’s not going to solve the fundamental issue of not fully participating in our world. It is just not going to do it. At some point it’s choice-less. We just let go. In that moment of our journey on this path, the Miksang practice of seeing and connecting, letting go, is where the opening occurs, where real perception and real meeting takes place.

This is where we experience the sense of poignancy about our lives, that we try so hard, we all try so hard, we all try so hard to be good, and we all try so hard not to experience more suffering. We always try to make ourselves feel better. At some point, maybe it is the moment we die, who knows, or maybe it’s the moment we realize that all of our strategies are really not accomplishing what we want them to fundamentally— we give up, we surrender and we let go. And when we do, there is something else there. There is tenderness, an open-heart quality. Just a sense of – “I’m here. I’m just here. I’m here. Someone, some thing, will you play with me? Will you come be with my tender heart? Will you love me?”

That is the longing, the basic longing that we all experience, and that has all come about because we actually let go. It doesn’t matter what we let go of, we could talk about it, we could write books, what are we letting go of? Letting go is a primal situation. It’s really where we cross the border between what we want, and how we’ve lived, and who we are. We cross the border into another unknown and undefined region where anything is possible and we don’t know. And this is where our actual wisdom starts to shine. It shines through and reaffirms our fundamental sense of well-being. It is good to be a human, here on this earth, right now in this moment. That’s how it happens, over and over.
Best Wishes,

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