What Is Miksang Really?, Revisited
There are many people these days that feel a connection to contemplative photography, and it can be confusing and difficult for the aspiring contemplative photographer to clarify the method, the motivation, and measure of what we see and do within this path. There are a number of different strains of contemplative photography, and there are myriad versions of what this means. As a teacher of Miksang, I am going to talk about the Miksang way of practicing contemplative photography.
Because of the popularity of the contemplative approach to photography, there exists a tremendous pull to systematize, dogmatize, and basically take proprietary ownership of the inherent freshness within this approach. From this fundamentally uncreative urge, new schools no doubt will arise which easily identify and judge according to standards enforced by teachers with checklists. This process has repeated itself endlessly within academic circles and wherever genuine insight has given way to conceptual understanding.
This is not what we hope for. The basis of Miksang is openness and absence of conceptual overlay. The tendency to use concept to describe openness is natural as long as we don’t lose the connection to the fundamental experience we are describing as we talk about Miksang.
Lately I have been looking through the various Miksang postings on the Internet, and there seems to be a lack of clarity about what Miksang is and how you can spot a really successful Miksang image. So I thought I would start by listing what I feel are the qualities of Miksang experience and expression and how to recognize the real deal.
True Miksang is not about the content and it’s not about whether it looks like a ‘Miksang shot’. To me it is entirely about the ground of the perception and whether that is apparentin the execution of the photograph. This is very rare and in many cases absent from what is being posted on the Internet as ‘Miksang’.
What is this ground? The basis of Miksang practice is the open space of availability in our minds. When our mind and eye connect directly with a visual perception, it is like a flash of lightening arising from this empty open space. Without the voltage, the electric presence of the flash of contact inherent in the image, it is flat and lifeless, somebody’s idea. This is the juice of direct perception. If we can maintain our connection to this raw energy of perception through to our expression of the perception with our camera, then it will be completely expressed in our image. This is how we recognize a Miksang image.
There is no halfway, half a flash of perception. The perception and the resulting image either does, or does not, have the living, raw experience of that moment of voltage embedded in it. There is no in between. This is the joy of “fresh” seeing.
What is Miksang Really?
Passion and Joy
Passion to connect and express.
Joyful experience of being alive.
We can see the world without all our ideas and opinions and appreciate it as it is.
We don’t have to worry that what we have seen isn’t good enough just as it is. And we have everything we need already within us to see the world “just as it is”.
How Can We Recognize a Truly “Miksang” Image?
First, I would like to point out something that really needs to be said, as I have read various discussions about whether someone’s images are true to the ‘Miksang style’. There is no Miksang style.
There is a Miksang “way”, which has been called in Japanese “Sha Shin Ki Do” – what the eye sees, the heart knows – the way to join the two.
This cannot be imitated because it is not based on a conceptual formula. It can be felt directly with the mind, the heart, and the eye.
Here are the essential aspects that must be present in a successful Miksang Image:
The Image expresses a Flash of Perception.
The Image is an expression of the unencumbered Mind Quality of the Photographer. This is no point of view expressed, and the image is agenda- free. The mind quality manifests as a sense of living presence imbued within the photograph.
Can you feel the heat of connection, the peace of no struggle, the absolute mind quality?
If your mind links up directly to the perception in the photograph and no thoughts arise, this is a good this is a good indication that you are connecting with the mind of the person who photographed the image.
If you happen to be wondering who is the ultimate arbiter of what is Miksang and what is not Miksang, you need not look for someone to tell you what your experience means. Rather the confidence to trust and understand our own experience of perception can be developed and deepened by doing this practice ourselves. When we are able to connect in a direct way to what we see, then this ability to receive perceptions right on the spot
becomes part of our wiring. And when we see openness, clarity, presence, and the heat of direct perception in the photos of others, because we have developed that ability ourselves, we will recognize it whenever and in whatever medium it manifests.
In and of itself, this could be revolutionary. We don’t need an external arbiter to confirm our experience. It brings confidence in ourselves, trust in our own wisdom, and trust in our ability to recognize what is extraneous, what is essential, and finally what is essentially genuine and authentic expression.
I am including a link to a gallery of images by students of The Miksang Institute for Contemplative Photography in Boulder. These are wonderful examples of what I have described.
For more information about our upcoming Miksang Institute Summer Intensive, please visit The Miksang Institute
I wish you all bucket loads of fresh perceptions.