Slowly looking with the Buddhist “good eye”

Slowly looking

Recently I came across the Contemplative Photography movement, which incorporates Buddhist mindfulness practice with Western ways of seeing the world.  Contemplative Photography practice is based on holding an intention of learning to look and see through a lens of nonattachment. Through practice, you begin to trust the gaps in discursive thought where clear seeing and inspiration emerge in your art.

Matthieu Ricard describes Contemplative photography as

seizing the present moment as one would delicately hold a poppy without shedding its petals.  It is about nonattachment; one has nothing to lose and nothing to gain, but everything to offer to the eyes of the viewer (from jacket of The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the world with fresh eyes, written by  Andy Carr and Michael Wood, Shambala, 2011)

Miksang is a Tibetan word which means “Good Eye”. The practice is founded on Shambala  and Dharma Art Teachings of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.  The word “good” relates to uncluttered vision and seizing the present moment.  In the following video “Miksang” practice is explained in a way I hope you find inspiring.

 

Looking into the Open

Looking

The Open

With their whole gaze

animals behold the Open.

Only our eyes

are as though reversed

and set like traps around us,

keeping us inside.

That there is something out there

we know only from the creatures’ countenance.

We turn even the young child around,

making her look backward

at the forms we create,

not outward into the Open.

R.M. Rilke, from the Eighth Duino Elegy

Madiba and the power of creative potential

Madiba

Madiba’s powerful words encapsulate many levels of meaning. Perhaps that is why they inspire and light a creative spark for so many of us. These words point to the idea that finding passion requires commitment and responsibility. The heroic attempt to live up to one’s potential and the power that entails is often an overwhelming challenge.  Marianne Williamson wrote

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? [...] Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do [...] As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The responsibility of owning our powerful creative potential requires knowing the shadow aspects of our personality.  Artist Louise Bourgeois had a deeply personal lens through which she artistically engaged with her shadow and what she felt was the burden of her own creative potential power.  Bourgeois wrote

I’m afraid of power; it makes me nervous [...] In my art I am the murderer, the man who has to live with his conscience… As an artist I am a powerful person.  In real life I feel like the mouse behind the radiator… By withdrawing, by recognizing that you have no power, you become more than yourself.  You get ideas which never would have occurred to you .  In my art, I live in a world of my own making.  I make decisions.  I have power.  In the real world, I don’t want power

Bourgeois was able to create powerful art by acknowledging her shadow side and fears. She played with both positive and negative aspects of power and its potential for both good and evil.

In his lifetime, Madiba also experienced both the dark and light sides of power.  His words are meaningful because they emerge from a deeply felt, impassioned life experience, a life that entailed great courage, risk and exploration of the unknown, all elements of the archetype of the creative hero.

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