Moon in the Water

moon in water

“The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent shaped,

This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time.

May we all be blessed with longevity,

Though thousand miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.”

from a poem by Song dynasty poet Su Shi

The Zen metaphor “Moon-in-the-water” speaks to daily living and creative flow while at the same time expresses a mysterious truth.  In his 2011 book, I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World, author James Geary writes

Metaphor is the bridge we fling between the utterly strange and the utterly familiar, between dice and drowned men’s bones, between I and an other [...] Parables and proverbs feature so prominently in folk wisdom and religious scripture because there is no way to convey spiritual truths other than to set them side by side with natural truths.  The numinous is the nitty gritty.  I is an other (Geary, 2011).

We co-create and shape experience both externally (through relations with others) and internally (in relation with our thoughts and feelings). This inter/intra connection is a bi-directional co-creative process.  In the Moon-in-the-Water metaphor, water (subject) is our inner self.  Moon (object) is our external world and relationships.  Moon and water exist in relationship to each other. They co-create each other, and through author Daniel Siegel’s lens remain differentiated, integrated and in harmonic relationship (Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Siegel, 2010). Inner creates outer and outer creates inner simultaneously.  So if the moon does not rise or there is no water, there is no unity or integration, no “Moon-in-the-water”.  Water and moon happen together, they do not wait for each other to exist.  The metaphor holds the insight that we create and shape our experience, just as we shape and are shaped by our creative process.

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.

 

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