The most asked questions about Miksang Contemplatieve Photography and the Miksang pictures.
This contemplative approach to photography is about being awake and joyfully noticing what resonates with our hearts, and how we discover the beauty of of everyday world.
In Miksang the emphasis is first and for all not on the end result, not on the pictures, but on pure perception and pure expression.
And yes, we do photograph and take pictures, which we call ‘equivalents‘.
In this contemplative approach, taking a picture completes the process of experiencing a vivid joyful perception.
On pure perception:
Pure perception is direct, vivid and joyful. As a practice this means that we begin with having no idea about what we want to see and what we want to photograph. Instead of coming up with an idea what to photograph and working it out; which is the conventional practice in contemporary creativity and photographic disciplines. First there is an idea or concept how the end result should be, and this is worked out; one searches, finds and a desired end result is achieved.
In contrast in contemplative approach of photography the emphasis is first and foremost on awake and joyful noticing what resonates for us when we are looking and seeing. We shift from endresult-oriented-photography to the process of pure perception and noticing what resonates vividly and joyfully.
Something that resonates, we FEEL it. When we see something out of the blue, what visually resonates, is what we see from the heart. And we feel this physically first: as a resonance, as a little shock, as an impulse.
Seeing From The Heart is the experience of perceiving vivid perceptions with awake eyes, a calm mind and open heart on the same axes. And giving expression photographically from athis aligned state of being; in these experiences we meet the day-to-daybeauty.
This is possible in every moment.
In Miksang we practice being available when something visually resonates, when we experience a direct vivid perception. We experience vivid perception all the time but mostly unconsciously.
It is especially useful to understand that our mind, explained very simply, consists of two aspects:
We have become so good in thinking, that we mainly experience our thinking when we see something. This is indirect perception.
In Miksang we consciously practice recognizing and allowing in moments of being touched, in the here and now; this happens from the open space within ourselves. This is direct perception.
“As soon as we start thinking about what we see the process of perception is over.”
In Miksang we practise how we give expression to our experiences of direct perception photographically and genuinely. This is different from just photographing something so that it is captured. We use the camera to remind ourselves that we still have our childlike wonder. This is largely buried under our serious concepts of how we look at the world, now that we have grown up.
About pure photographic expression
In addition to the practicality of photography, the camera in Miksang also has the function of reminding ourselves that we can see clearly and that we can experience wonder and amazement.
That is why always taking a camera with you is a good practice, and part of the practice.
The two functions of a camera:
- It serves as a reminder of our ability of clear seeing and the joy of seeing something out of the blue, unexpected. Bringing the camera gives an extra feeling of being alert to see and notice.
- The moment you experience a moment of unexpected joyful seeing, you can decide to go for the photographic expression. Instead of ‘I wish I had brought my camera’.
In the contemplative approach of photography we align our (childlike) wonderment with our mature skills of handling a camera, in a simple and effective way.
Every time we take a picture we deepen our connection to the already and always present beauty in our everyday world, and every time we take a picture we discover more of the magic of the visual beauty in our everyday surroundings.
We slow down
We look slower, we think slower, we perceive slower. We are so used to looking fast and thinking fast – as in naming fast and having opinions very fast and judging fast and having associations very fast – that we first start with slowing down. We slow down our looking and seeing.
And naturally follows the slowing down of naming and judging and our ongoing dividing mechanism of what we see in ‘I like it’, ‘I don’t like it’, ‘I don’t care’.
As we slow down what we see, we increasingly recognise what visually touches us within the multitude of visual richness around us. Because not everything we see actually touches us; we see it as in observing, we are aware of what is more to see, but there is not a resonance, not a seeing from the heart.
In this contemplative approach of Miksang we take the time to look, without prejudice, free from our mental inhibitions – open, gentle, awake, curious and inquisitive.
We look, we see, we notice what resonates, we look further until we have fully understood what we have seen. In the here and now.
From this pure state of perception and awakeness, from an aligned state of being and seeing, we give expression to an experience of seeing from the heart, with our cameras.
One moment at a time, free and joyful!
How do we do this?
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about Miksang Contemplative Photography.
Most asked QUESTION 1
Many photos have been photographed up close in Miksang Photography. Do you only photograph details, or also whole scenes?
In the beginning we practise becoming more conscious in seeing one thing a time. From a standing or sitting position, how we see it. Not later another day, but in the here and now. Right in this moment where we are. We practise seeing without our reactive thinking, without our reference frame of knowing what it is conventionally, naming as objects and dividing it immediately in ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’ and without diving in to associations.
This is breaking long practised habits that we have mastered over time. And at the same time we tune in to our inherent sanity, our basic goodness, our inherent ability of pure perception and clear seeing.
We shift our attention to appreciating details in our everyday world. And to foster this new habit, it is easier to start off in a simple manner. In the beginning we dismantle layers of opinions, beliefs and assumptions simply by looking closer. We allow ourselves to stay longer with a visual resonance, connecting to something simple in a complex visual world.
So we start feeling connected, and we can see clearly in any environment.
When we start seeing the details onin our world, we miss nothing.
We are thinking beings, and we are very good at thinking. Thinking comes in very handy; but how and how much we think is not always helpful.
As soon as we experience a sensory experience thinking is triggered super-fast. This stems from our lifelong conditioning of naming everything, and wanting to know what things are so we semi-secure ourselves in feeling safe with who we are and what our place in the world is.
We relax into seeing clearly, and taking in visual perceptions and we go below this surface.
As we relax our thinking mechanisms more, we quickly go deeper, and we start seeing things as they are. Free from our usual references, free from mental knowing and labelling.
We relax by practising what we notice. We begin to make room in ourselves so we can notice what strikes us visually, out of the blue, sudden; directly from the world around us, through our eyes into our heart.
It turns out that seeing from the heart is very often something very simple and poetic. When we come to understand this, we can use this understanding as an encouragement to develop inner silence and mental calmness about what we see.
So it becomes easier to connect with the simplicity and natural poetry of that moment, in the here and now.
What Miksang photos characterize is simplicity
A successful Miksang photo reflects a moment of vivid and heartfelt seeing. From inner stillness it is possible to experience heartfelt seeing in every situation, and it often is a very simple thing we resonate with. And to genuinely and precisely photograph this, from a settled sense of being and expressing is what we aim for, so we can relate fully to the simplicity of the whole.
What is a detail?
And, when does a detail becomes a detail, and when does a detail stop being a detail?
In fact, everything is a detail of some bigger environment.
Even a landscape is a detail of the surrounding wider environment.
The earth is too enormous for us to see as a whole while standing in the bathroom looking in the mirror, or even standing on the top of the Himalayas. The earth becomes more of a complete detail when seeing it from a space shuttle. And from a cosmic level it is just a speck of dust in the universe.
The process of perception here is all about learning to recognize what visually resonates, in the here and now and understanding the fullness of a heartfelt joyful vivid perception. This means knowing what we see clearly from our inherent basic goodness, from the sanity within, and knowing what is part of our heartfelt visual perception and what is not.
This can be a leaf on the sidewalk, a pattern of light on the wall, reflections on a red hood of a car, or the layers of green and blue of the ocean and sky altogether, or some clouds, or the bubbles of soap in the sink, and so on. There are infinite perceptions, ranging from small to big!
When something has stopped us, we see it from the heart; this is a complete experience, a complete image of various forms, lines, colors, texture and shapes. It is complete, nothing is missing.
We first simply need to settle into our inherent clear seeing and learn to discern what resonates or what we start thinking about. We need to shift our loyalty: from relative looking to absolute looking, to look and see beyond the relative world of naming, beliefs and associations. And settle into the experience of giving expression to our experience of seeing afresh, with our cameras. Genuinely and precisely, without rushing to the next thing, without anxiety – confident and elegantly.
“God is in the details”, is the directive to be found in the works of architect and designer Ludwig van der Rohe.
Most asked QUESTION 2
Surely you can’t be open and receptive all the time, and letting in everything you see? This sounds very overwhelming.
The opposite is true. Looking with an open mind, heart and eyes on the same axis is not the same as letting everything in. In Miksang, the key word is ‘availability’.
Availability is a combination of openness, alertness and curiosity.
From this state of being available we notice what joyfully resonates. We can see everything else as well, but this becomes a neutral state of seeing, as in observing.
We don’t get tired of the world; we get tired of how we react to the world.
We become tired of letting in what we observe and what does not joyfully resonate.
- We become tired of thinking a lot about everything we see and what is going on in our lives.
- We become tired of the conversations we have in ourselves with ourselves, or with others in ourselves.
- We become tired of our inner reactions on what we think about all kinds of things.
- We become tired of our outer reactions on the things, people and situations around us.
We especially become tired of of these seemingly ongoing processes in ourselves.
1. We walk around sleepwalking
And so we mainly walk around sleepwalking, with our eyes wide-open and ongoing conversations in ourselves commenting on the world around us. We hardly see anything. We glance over our daily world and barely connect to anything, missing out on experiencing full connection with our immediate surroundings, not because it is not there, but because we are not aligned enough to receive what already resonates.
We experience direct visual experiences all day long, with all our senses. But we let in too few of these vivid sensory experiences. This is exhausting, because it takes energy and start feeling heavy.
2. We reason away moments of seeing from the heart
We reason away many moments of direct vivid perception. We often feel overwhelmed by the multitude of stimuli around us all the time. As a result this causes the feeling that we need to keep things at a distance, and exactly this strategy keeps these moments of vivid perception at bay.
Nowadays feeling overwhelmed and burned out seems like a trend. The wide range of media and entertainment that we can comment on, and all the public reactive responses that we can see and hear and that we expose ourselves to, do not help us to develop inner calmness in order to develop noticing what resonates.
The world around us in general does not help us to develop calmness and inner silence.
3. We also are getting tired of being open to everything
Being open to anything and everything but also not positively resonating. We observe everything all the time: either in a positive, neutral or negative manner. If something does not resonate in a positive way, but it does affect us, and we decide to comment/react on this, whether that is out loud or inward: this is tiring. We are entering a negative critical spiral that we keep feeding with our not so uplifting reactions, and this is simply exhausting. You have lost control of your discernment.
4. Dramatic effects
Because the moments of being touched are ignored and yet there is a need for touch and feeling connected and giving expression, people look for it somewhere else, often in extreme physical ways. Extreme views are looked up and found, and photos are edited with filters such as HDR, heavy hues, faint hues, overexposure, underexposure or converting natural colours into black and white. Deploying dramatic effects to want to convey something is also a form of creativity, but we get tired of this in the long run. It is indirect perception.
in the long term we get tired of dramatized photos, both creating them and looking at them.
Understanding the nature of perception
Feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of all the above means that we start to think that we must close ourselves off and protect ourselves. But that is hard work, because how do you filter?
It is easier to develop openness to what strikes us, what we see from the heart. It gives inspiration and we recharge.
This means we first have to understand the nature of perception, the nature of our senses and the nature of how things are. We need to be willing to understand this, and understand what resonates in a joyful way. Which means we also have to understand ourselves.
My experience is that the more open I am to receiving what strikes me visually, the easier it is to enjoy the simple sensory things in my immediate surroundings. When training one’s mind and receptivity through the main sense perception of the eyes all the other sense perceptions develop accordingly.
In between all daily things. Not in special places, but in the here and now; en route from A to B, from the front door to the bicycle, from the car to an appointment, from the table to the coffee maker.
When I am low in my energy and strolling around in my own neighborhood, with the intention of awake seeing and my camera, I feel inspired again after 10 minutes or so. All the heavy things fall away from me in the lightness of awake seeing, and simply tuning in to wonderment and not needing to know what I am going to see an d photograph but letting it happen and unfold.
Not needing to know what I am going to see in the next moment and what the pictures are going to look like is the magic of being me.
It never ceases to surprise when in no time at all I feel inspired and experience appreciation. Simply by experiencing a moment of direct and vivid seeing, something that resonates and that I recognize and allow letting it in, something out of the richness of the everyday beauty; this is basic beauty
“In this century, to stop rushing around, to sit quietly on the grass, to switch off the world and come back to the earth, to allow the eye a willow, a bush, a cloud, a leaf, is -“an unforgettable experience”.
Frederick Franck from ‘The Zen of Seeing‘
Most asked QUESTION 3
Miksang is about seeing clearly, out of the blue and enjoying these vivid moments. I experience this very often, why would I then want or need to take a picture?
- We are expressive beings. To give expression creatively to a vivid sensory experience is part of our human expression, and is simply a healthy thing to do – every time we express ourselves in a creative and genuine way we touch in with our basic sanity of human goodness. However, we suppress these impulses of direct perception and we reason away many of these impulses. Continuously! “I have already seen it and that is enough, and it is now in my mind as a reminder” or “I have no time” is a form of suppressing our natural need for creative expression. In the longer run this will not make us happy, it makes us feel unfulfilled.
- Our inherent ability of pure perception and to see clearly is something we are born with. But we do not always experience this! By consciously practicing uninhibited non-judgemental viewing, wondering and photographing our vision remains clear, and we clear our vision. We think so much that our seeing gets clouded and our vision is blurred. What we actually see and what we think about what we see is not the same.
- By connecting to something which you see out of the blue, allowing it in and expressing it, you start noticing and recognizing these moments of unexpected fresh seeing and you become more precise in what you really see. The actual photographing also slows you down, not rushing to the next thing, and helps you take the time for what you have seen initially and generally. You connect further and it becomes clear what you have seen and this makes it a complete experience, a whole. Experience learns what you have seen freshly is getting less precise, as you do not actually commit to take a picture. And a common pitfall in the arts is that the most beautiful images are stored in the head, and so what you share now has become an intellectual wording.
- Every time we commit to giving an expression with our cameras, we also train ourselves into alignment of being awake, open, aware and curious all on the same axes. Every time we see something from the heart, and as we come to a full stop, look, and look further until fully understood and then we give expression from the heart: we bring out the best version of ourselves which we already are.
- For me personally, sharing my Miksang photos is a joyful, light-hearted and easy way to contribute to the world; sharing sparks of timeless brilliance of the mundane world, the extraordinary of the ordinary reflected in the images. The audience can experience the brilliance of the mundane as well, simply upon viewing. Seen from my heart, through the camera, on to the picture, right to the viewers heart.
Most asked QUESTION 4
The starting point in Miksang is when we feel a visual resonance, we see something that resonates from the heart, the perception is already complete with the composition already in balance.
This is intuitive, and it contains enormous intelligence.
- We feel what is and what is not part of perception. With the emphasis on ‘feeling’. Feeling out what is and what is not part of visual perception is an intuitive and precise process, and the most important part of practice in Miksang. As we take a picture and it forms an equivalent: the picture shows exactly what we have seen, we develop confidence in knowing that the composition is already there.
- The composition is already present in the resonance. The composition is already enclosed what is seen. We only need to understand perception fully, as in what is part of what is seen and what is not part. This is closely related to sacred geometry. Sacred geometry is the natural harmony already and always present in all forms and shapes. Both in nature as in everything we see that feels comfortable; it is highly likely that you resonate with something that contains sacred geometry. That is the intelligence of intuition.
The photo rules are the result of the analysis of successful images from the past; of paintings and photographs that are generally highly appreciated. Although the makers have created an image very intuitively, these rules were created by post-analysis and measurements; to get a grip on how something so beautiful can be made. It must have been great to discover this!
But these rules are nothing but an analytical reflection of the sacred geometry that is already contained in the images. Made by artists without the application of all these analytic rules.
Photographer Edward Weston about composition:
To consult the rules of composition before taking a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravity before going for a walk.
Composition is the strongest form of seeing.
That is why we don’t need to apply photographic rules in Miksang. We simply relax all this hard work of applying outer rules, as it likely that we will miss out on the resonance in doing so.
As what resonates for you in that moment is already complete, filled with natural composition in itself.
Most asked QUESTION 5
Why are the pictures always in a rectangle? We do not see the world in rectangles, do we?
Indeed we do not see something that touches us in a rectangle or in a square. From the technical aspects of seeing and how our eyes work, we see it rather oval. And we see the most sharp and colourful in the centre of our eyes.
- Seeing fresh does not necessarily happen in the middle of our eyes, it often happens that something resonates it in the corner of our eyes. Then we adjust our head so we look better, and we focus our eyes to fully absorb it.
- Seeing fresh happens from an aligned state of being, centred at the level of our heart: first we feel, and then we look. Our heart always sees first! Intuition starts in the heart, and we feel this physically, and we might notice a gut feeling, or a little shock, or an expanded feeling or we exclaim an ‘aha’, or whisper a ‘wow’. All sorts of signals from the heart, signs of an aligned state of being.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
The Little Prince
With the camera as a medium, we poetically express our experiences of fresh seeing, seeing from the heart.
Giving expression to a moment of seeing from the heart is possible with photography, drawing, painting, writing, poetry, sculpture, computer art and with all the creative forms of expression that are available. Every creative expression is a translation of a unique experience of inspiration, converted into a creative expression. Like it has never been done before!
Each medium has a specific size and requires specific skills to be able to express our experience of a moment of fresh seeing as naturally, precisely and relaxed as possible.
Practicing with the medium of photography means we work with a rectangle.
You have to get to know your medium of creative expression. You need know how to handle it in advance, and not be surprised by the specifics of it, so you can translate an experience of fresh seeing with all of your knowledge and experience with this specific medium, rather effortlessly. With all the possibilities and limitations that the medium entails.
Like driving a car; you need to get schooled in the basics of how to start the engine, how the gears work and how to switch the turn signals on and off, and then practice it in various traffic situations to become familiar, skilled and develop confidence in both driving and the dynamic of traffic. So you will not be surprised and on the edge most of the time and not needing to figure it out while participating on the highway, and passing an exit because you are too anxious and still busy figuring out the turning signals.
Also, not every fresh perception can be expressed in a rectangle or even with the camera. Sometimes filming is more suitable. And sometimes the best thing to do is to let go. And walk away.
Nowadays you can set the setting on the camera whether you want to photograph with a rectangle, square or panoramic image. I prefer to use the entire sensor, the rectangle. With every other format as a setting you only use part of the sensor. Which I feel is a waste of the sensor.
I also find it easier and more pleasant to keep it simple with one format; the size of the entire sensor.
Tip: get to know our camera and your objective and become familiar with its basics.
Most asked QUESTION 6
Why are the Miksang photos only in colour? Black & White can make the pictures look more expressive, and I really like that.
Because we see the world in colour. The nostalgia for the black and white photography dates from the time before color photography. Photography started in black and white, and until around 1960 this was the most affordable. As soon as color photography became affordable, most photographers switched. This immediately opened the door for the consumer and photography became accessible to everyone.
Having said this, everyone is completely free to choose whether to photograph with or without filters; it’s all creative expression. Just know that the desire for black and white or classifying this as more beautiful is simply a preference; an external photographic filter that reflects an internal mental filter.
The real question here would be: what would you like to become not only your second nature but also your first nature? Seeing from the heart, tuning in to your inherent ability of pure perception and clear seeing, and being able to discover the beauty of your day-to-day world at any given time you open your eyes and connect joyfully ever more easily with the world AS IT IS?
Or, creating a clouded view and a clouded world by projecting your mental filters such as naming, opinions, beliefs, preferences and associations onto the visual world, where the longing to truly connect and the longing to experience seeing from the heart and waiting for this one amazing picture or a few amazing pictures keeps lingering, unfulfilled?
“It’s a question of removing the clouds, rather than recreating the sun” – Chögyam Trungpa
Do you have another question?
Post your question here, and I will answer it to the best I can!
©Hèlen A Vink
Miksang 1 – Seeing From The Heart – an introduction to Miksang Contemplative Photography
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