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Life hacks: ‘miksang’

This month’s exploration is the word ‘miksang‘ and it is something of possible interest to most people. Owning a smartphone is enough to take advantage of this discipline. It is fun and helps you to discover the world in a gentle fashion while appreciating everyday things.

Miksang is a Tibetan word that translates as ‘good eye’. It was developed by photographer Michael Wood and is based on the Shambhala and Dharma Art teachings of the late Buddhist teacher and artist Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. It is contemplative photography where one sees the world as it is without any spin or judgement. It is similar to a haiku poem where it expresses the nature of a waterfall, breeze or wind permeated with the present moment.

Miksang is an uncluttered and unburdened discipline, free from any ideas of how something should be created. On the official site it is described as: “…concerned with uncovering the truth of pure perception. We see something vivid and penetrating, and in that moment, we can express our perception without making anything up − nothing added, nothing missing. Totally honest about what we see − straight shooting… When we synchronize eye and mind, we abandon all concepts and predispositions and become completely present in the moment. The world becomes a magical display of vivid perception. We can develop the ability to experience and express these experiences precisely through the practice of contemplative photography.”

Reflections of buildings as seen in a salt pan at Salina Bay.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, the master of the decisive moment, said: “Technique is important only to insofar as you must master it in order to communicate what you see… In any case, people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing. ”

Contemplative photography is an approach to photography that focuses on learning (or we could say relearning) how to see. When still a baby, we see our surroundings as shapes, colors and light. As we grow older, we loose that initial faculty as we start to clutter our understanding of what we see with ideas or judgments and lose that initial rawness of the experience. Through miksangwe regain the freshness of seeing the world with new eyes, with the eyes of a child.

We normally tend to move from perception to conception when we see something. In a fraction of a second, we first see something, then we ‘know’ what it is and label it as ‘cup’ or ‘chair’, then we judge it accordingly. With contemplative photography, we come back to and rediscover the first moment of seeing.

Miksang helps us to slow down by taking the time to actually see and be aware of what is actually happening around us and try to capture that with our camera or smartphone. It is relaxing and joyful, something we all need more of! Through this exploration, we start to rediscover the beauty all around us through the images we capture.

Through this exploration, we start to rediscover the beauty all around us through the images we capture

What is especially great about miksang is that we do not need to go to exotic places to have suitable subjects. We are surrounded by possibilities wherever we are: the kitchen, backyard or one’s street. We just need to slow down and take the time to look. Just walking and looking… noticing the light, the colors or the patterns around us and just be grounded in the present moment.

For this to work, two things are needed: first is to have the intention to go beyond the usual ways of looking and seeing; and secondly, to have the discipline to practice the exercises. Try to capture what struck you in a flash of perception. Fill the frame with it, whether this is a texture, pattern, light or colour. You don’t need any fancy cameras for this exercise. Your smartphone is good enough to record such experiences. Over time, it will be easier to quiet the mind and enjoy, simply seeing the world around us.

Miksang − or contemplative photography − is a discipline that trains you to allow things to be as they really are, which can serve as an incredibly useful training for life in general. The judgments and concepts we impose on everything experienced are the roots of prejudice and discrimination, and reveal our unconscious biases which can lead to damaging outcomes.

The last golden sun rays captured on a wave, contrasting with the dark blue.The last golden sun rays captured on a wave, contrasting with the dark blue.

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