Light rays

More Myanmar miksang. Light spilling through the edges of the Shwesandaw Pagoda at sunrise.

mik light foot


Miksang — Good Eye

“Even though things usually seem solid and enduring, nothing really lasts a second moment.”

I did a workshop on contemplative photography on the weekend, an approach called Miksang, which means “good eye.”  The practice derives from the Dharma Art teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, a meditation master and scholar, and is not in and of itself an approach to meditation, but intended to connect people more directly to direct perception, direct experience.

Essentially, learning miksang is about deconstructing what we see into different elements — colour, space, light, pattern and texture — and practicing honing in on those elements as they grab us in a “flash of perception.”  Open your eyes, what grabs you, pay deep attention to that.  In level 1, nothing is supposed to even be recognizable as of the world.

In simplest terms, colour, anchored by a contrast.

blue yellow colour

Blue (with yellow).

colour red


I really liked the simplicity of the approach, the notion that we can “stop the mind by stopping the eye.” I really liked wandering around the sunny spring day in the neighbourhood that used to be mine, but which has changed so much in the last 8 years that bringing a fresh eye, honing in on the details, was a gift. Like revisiting your past to notice the moments of joy.

dot apple

One of the purposes of miksang is to see the art in everyday life, to notice the moments and what is there, pause on the ordinary to wake up the mind and eye.

foot man

What I loved about some of the images I shot was that I couldn’t remember, later, where they had been — I’d been so in the moment that even in the three or four block radius we wandered, I hadn’t tracked “the outside world.” Rare for me.

I didn’t finish the whole workshop, since I had to take off to get ready to go to Ottawa for a couple of days for work. That was probably enough, since the experience itself was a little emotionally cluttered for me. I really liked and meshed with the approach of one of the teachers, and not so much with the other — he was a little too in-jokey, and good/bad judgey. (And half his shots were perplexingly out of focus). He giggled in an unbecoming way at some of the shots we came up with, saying things like “John would hate that” (John was his teacher, not present) or “that’s a miksang trap,” meaning “cliché for this assignment.” Those are really the kinds of comments I find more helpful from a learning point of view not on, say, the FIRST DAY of learning something new.

I was paying a lot of attention to my impatience with him, and with myself-in-that-day, impatient with the guy selling me a paper cup full of oatmeal, and with confusion over timing at lunchtime (I was back 25 minutes before everyone else, and got irritated sitting in the darkened room on a glorious day, listening to Mr Miksang Trap crunch skittles). There’s a lot of impatience and anxiety threading through my world right now, which is probably why I’m not writing or shooting so much (and why I should). And it does show up in times where I’m deliberately slowing down, like this workshop.

I did do the “light” assignment before I bowed out to organize my world for the week ahead (apparently only moderately successfully, judging by showing up at Audi to get my tires changed for the summer and realizing I’d forgotten to put the tires in the car, and leaving the flipcharts from my monday meeting in a cab).


back lit tulip

Side light.

light reeds

Patches of light.

patches deck

Side light, I think.

birch light

Front and side artificial light.

lemon light

That lemon isn’t technically level 1, because you know it’s a lemon, and it’s not “really” light because it’s artificial, and and and. In miksang, there seem to be a lot of things that are not as much as are, and at least two gently tussling schools of thought. But as a practice for attention, for seeing, for slowing, it’s a gift.