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“In a sense, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s work as an artist was among the most revolutionary parts of his teaching. He truly believed that art can change the world. In this belief, he was focused not on the content of art but on how art can alter perception. If you change the way people see the world, he taught, then they will change the world they live in. In essence, this is the premise of enlightened society. ” Carolyn Gimian from Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa, Vol. 7
This quote is at the heart of my motivation to teach. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche is my root teacher and these teachings have altered my world for sure. After leading an afternoon workshop on Conscious Creating last Saturday, I realized that everything I teach has to do with perception and how both seeing things as they are and imagining a vision of what we want to create shape reality. And yet, so much of the time I know I am not really connecting to my senses; seeing at all. It takes conscious effort to be fully present in the world to see it. We live in a filtered reality based on learned habits of mind and cultural programming. How can we possibly take in all the stimuli available to us? So, we only see what is essential to our immediate needs, if that. The big takeaway for several of my students at the class was that they saw their world differently and felt calmer, more refreshed and connected after slowing down to really look at the world with fresh eyes. How many times have you driven from point A to point B and not noticed anything along the way except the inner dialogue of what you were thinking about? So much of the time we are filtering our experience of the world with our preconceived notions, likes and dislikes or just ignoring it all together in favor of the never ending internal gossip.
I offer 3 pathways to clear seeing, essential for anyone wanting to create. Contemplative photography, Creating as Meditation in Action and The Power of Creating series. Contemplative photography works directly with visual perception and our mental filters. As the camera does not have those filters, it will quickly give us a reality check on what was actually seen versus our thoughts about it. Creating as Meditation in Action explores the creative process combined with meditation as a path for awakened engagement in the world. Seeing things as they are and working with their inherent qualities is essential for creating art that goes beyond our personal story to resonate with a larger audience. The Power of Creating breaks down the creative process into a series of choices, how to envision a finished result and work with current reality to build momentum for achieving a desired result. All work with honing our ability to perceive reality and our thoughts about it as fuel for the creative process.
This morning, I went for a walk after a night of rain and was stopped in my tracks by a planter in the sunlight. So, I whipped out my iPhone to capture the flash of perception. Sometimes, the world just reaches out and grabs us. But we can also, slow down and open up to let it in, which is what I did with the rest of my walk, in a practice known as contemplative photography. At times on the walk I was hunting for shots, but my eagerness was counterproductive. Too much desire actually blocks seeing. At other times, flashes arose and then faded away before I got the image framed in the camera. Inevitably the strongest images came from sharp flashes of perception. All of it though is about opening beyond habitual looking to see ourselves and the world with fresh eyes. You can see more of my images on exhibit at Manifesta Salon, 831 Broadway, Oakland, CA.But there is another aspect of perception I teach as well, the ability to envision ideas as completed results. The skill of visual thinking is a powerful part of the creative process. How do you know what you want to create and how do you know when you have created it? You visualize a result. Visual thinking helps take a concept into something more concrete in this process, to see with the mind’s eye. Shaking our habitual patterns of thinking that limit this process is helpful here too. We get to make it up. What is IT? Inherent truth, imagined target, image transformation… I am leading a Sunday morning program on developing a vision, April 2 – See IT, Do What IT Takes to Make IT Real: The Power of Creating, at Kosa Arts in Downtown Oakland. Explore your inherent truth, imagined target, image transformation, what ever IT is for you. We’ll have fun making up a practice vision and refining it to unleash its power.