Miksang – the practice of contemplative photography

The practice of Miksang is an effort by the contemplative to uncover the truth of pure perception – visually – with a camera. It is what we see beyond what is seen.

The concept is much the same as contemplative prayer, plus taking it to a visual/artistic level. With contemplative (centering) prayer, our goal is to have no goals. It is a meditative practice minus any visualizations or mantras, and minus any spoken (or unspoken) prayers where such prayer is our want list we are presenting outward. Contemplative Prayer is a practice of shedding our mind of random thoughts and feelings, and simply being present in the task of becoming centered.

It’s much easier to do than it is to describe, and for more information on centering prayer, my favorite resource is the website for the teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating at Contemplative Outreach.

The practice of Miksang then takes this same notion of prayer without thoughts and extends it to visual art without explanation. Miksang is a practice of getting to the point of pure vision with the camera, of “seeing” first and “explaining” later, as opposed to the way our brain works of “telling ourselves a story about what we are seeing” while we look at something. I invite you to read more at your leisure on these two contemplative practices. There may be some bits and baubs worth pulling out to make use in your daily life and meditative practice.

Or to begin your own meditative practice.

For the photography posted here:

I walk with (a choice of) two vintage film cameras, one loaded with color and one b/w, plus the camera in my phone.

My rule here is to publish what the camera sees with no Photoshop trickery.

Using only tools available in the darkroom:

  • crop
  • sharpen/blur
  • dodge/burn
  • color-to-b/w

these photos are the practice of seeing, without software cheats.

I chose to focus more on the film cameras because it is less instant gratification of a digital camera and less opportunity to put less-attractive photographs in the trash can and forget them.

This is not a practice of making pretty pictures. The photography is a means to attaining a new (visual) form of meditation.

Photographic prints happen a day or so after I have filled the entire roll of film and are a mixed bag of where I have been and what I saw while I was there. Some of them appear on the surface as so nonsensical that they require some sort of mental story telling to make sense of what I’m looking at, but I try to avoid going in to story telling mode and let myself witness the image – be present – so that I’m then able to have a meditation based on what I see.

Those whose religious practice includes praying to saints and praying with icons will understand the way this works, and you never knew that your ancient prayer practice was something new!

Enjoy the works here, feedback is always welcome.

Keep the faith!



What do you think?