Today was the first day of the Miksang Level II workshop (miksang is Tibetan for "good eye"). Miksang is a practice to develop the ability to see things without categorizing and labeling them; to truly see them as they are rather than as the symbolic pictures we have in our mind. If we see a rose, we have a tendency to immediately put it in the category of plant/flower/rose without seeing the individual "roseness" of the specific flower in front of us. It tends to be the same when we are taking pictures ... we take the pictures we've always seen unless something breaks the pattern and helps us see in a new way.
Today we focused on one "field of perception" in order to exhaust our labels and categories and break into new territory. According to our instructor, Michael Wood, by exploring one subject to the point of boredom, if we pushed through that point, we would arrive at a new connection with the subject, a fresh way of seeing it, a place beyond our normal preconceptions and cliched thinking. Our subject for the day: SIDEWALKS.
I was a little apprehensive about spending 2-3 hours shooting sidewalks but headed off through Boulder's Pearl Street Mall on this chilly and dreary November day only to be amazed and delighted at the world I found at my feet. Squatting in an alleyway I found the still life shown here and can only wonder at the story behind it. Every time I bent down I found landscapes in miniature ... canyons, sand stone monuments, beaches, and dry river beds. And what colors ... of course they were sometimes broken bits of glass or discarded chewing gum, but still the colors and lines and shapes were truly amazing. I think I failed the assignment because I never got bored ... but I will also never look at sidewalks in the same way. They may not have the grandeur of the Grand Canyon or the majesty of the Tetons but what an incredible miniature world lies beneath our feet.
It wasn't until I was on my way home that I wondered why we can't look at each other in a miksang way. Why do we see "Muslims" or "Christians" or "Democrats" or "Republicans" or "Lawyers" or "Engineers" when those categories are just abstractions that don't accurately and fully describe any individual. What if we had "miksang people workshops" that would help us break through our preconceived notions and labels about people? Maybe, if we could connect deeply with enough individuals and see them for who they truly are, we could begin to let go of our stereotypes and neatly labeled boxes. Maybe we would begin to accept each other more fully and appreciate our brilliance as well as our imperfections. Maybe we would find ways to be more peaceful with each other.
More Images: If you would like to see more sidewalk images, please go to this gallery.