Attention as the Aperture of Consciousness

Aperture  I had a session recently with a man who is taking a photography course, specifically, a miksang contemplative photography course. He sent me a link to his photos, and it was thrilling to see the connection between the class, and the lookin-simply-seeing work that we are doing together. The photography class is all about learning to see. The sessions are all about the seeing.
We talked about the aperture, that opening that has no qualities, because it is simply an opening–no judgment, no excluding anything–just that which in a sense allows, without discrimination or distinction, whatever is seen to be exactly as it is. It shines a light upon what is here in front of it. This aperture is analogous to attention. In these sessions, we pay attention to the attention itself. Attention, like the aperture, has no defining characteristics. It takes on, by the very absence of distinguishing features, whatever is given in what is seen. Aperture, light, attention–create a world. The seer, the seeing, and the seen become one. The attention and the aperture graciously go unseen in favor of the seen. This need not be a tragedy, simply noticed.

Most of his photos are of texture, color, light–not objects in and of themselves. So, you can take a picture of a sofa from and inch a way from the cushion, and what have you got? Then you pull the camera back further, to a certain point where you might say, “Aha! It’s a sofa!” Pull the camera back a few miles, and now what have you got? At what distance, and from what or whose perspective does a sofa become a sofa? From one POV, you’ve got color and the appearance of texture. At the next POV, you’ve got something resembling a sofa (if the cultural context includes such things). And at another POV, you’ve got a google-earth-type pic, where vague things, or shapes can be made out, if the mind is so inclined. Where’s the sofa? It only exists from a consensually agreed upon distance? And what is the one thing that connects all these POVs? Not a sofa, not an object of any kind, but simply the seeing.

There is only the seeing. Consciousness exists. All else is arguable. (And is of course continually being argued.)

All this is simply to say, we can make a move from the seen to the seeing itself. How simple is that?! Look past the content to the container–the space which has no edges. Pay attention not to the elements, the characters in the dream, but simply notice that you’re dreaming. There is nothing wrong with the dream or the the dreamer, never was, never is. There is only dreaming, in full-technicolor–commentary, judgment, and opinions about right or wrong, and should or shouldn’t, don’t influence or concern the aperture, the eye that takes it in. See?

“When you go from the seen to the seeing, when you feel yourself in seeing, it’s a liberation. In this being the seeing there is nobody, there is only life, only light. There is peace in it. There is real equanimity in it.” ~ Jean Klein


3 responses

  1. Douglas Harding taught exactly this! He called it the Headless Way – the idea being that what we think of as our heads is actually a vast space that receives all that is, without names or concepts, which we are taught to add but which don’t have any self-existence. He used the exact comparison of looking at something from a few inches to a few feet to a vast distance away, to demonstrate the emptiness of all naming. Beautiful!


    • Yes, Helen–a nod to Douglas Harding on the relativity of distance in seeing. Nothing definitive here<—-but being the capacity to receive what is, as it is. In the seeing, all teachings that point to the absence of a POV, or a looker per se (me), and the fullness of the seen (everything!), become the multilingual expressions of what appears in and as THIS. Thank you! 🙂


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