Intimate vision

I have said in other posts that I see humans as “messy miracles.” Somehow we become so identified with our messiness that we forsake the miraculous in coming to know our true nature. The essential key to reunite what is so often separated seems to be our willingness to face our fundamental vulnerability and realize it as the gateway to freedom and joy. Of course vulnerability is the shaky, feared place around which we develop our basic strategies from childhood that both protect us and prevent us from receiving what we long for so deeply — the nourishment of real intimacy. I certainly see this in my clients, my Zen students, and most closely within myself. This is just part of being human and I am witnessing it this week in the See the Light photography workshop in which I am participating.

When I signed up for the workshop I expected to get expert training from the two principle teachers, Jonathan Kingston and John Barclay, and I also anticipated receiving inspiration and photo wisdom from Rikki Cooke and Dewitt Jones. What I did not expect was to find myself in a morning “sharing circle” in the pavilion at the Hui with tears streaming down my face as we talked about what the process of photography opened in us. I am used to this in my everyday work life. I just didn’t think that a photography workshop would reveal the same essential vulnerability in such tender and loving ways. I feel like I am participating in a meditation retreat, engaging in practices (shooting in nature and learning Lightroom), dharma talks (teachings about dropping the self, turning toward gratitude, and allowing the world to come to us), and practice discussion (meeting with the teachers, feeling vulnerable and stupid, showing them my innermost vision through my images, fearing judgment). Here were the same lessons I offer my students all the time: Loving presence is the foundation for how we do everything and meet everyone; Curiosity is the key to turning from habitual reaction to response and choice; Everything is relational and I am not the center of it all; Learn to look deeply and learn to allow yourself to be seen; Honor everything and turn to gratitude as a way to live; Humility is the appropriate response to meeting this tender world and to caring for each other. Everything belongs, so what do we ignore or avoid?


One practice at a time, moment after moment, relationship after relationship, and with a commitment to cultivating attention and care as our vow, we slowly build a way of life that can gently hold our basic human vulnerability. Rather than bracing against our fears in automatic and habitual ways, we discover that real intimacy — the essential nourishment we will always require — becomes available in abundance, and then we can share it with each other. That is what I regularly feel in our warm sangha at Appamada and this is what I was experiencing in the circle in the photo workshop. The simple blessings that are appearing in this space of loving presence, the grace that is flowing through our warm connections, and the spacious intimacy that we discover together are the essential balms to life’s challenges and humiliations. This is what brought tears to my eyes. This is what opened my eyes.