On Direct or Creative Perception

Direct or creative perception talks about seeing  without interference by a thinking, analyzing mind. When such a moment arrives we call it a ‘flash of perception’ or a ‘creative moment’. The medium to express this moment can be photography, music, painting, writing or any other form of art.

People who follow a contemplative meditative practice may be familiar with what it means to see directly. But what about those who do not meditate? How can any of us tap into this direct way of perceiving and break away from the conditioning we have undergone all our lives. It is just not good enough to be told to relax, to be present or to let go of your thoughts.

There are two interesting books that have practice suggestions as to how one can loosen the grip of habitual ways of seeing. The first one is The Zen of Creativity by Daido Loori and the second one is The Practice of Contemplative Photography by A. Karr and M.Wood. Daido Loori entered Zen Buddhism through the door of photography, inspired by Minor White, an iconic figure in modern American photography. A.Karr and M.Wood were inspired by the photography of Chögyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher.

The practices suggested by these authors are simple but that does not mean they are easy. They give you a taste of what it is like  to develop the ability to just experience without identifying what it is one is experiencing. Try, for example, to just see or connect with color, without naming or analyzing it, without processing it intellectually. You can extend this practice to all sensory experiences.

When we land in the present moment we are one with what we see. This way of perceiving creates a condition of wholeness and enables us to convey the totality of our experience in our pictures. By making direct contact one is no longer locked into the visual phenomena alone but goes beyond the ordinary way of seeing. In this way we can breath live and freshness into our image making.

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