Mindfulness · Musings

A Flash of Perception


I am in week 3 of a Contemplative Photography class at the Houston Zen Center.   I signed up for the class on a whim; I receive regular emails about events at the Center, and for some reason this one caught my eye.

The class is not about photography technique.  (I am using my iPhone.) It’s about using the camera as a meditation tool of sorts.  A way of looking, then really seeing, what caught your eye.  Each Saturday, the teacher gives us a theme and we go out and shoot photos based on the theme.  First we explored color, then texture.  Last Saturday, it was simplicity, which I adore.  (See my last post on minimalism. I love how “empty space,” literal or figurative, accentuates what really matters.)

While scouting the grounds of the Zen center in search of simplicity, something up and to my left caught my eye.  My first thought was there’s a bird up there, in that window.  On closer examination, I realized it wasn’t a real bird, it was a sticker, on the window.  That amused me.  Then, as I (mentally) stepped back, I saw the reflection of the tree on the window, my mind’s eye placing the bird on a limb.  It was a fun, multidimensional experience.

As we were leaving, the teacher passed out a three-page handout, a chapter from a book, entitled, “The Flash of Perception,” which I just this morning found time to read.

It contains this excerpt:

Here is another type of experience. You look at a highly polished surface: it could be a windshield, a computer monitor, or a plate glass window. At first you see the interior of the car, the image on the monitor, or people eating in a restaurant. In the next moment, without shifting your gaze, you see a reflection of trees, your own face, or the sky. You didn’t notice the reflections at first because you were trying to look at what was beyond the surface.  Then the vividness of the reflected appearance broke through that effort and you saw.  This is an example of a flash of perception.

Coincidence?  As I have said before, I think coincidences are unicorns – fanciful figments of our imagination.

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