Since Daido Roshi’s illuminating workshop last summer, our creative audience group sessions have provided an ongoing supportive and inspiring opportunity for members to continue to deepen our contemplative practice through photography.
Over the past year, the group has coalesced and developed a remarkable sense of trust and camaraderie, taking our level of offering and receiving feedback to a deep level. While some of the feedback offerings have not always been nice to hear (I was told once that an image I presented was “creepy and uncomfortable”), the authenticity, caring and respect that I have experienced in our group form a solid and fertile ground that supports honest and meaningful human responses.

When feedback resonates with what I felt and learned from a subject, I marvel at our perceptive abilities as sentient beings to extract intention and emotional experience with such keen insight and accuracy. More often than not, creative audience feedback has served not only to confirm my experience, but also has pointed out additional key elements that had escaped my awareness.

For the more rare occasion when feedback does not seem to click with my experience in the photographing process, I wonder if what was offered might reflect a projection of the observer’s past associations that interfered with their seeing with beginner’s eyes. Of course, in the relative plane, we cannot dissociate ourselves from our own particular human history. The challenge is to come from a place of emptiness from which to offer feedback—from the self that can both bear witness to and yet see beyond the personal history, recognizing the one in all that is encountered. Starting our sessions with the guided meditation presented in The Zen of Creativity has helped set this tone, reminding us to drop into the space of sensing beyond the limited vision of our eyes.

The discipline we learned from Roshi of how to take in an image provides a very useful framework to explore an image’s teachings, which may not be so readily apparent in the pedestrian way in which we more typically see.

Each of our creative audience sessions has been a rich journey down the river of the creative process, both on an individual and group level. Our creative audience group is the rudder helping to guide us through.

David Silver is a medical doctor, international public health consultant, photographer and musician based in Boulder.

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