As conceived of and presented by Rob, a way of looking is the way of relating to, conceiving of, sensing and perceiving experience in any moment. A 'way of looking' always contains ideas, whether or not we are consciously ‘thinking’ or conceptualizing. And as can be discovered through practice, a 'way of looking' is always present, even when not being held deliberately, as well as in popular mindfulness practices like ‘being with things as they are.’
Flexibility is key in this arena. A practitioner can relate to and sense experience in different ways, and there is the possibility of extending the range of that sensing. Because things (including self, world and time) are empty, a practitioner is free to pick up the most skilful and appropriate lenses – perhaps to reduce suffering in the moment, to tune into the changing nature of appearances, to bring freedom into an experience of self, or to ensoul the perception of the world.
In emptiness practice, rather than waiting for an insight to arise through mindfulness, insight may be taken as a starting point by sustaining a 'way of looking' that sees, for instance, the impermanence of all things. Rob took up the ‘Three Characteristics’ of classical Buddhism – anicca, anattā and dukkha – as 'insight ways of looking' that we can work with in this way, rather than as inherent truths of existence. By repeatedly sustaining such 'insight ways of looking', more profound insights will emerge and themselves become available as 'ways of looking', creating stepping-stones to an ever deeper realization of emptiness. In Soulmaking Dharma, the 'way of looking' may include elements like grace and eternality which incline an image to become imaginal or 'sensed with soul'. The whole of meditation, then, can be viewed as a skilful playing and experimenting with a range of 'ways of looking'.
“If you follow this approach of different ways of looking, what we get is several understandings that come out of that. And one is that basically what I sense, the experience I have, how a thing seems, depends on the way of looking. So this is quite a crucial insight. But the kind of depth and comprehensiveness and radicality of that insight can just increase and increase and become more and more profound and comprehensive as practice goes on. One sees there is no independent reality, independent of the way of looking. And so that idea, that assumption that we retain very deep in our view of things that there is an independently existent way things are, that gets broken, it gets shattered, and one realizes that we participate in the creation of the world at the most fundamental level.”