Close your eyes. Breathe. Now open them. What do you see? The moment you label it, give it a name, close your eyes again. Turn a quarter to your left. Open your eyes again and repeat the process. As soon as your mind tells you what you saw, close your eyes again.
How long did it take your mind to jump in and tell you what you saw?
When I just did this in my living room my inner dialogue was as follows: Lamp. From IKEA. Bought it a few years ago. Close. Turn. Open. Guitar. Mine. Red. Never play it. Sad.
This exercise is called human camera and it tunes me in. I notice how little space there is before I’ve named something, filed it, and moved on.
Am I actually experiencing anything?
Thoughts aren’t inherently bad, but I want to practice seeing the world as it is. Not just how I think it is. That’s a very different thing. As Shakespeare said:
“..there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
This weekend I took my third class in the Dharma art of Contemplative Photography. (you can check out my experiences of level one in an audio piece I did for CBC’s Tapestry here) It was a beautiful Saturday in April so there is so much to do. Inside the house and out. But I can’t deny the sirens call of these classes. I love how they help me see my world with fresh eyes.
Here are some of my pictures from the homework assignment before the first class. I’m inviting you to look with fresh eyes. It’s a practice, and my shots aren’t perhaps that accomplished, but they offer you a look at my practice. As you look at them, I’m going to ask you to put your eyes in your heart. Weird I know, but trust me on this. Don’t look with your mind- the mind that tells you that it’s a lamp and you hate that colour. Or it’s a guitar and why didn’t you take lessons? The story leaps in so quickly. Experiment with feeling the picture. Feel the flash that is intuitive, not right brained. The glimpse that is language free. Trust me the right brain will show up soon enough, but for now, put it in the back seat.
What was your first flash? There are three things represented here. Texture.Colour. Pattern. What did you see? What do you see now that I’ve told you what to look for?
Brightness, illumination, luminousness, lustre or radiance.
The theme for this class was Luminosity. Where in my world could I truly see the flashes of radiance, shimmer, light and sheen? As I did the exercise of turning with closed and then open eyes, I discovered I’m surrounded by luminescence. The inanimate world is alive with energy. When I saw the light glowing behind the curtain, I felt alive. When I saw the honeyed hardwood floor gleaming, I felt the melt of my heart. A gentle opening. Suddenly with every turn the world revealed itself to me. As Trungpa Rinpoche said:
The yellowness of yellow, the redness of red, the greenness of green, the purpleness of purple. Our experience is real”
My mind is quiet for a moment and when I look I don’t see clean or dirty or old or new. There is a space where I can just see.
Our theme in class was luminosity. After experiencing it as a human camera and discussion it was time to take to the world armed with our camera’s. My instruction was to go out for two hours and shoot examples of luminosity that I could feel.
Here’s a few of my favourites
When we all return to class we share our photos in a slide show. We laugh about our shared experience of meeting our minds. Our minds that were out looking. That were on assignment and trying to get
something. How frustrating that was! I knew what I wanted, but contriving to get it wasn’t ‘seeing’ and when I looked at my first shots, they didn’t speak. Thank heavens for digital photography. I ended up taking a bunch of shots, deciding they were terrible. Then I thought I’d just not submit any and I gave up. But after a time, I was able to shift out of my mind. The shift I made was to allowing. I stopped and looked without expectation or agenda. I allowed the world to permeate me. Suddenly, the picture was there waiting for me.
I wonder where in my life I ‘allow’.
When I was a new mom I allowed. I would spend time just looking at my babies. Watching their breath, their twitches of nose and lip curls. Could I be brave enough to trust that if I opened up, the world would be luminous without my brain swooping in to create it?
For just brief moments this weekend, I glimpsed the luminosity of the world.
I realize this world is always there, waiting for me.
Time to put my heart in the drivers seat more often so that I can truly see.