As artists we use many mediums. One we take for granted is that of contemplation.
I define contemplation as a withdrawal of attention from the outside world and a total focus and dedication of the mind.
Contemplation requires the ability to see intimately and without distraction. As an artist, you transfer by way of the creative process, what you actually saw, heard or read in great detail. You transfer not what you think was the experience but what actually was.
As a musician, painter, poet, writer or other creative, you have a conditioned mind which naturally engages you to communicate with the world of reality in your own special way.
The greatest block to contemplation is our impulsive way of identifying and naming things. Once we have defined an object or experience with a name, the way we perceive it changes. Our perception stops once we have a name for things because we think we know it from our past experiences. At this point, we stop seeing its qualities and the process of perception is lost.
In the process of contemplation, you look upon an object or situation as if for the first time. That way, it always seems fresh and new even if you have encountered the situation previously.
Here is an exercise to help you experience without identifying. Ideally, this exercise will take about 10 minutes. The idea is to experience objects in the way of Zen, i.e. see, hear, taste, touch, smell without identifying or naming.
- Place several small objects on a table.
- With your eyes closed, choose one of these items
- Explore it with your hands, keeping your eyes closed.
- Feel the object but avoid identifying it.
- Continue this process until you think you have discovered all aspects of the object, shape, angles, texture, softness, hardness, sharpness, smoothness, smell etc.
- As thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them go and return to the object.
- After a few moments, return the object to the table and put everything away in a container.
- Repeat the process every day or two or when you can.
Eventually you will become skilled at experiencing objects without identifying them. This can be done with visual and sound images also.
You may not realize it but eventually this way of experiencing objects will translate into the way you express yourself in your arts practice.
Do you have any experiences of seeing something in a different way, as if for the first time? I would love to hear from you!