On the Surface

This looking and seeing is a theme I visit on occasion.  Perhaps it’s only a mind game yet…is it a worthy one?

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I look.  I see something.  Based on what I expect to see, studies have shown that I confirm my already-formed perceptions.  It is comforting to me to imagine that what I see gives confirmation to what I perceive or believe to be so.  If my preformed perceptions are confirmed, I often don’t look any deeper.

These preformed perspectives help me to navigate through my life.  It can be personally challenging for anyone to entertain another perspective or opinion because we count on our prepackaged viewpoints.  I unconsciously give myself confirmation that what I see is the way it really is.  To consider another perspective or to go below the surface of my thoughts or beliefs, I would have to be very flexible.  This sort of shift creates an instability.  Few people are comfortable with instability.  I don’t want disruption and chaos.  No way!

Assuming that how I see something is the way it actually is, I rarely consider that you might see something entirely different and that to you, it is also true.

Contemplation:
If you went below the surface of your perceptions, what might you discover?

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Perspectives, Presence, People

I don’t write to convince a reader of my perceptions or thoughts.  I write to express what I see through the story lens of my life as I experience it.  Sometimes, I choose to share what I’m discovering.

I read books and watch films for entertainment and/or to expand my worldview.  It is fascinating to be educated to other ways of being and seeing.

When you follow the old adage “walk a mile in my shoes,” there is an opportunity for something to open up inside of you.

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I have a friend who periodically travels to awaken the heightened awareness that is necessary when one travels.  When she visits somewhere new, she experiences a greater aliveness as she navigates the unfamiliar.   Travel, in one sense, awakens her vitality.

The sameness of one’s environment can lead to a sort of lethargy?  It’s all so familiar.  It seems less likely that I can foster a feeling of novelty of experience in my daily routine than I could if I were traveling?  I recognize within myself the need to really cultivate presence in my daily encounters in order to be a witness to the daily miraculous .  Life is not humdrum.  We are, each one of us, walking, talking wonders.  Yet, because we are familiar, even predictable, I can assume the humdrum in my encounters.  For instance…

Typically, my long-time gardener and friend gives me his litany of complaints about his work.  I then respond in the usual way, commiserating.  I have an expectation that he is going to come and complain and I’ll listen and nod my head and hear him out.  In a certain sense, I’m not present with him in the moment.  I link his complaints together with all the other times he’s come to tend my yard.  I put up a certain sort of inner defense.  Today, as he is out there doing the yard work, I wonder about how I can be more present with him.  Can I choose to really see and hear him, his frustrations and his gratitudes, as if I were meeting him for the first time…that old Buddhist Beginner’s Mind.  Besides, having had recent losses, I do know too well that everything and everyone passes.  Nothing and no one lasts forever.  That realization alone can help bring presence to whatever the day brings.  Today, I’d like to be a bit more present with my friend.  To be a witness to his experience.  To see him anew.  To hear him anew.

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When I am given presence, I recognize it.  And I’m appreciative.

 

What Do You See?

As a writer, how do you PRACTICE describing what you see?

Following is one of my favorite poems that illustrates deeply seeing and then portraying what the poet observes.

Nude Descending a Staircase
© 1961 by X. J. Kennedy

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
a gold of lemon, root and rind,
she sifts in sunlight down the stairs
with nothing on. Nor on her mind.
We spy beneath the banister
a constant thresh of thigh on thigh;
her lips imprint the swinging air
that parts to let her parts go by.
One-woman waterfall, she wears
her slow descent like a long cape
and pausing on the final stair,
collects her motions into shape.
I appreciate this poem because it not only succinctly describes a nude woman walking down the stairs, it creates an imagery whereby I, as the reader, also see her.  And, in her descent of the staircase, I note the action of her walking, the movement.  This is a great feat in poetry.
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We’ve seen artists with their pencils and art journals sketching what they see.  As a writer, do you practice writing word sketches?  These word sketches can be used later on in other writing that you do or to simply facilitate your ability to observe.  Either way, it’s not time wasted.
Writing Prompt:
Here’s  fun exercise.  Take yourself outdoors to a park bench and sit with your pen, a  journal and notice people, your surroundings, the array of dogs?  Find the precise words to describe the flowers, trees, any movement.  What adjectives or metaphors come to mind as you allow yourself to really see someone or something?  Jot them down.  Practice doing a word sketch…or several.
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Thank you to X.J. Kennedy for permission to print his poem.
“From In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press), copyright 2007 by X. J. Kennedy.  By permission of the author.”