Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Looking With Fresh Eyes

Today is the equinox, the day when periods of light and darkness are equal. Here in the northern hemisphere it is the first day of spring, so I’ve been meditating on what spring in our inner world might look like or mean. I’ve played with the idea of places within that are stuck or frozen, wondering how I might bring a warm breeze/breath to these spots and find a new flow. At one point while meditating the phrase came: “Look with fresh eyes.”

This sounds like a good idea. We all get into habitual ways of seeing our lives and the world. Dropping our preconceived notions and having a fresh look, seeing what we might be missing sounds good. But, what does it really mean to look with fresh eyes, and how do we do it?

Lately, I’ve been following an impossible-to-explain impulse to return to painting, creating images on the page that arise in consciousness. I’m using Zero Point Painting by Michelle Cassou as my guide- a method that focuses on process instead of product. It’s the painting that’s teaching me about looking with fresh eyes.

Earlier in the week I painted a life-sized hand reaching for something. Then I sat with it to see what other images might come, and one did: an image of the talons of a large bird reaching down for the hand. I didn’t have time to continue painting right then and didn’t get back to the canvas until the next day. I was feeling eager to continue because I knew I had a starting point, knew I wasn’t going to sit with the tension of whether or not an image (or an image I “liked” or thought I could paint) would come.

But something unexpected happen: as I sketched in the bird’s talons I lost all energy for or interest in the painting. I didn’t want to paint at all. The image of the bird talons from the day before belonged to the day before, to where I had been internally with the painting then. It no longer held any juice for me. I felt like I was simply recording something I already knew, as if I was copying out a text or spewing out remembered information on an exam.

Frustrated, I stopped. I let go of the image of the bird, sat with myself and the incomplete painting until a new image that wanted to be painted now came and carried me back into moving with colour on the page.

Contemplating this later I realized that this desire to see with the fresh eyes of the present moment is central to being in and feeling the creative flow of life within and around us. It’s why I’ve never given the same talk or facilitated the same workshop twice. I thought (with some judgement) that perhaps it was because I’m easily bored, but I now I consider that it is more about my hunger for full engagement and for exploring beyond the edge of what is known.

What happens each spring follows certain patterns and natural laws, but what grows, what unfurls in that impossible shade of green is always new, always a world that, in its details, has never been seen before. And there are risks- the shoot of a plant may poke up where someone walks and be crushed, or may appear as a passing rabbit wants a nibble so it will never fully flower.

To be in the present moment sounds good but it necessitates real risk and fresh eyes, requires a willingness to repeatedly let go of the predictable, the anticipated, and the planned to follow what arises in the moment.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking- what about my job, the kids, the things that have to be done. But the freshness of the moment does not necessarily dismantle all of what is needed to sustain life. Letting go of the known image and waiting for what was alive in the moment was done within the structure of painting in my apartment, of keeping other time commitments and making meals to sustain myself. Letting go of how we think we or others will be with any task and allowing what is to arise, seeing it with the fresh eyes of the present moment brings us more fully into a moment where we may just going through the motions.

Yes, there is risk: something new may happen and we cannot tell where that will take us. It takes courage to look with fresh eyes.

May we each find our inner spring, our way to bring fresh eyes to the present moment no matter what it holds, stepping into the renewal of life that is continually available to us.

Oriah (c) 2013


  1. Another insightful message, Oriah. Thank you for being so incredibly authentic and sharing yourself with the world. You are a constant inspiration to me.
    Sheri Lawson

  2. I wonder if some of us are more, by nature, more inclined to or comfortable with springing forward or falling back? Love your description of both :-)

  3. I have such a hard time letting go of the planned in order to be open to what comes in the moment. I only recently realized this about my creative process - that all the ideas I come up with for a new writing project or my next blog post actually hinder the process and keep me from creating anything at all! I get so inspired when I have an idea, but when I go to form it, I get frustrated because it never comes out the way it sounds and looks in my mind (of course). And then follows the guilt of never getting any of the ideas into form. What a relief it's been to learn to let go of the idea, and just see what comes. Ideas are good, but when they block our ability to be present in front of the blank page (canvas, etc), they need to be abandoned.

  4. Dear Oriah, truly, courage is needed to look with fresh eyes. It's so easy to hold on to the security of the familiar. I've been trying for years to live more and more daily the Buddhist path of the moment. Of living in the present and in Presence. That can, I believe make all the difference. With that type of living, I also believe, comes the possibility of becoming fully human.

    And if that doesn't happen in this life, then I trust that it will in another. Peace.

  5. More and more I find myself moving further and further away from what others tell me "should" matter and more towards what really does matter and this act of courage and knowing truly has helped me to see with fresh eyes, eyes that have not been conditioned but eyes truly ok with touching the core of what is; touching that authentic place that knows truth.

  6. Lovely post and Very well said.
    I especially found interesting the part when you said you just thought you were bored easily....
    I am a teacher and find myself not quite able to do the exact same thing year after year. Even though i know it will make teaching easier for me, and I will be more 'organized', I just don't do it. This posting makes me wonder and realize at the same time, that I too prefer to teach with fresh eyes each year, because each group of students is unique and I am able to offer what is needed instead of what is in my plan from last year.
    That's pretty cool :)