An animal eye

animals

What is animal presence?  Why do animals visit in dreams?  James Hillman, founder of archetypal psychology wrote that from a depth perspective of the world

all things are displays, and imagination and perception, invisible and visible, intuition and sensation do not fall apart when discerned with an animal eye (Animal Presences, Spring, 2008).

So what is an animal eye? What is it like to look at the world with an animal eye?  Hillman speaks to using another kind of vision that moves beyond the usual correspondences, symbolization and metaphors that we usually impose on animals in attempting to define their meaning.  Through leaning into the mysterious otherness of animals, by

bringing our superior postures to the level of the creature, kneeling to it, condescension, we begin to see as they do;  a transposed eye [...] to see with the creaturely eye is an act of imagining the world so that it appears in continuing animation, in a continuing play of creation with which human consciousness participates by means of imagining acts. (Hillman, 2008)

Here the creative imagination is not a gift that is bestowed upon us in order to create great works of art, images or ideas.  Animal vision is a way of releasing what already exists. When we see with the animal eye we are able to see and connect with creative process that is ongoing and the possibilities that exist in play.  Hillman emphasizes that

the human imagination is not the creator, does not create; it sees the creative, creatively (Hillman, 2008)

Seeing creatively with the animal eye is a way to open, improvise and play your way into creative process.

Slowly looking with the Buddhist “good eye”

Slowly looking

Recently I came across the Contemplative Photography movement, which incorporates Buddhist mindfulness practice with Western ways of seeing the world.  Contemplative Photography practice is based on holding an intention of learning to look and see through a lens of nonattachment. Through practice, you begin to trust the gaps in discursive thought where clear seeing and inspiration emerge in your art.

Matthieu Ricard describes Contemplative photography as

seizing the present moment as one would delicately hold a poppy without shedding its petals.  It is about nonattachment; one has nothing to lose and nothing to gain, but everything to offer to the eyes of the viewer (from jacket of The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the world with fresh eyes, written by  Andy Carr and Michael Wood, Shambala, 2011)

Miksang is a Tibetan word which means “Good Eye”. The practice is founded on Shambala  and Dharma Art Teachings of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.  The word “good” relates to uncluttered vision and seizing the present moment.  In the following video “Miksang” practice is explained in a way I hope you find inspiring.

 

Looking into the Open

Looking

The Open

With their whole gaze

animals behold the Open.

Only our eyes

are as though reversed

and set like traps around us,

keeping us inside.

That there is something out there

we know only from the creatures’ countenance.

We turn even the young child around,

making her look backward

at the forms we create,

not outward into the Open.

R.M. Rilke, from the Eighth Duino Elegy

Madiba and the power of creative potential

Madiba

Madiba’s powerful words encapsulate many levels of meaning. Perhaps that is why they inspire and light a creative spark for so many of us. These words point to the idea that finding passion requires commitment and responsibility. The heroic attempt to live up to one’s potential and the power that entails is often an overwhelming challenge.  Marianne Williamson wrote

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? [...] Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do [...] As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The responsibility of owning our powerful creative potential requires knowing the shadow aspects of our personality.  Artist Louise Bourgeois had a deeply personal lens through which she artistically engaged with her shadow and what she felt was the burden of her own creative potential power.  Bourgeois wrote

I’m afraid of power; it makes me nervous [...] In my art I am the murderer, the man who has to live with his conscience… As an artist I am a powerful person.  In real life I feel like the mouse behind the radiator… By withdrawing, by recognizing that you have no power, you become more than yourself.  You get ideas which never would have occurred to you .  In my art, I live in a world of my own making.  I make decisions.  I have power.  In the real world, I don’t want power

Bourgeois was able to create powerful art by acknowledging her shadow side and fears. She played with both positive and negative aspects of power and its potential for both good and evil.

In his lifetime, Madiba also experienced both the dark and light sides of power.  His words are meaningful because they emerge from a deeply felt, impassioned life experience, a life that entailed great courage, risk and exploration of the unknown, all elements of the archetype of the creative hero.

Hurrying Slowly

“When you pay attention  to your dreams, you inhabit a much larger part of your soul.”
- Robert Bosnak

In his book Embodiment: Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art and Travel, Robert Bosnak, writes about how images are embodied by the dreamer. He views dream images as places of emotion, or as image environment ecosystems in which we find ourselves. He states “Place and storytime are simultaneous and indistinguishable, portrayed as a moment in place as seen from above” (p.18).  Rather than projecting onto an image, we interact, engage and dialogue with images. Through creative imaginal process we both shape and are shaped by images in dreams and/or art.

slowdown1

Here is a video where Robert Bosnak speaks to the importance of slowing down and paying attention to the particulars……

Dreams and Stories

dreams

“Trust dreams

Trust your heart

and trust your story”.

-Neil Gaiman

Art and Dreaming

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.”  Vincent Van Gogh.

In his book Dream Tending: Awakening to the healing power of Dreams, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat writes that dream images are like characters in a story.  Dream images give meaning to our life’s story, just as characters in novels give meaning to the narrative.

“An artist is constantly looking into an object, stripping away what is superfluous, in order to see its innate beauty.  Even a careful look at the surface of an object reveals that which is lit up from the inside” (Aizenstat, p. 263).

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