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.

Moon in the Water

moon in water

“The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent shaped,

This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time.

May we all be blessed with longevity,

Though thousand miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.”

from a poem by Song dynasty poet Su Shi

The Zen metaphor “Moon-in-the-water” speaks to daily living and creative flow while at the same time expresses a mysterious truth.  In his 2011 book, I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World, author James Geary writes

Metaphor is the bridge we fling between the utterly strange and the utterly familiar, between dice and drowned men’s bones, between I and an other [...] Parables and proverbs feature so prominently in folk wisdom and religious scripture because there is no way to convey spiritual truths other than to set them side by side with natural truths.  The numinous is the nitty gritty.  I is an other (Geary, 2011).

We co-create and shape experience both externally (through relations with others) and internally (in relation with our thoughts and feelings). This inter/intra connection is a bi-directional co-creative process.  In the Moon-in-the-Water metaphor, water (subject) is our inner self.  Moon (object) is our external world and relationships.  Moon and water exist in relationship to each other. They co-create each other, and through author Daniel Siegel’s lens remain differentiated, integrated and in harmonic relationship (Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Siegel, 2010). Inner creates outer and outer creates inner simultaneously.  So if the moon does not rise or there is no water, there is no unity or integration, no “Moon-in-the-water”.  Water and moon happen together, they do not wait for each other to exist.  The metaphor holds the insight that we create and shape our experience, just as we shape and are shaped by our creative process.

hope, feathers and nests

nest

Hope
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Emily Dickinson

 

Recently I found an empty nest that had been placed with great care, attention and respect on a bench.  It was starting to rain.  I left the nest and continued walking.  When I circled back, the nest had not been claimed.  I placed it under the bench protecting it from the rain.  Later that day I drove back to see if it had been claimed…it was still there. 

I made a home for the empty nest in my studio.  After imagining all the possible ways to use it in art… assemblage, painted gold, preserved in wax… the empty nest seemed to want to just be.  So I left it as is.  In a process of becoming something else.  And simply looking at this empty nest (made by an expert nest maker) inspired the making of some new work. 

Nest=making, process, building, weaving, finding, leaving and returning, egg, growth, decay, growth, cycle, lost, found, circle, center, transitional space, impermanence, nurture, comfort, protection, safety, hope = Home

“Hope” you enjoy this link to Claire Danes reading and a signing by Rachel, age 9.  Rachel’s hands capture and embody this poem in such a beautiful and moving way.

hope is the thing with feathers

Looking Back and Looking Forward

newdirections

“…That’s why we have the Museum, Matty, to remind us of how we came, and why: to start fresh, and begin a new place from what we had learned and carried from the old.”  Lois Lowry, Messenger

The transitional space between old and new feels like a shifting energetic pause.  Time is marked by rituals of looking and stepping back, maybe even gathering up and holding on to last years moments. Review, reflect, let go….then into the New, clean slate and fresh start. A re-new cycle begins.

Part of moving forward includes looking back as a way of combining and integrating (hopefully) the best of past with future. The art of knowing where we are, includes knowing where we came from and where we plan to go.  Maybe this “looking in” knowledge is what allows us to stand in the now and direct fresh energy towards a renewed creative cycle.

Wishing you creativity, health and joy in the New Year.

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.

 

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