Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Contemplative Eye...

"With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony,
and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things."
William Wordsworth

      I was reminded of this quotation by Wordsworth as I wandered the grounds of a Franciscan monastery in Maine last week. Spring hadn't made a full appearance yet and my woodland walk was punctuated only by the singing of a cardinal and a cool breeze off the ocean. It was a very peaceful stroll.  I had come to the monastery with two friends and, for a time, we each went our separate ways on the grounds. One friend was photographing the site, as I was, the other was just enjoying the walk and I wondered how each of us was experiencing the same place.  Did we see the same things?  How much of perception is directed by our thoughts, feelings, expectations and needs?  How does seeing with a "contemplative eye" differ from any other way of regarding the reality of the world around us?

     As so often happens, when I think intensely about something, some ray of inspiration comes into my life to illuminate the thought. The day after I began to write this post, I received my weekly "Sounds True" email with it's wonderfully inspiring "A Good Minute". This week the speaker was my constant source of lovely reflection, John O'Donohue.  I have mentioned John several times on this blog-most recently at the beginning of my April 28th post- and I often think about what a gentle soul he was and so brilliantly intuitive. Although I had corresponded with him via email for several months, it was such a blessing to have finally met him in 2007 just 6 months before his untimely death. Finding this week's "Good Minute"  was like John reaching out to me and giving me the words I needed to communicate the thoughts in this post.

A contemplative eye is the quiet eye of the heart.

     To answer the questions I posed above, I would simply say that each of us saw a totally different place that day because we were all approaching it for different reasons and from different mindsets.  Each viewpoint was correct and it served the needs of the viewer at that moment. I doubt my two friends thought a single moment about their process of "seeing".  When you begin to see the world with a contemplative eye, however, it is nearly impossible to revert to ordinary ways of looking at a landscape and every moment is an opportunity to reflect upon some larger truth.  When I cease to judge or analyze what is in front of me, when I listen to the landscape with an open heart, then I begin to truly see and not merely look at the world around me.

an on-line course in contemplative photography from
The Abbey of the Arts

     I love this site and enjoyed taking this course this past winter.  Christine is writing a book based on the course content and I look forward to adding it to my collection.

"I begin to object when I cease to understand it."
-Henry David Thoreau


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