Seeing Beyond Just Looking

old couple in woods

I have no certainty where exactly I got the idea.  It may have been from something I read or several things I came across blended together.  It may have even been a spontaneous realization.  But in the last 10 years I have learned to “see beyond just looking”.  I can’t do it all the time.  Actually that is probably impossible for a human being.  If I could I suspect I’d end up over dosed in goodness like Woody Allen was with the “orb” in the movie Sleeper.  Seeing beyond looking does happen for me frequently and the more I intentionally try the more frequent the activity comes without thought or effort.

My discovery was I mostly only acknowledged what came into view.  I walked without really noting  what was right before me.  Mine was a bad habit of hardly never really “truly seeing” much of anything.  My mind seemed to always be racing forward thinking about where I was going, what I had to do and what issues I needed to deal with.  Or else, I was looking backwards trying to solve some past emotional riddle or find some meaning in an episode of life I wanted an explanation for.

What I began to do, inconsistently at first, was to just stop and really take in visually what I was looking at.  There was amazement the first intentional time I took 30 seconds to study a beautiful tulip, to see its unique form and texture and to take in its vibrant red color.  I was stunned to look and see so much always detail missed before.  It was during the early times of having these experiences with intention when I noticed how beautifully blue the sky really is (which is still one of my favorites to marvel at).

How touched I became when I locked my vision on an elderly couple watching the man help the fragile woman out of the car and attending to her to get into a restaurant.  Eating at the same place as they were I watched the smiles they exchanged while eating and from a distance the conversation they were having.  I saw a couple deeply in love just moving in slow motion;  true romance at half speed.  Without looking closely I would have dismissed them mentally as “old people” and hardly noticed them at all.

I found delight in watching a toddler in a park giggling wildly while chasing a grasshopper like it was the greatest find of the year.  Truly sitting and watching birds through a window enjoy a feast of crumbled bread I put out for them on top of a big snow allowed me to notice the quirky uniqueness of each breed and what appeared to be joy in the abundance they had found.  And then there is nature!  A walk in the woods or a park became a sensory banquet.

When was the last time you sat and watched a sunset or sunrise?  When was the last time you actually “saw” a person instead of just looking at them.  How long since you gazed in a mirror and actually saw yourself instead of just acknowledging your reflection?  How long has it been since you focused on something to the point to where you found sheer delight in what you were looking at?  For me I am glad to say “no long ago”.   I am grateful to have stumbled across this activity and to have cultivated the habit.  As time passes with consistent effort I find I am able to more truly see with greater depth and frequency.  If life is a feast, then this is the seasoning for the meal.

Taken from “Seeing Past Myself” – Don Iannone

Sometimes I have trouble
Seeing past myself
Blindsided by who I think I am
To the vast world of possibilities…
I clean my glasses twice a day
Unfortunately it’s to see what I want to see
And not beyond that
I guess I’m no different –
Than you, or anyone else.
My self-image directs my eyes.
There’s a solution you know
It’s not as hard as we think
Open our hearts to unknown possibilities
Accept that our version of reality
Is but one of many out there.

The real voyage of discovery consists of not in
seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

First Posted on May 25, 2011