Posts Tagged ‘practical spirituaity’

I cannot draw to save my life ( or, so I told myself for years).

I simply have not had much success rendering objects as they actually appear. So, when I draw or paint, I generally cheat by going abstract (one of the benefits of living through the late 20th and early 21st centuries where a red rectangle on canvas can fetch a fortune).

Anyway, some years ago, my wife, who is an artist, and one who can render objects as they really appear, taught me how to see.

We were spending the day at a Jesuit retreat house investing in some much needed quiet time. One meditative activity was to do some pencil sketches. I resisted and suggested I do something else, but she encouraged me with some advice I’ve never forgotten: ” pick the ugliest rock you can find and try drawing that.”

Well, I did just that and my drawing was dead on!

The lesson that day was that the blocks to seeing are largely rooted in expectations about how something should look and a failure to focus on true rather than expected shapes, edges, dimensions and contours.

The practice of “ugly rock” drawing is a great way to break through and discover the power of drawing as a meditative discipline that can improve our overall acuity.

This memory also dredges up another dating back to when I was an undergraduate in a botany class. On day one, the instructor had us all go outside to a line of small trees and challenged us to draw what we saw on looking at a “leaf”.

This was an extraordinarily difficult assignment (though at first we all thought this challenge was proof positive of an easy “A” in this class). We all struggled mightily to recognize the difference between describing what we expected to see from the object at which we were actually looking.

The professor came to me and commented simply: “That’s not what you’re seeing but what you’re thinking; imagine you don’t know what a leaf is, and you’re seeing one for the first time. ”

I’ve forgotten just about everything else from that class but that one experience was worth the tuition. I commend this practice of meditative drawing to you.

Rendering a thing in its essence, in truth, as it is in the world, is epiphany.

Wisdom of the Stones

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