I suppose that our sight is probably the sense that we most often take for granted, purely because we’re always using it. We wake up in the morning and perhaps after a stretch and a yawn the first thing we do is to open our eyes and ‘see’! We continue our day continuously ‘seeing’ until it’s time for bed and we close our eyes again. It’s also the sense that will arouse our interest in things, make us want to take a closer look at something that has caught our eye. The act of ‘looking closer’ at something will arouse our sense of touch, smell and in certain circumstances, taste. Hearing is the odd one out as the speed of sound is faster than the speed of light which is why we’ll more often than not hear something before seeing it and then be drawn towards the sound to see what made it. Sensual teamwork in action! But let’s get back on topic and concentrate on sight and investigate, explore and discover how it affects us and how we can enhance it through nature and other simple means of ‘sight therapy!’ But before we head off in that direction I’d like you to take just a few minutes to remind yourselves of what ‘seeing’ involves and how our senses are linked to our brain, our memories and other cognitive processes which give us our initial perceptions of what we see; and why our perceptions of reality are rarely what they first appear because it’s the focus point (sorry for the pun!) of what’s to come. So I’ll see you after class!
Right, if you’re back with me, let’s move on ….
When you look back throughout the history of mankind you’ll soon realise that the men and women who have made the biggest leaps of discovery in the natural sciences and that the majority of our celebrated artists, writers and philosophers have all had two things in common. The first is a deep connection with nature, and the second is ‘observation’. Curiosity combined with observation develops creative thought and stirs the imagination into endless possibilities of wisdom, beauty and well-being.
- Alexander Von Humboldt who turned his scientific observation of the natural world into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Darwin, Wordsworth and Goethe as well as politicians such as Jefferson. It was also arguably Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of preservation and that shaped Thoreau’s ‘Walden’.
- Landscape artists such as Claude Monet, John Constable or Pablo Picasso who observed nature and depicted it from their own distinctly different creative minds onto the canvasses we know and love today.
- Albert Einstein who stated that, ‘reality is merely an illusion albeit a very persistent one’ and ‘look deep into nature and you will understand everything better!’
I could go on and grow that list, but I’ll leave it there for you to think of other ‘observers’ you know of who may have influenced some of your own visual perceptions and outlooks on life.
Observation is the focussing of our sight on the small details we see and bringing them into the bigger picture that we call reality. It’s why an observer will ‘see’ much more and understand better what is going on in the world than a mere ‘looker’. I’m sure we’ve all come across the phrase of someone having a ‘trained eye’ from time to time; and that trained eye is the eye that every single observer has developed and used to bring us the world as we know it today. The great news is that with time and practice we can all become observers simply by using the camera lenses of our eyes to focus for a while on the smallest details and then slowly panning out to reveal the bigger picture, bringing the awareness of the connectedness of everything we see into focus. The more we practice this the more information we will send to our brain, enhancing our memories and the clarity of those energy driven images we call sight.
There are a couple of posts here on my blog which show how I do this when connecting to nature called ‘Magical Freeze Frame Moments’ and ‘The Bigger Picture’ which you can check out in your own time. But here is a quick example of what I mean; the next time you see a tree that catches your eye in some special way don’t just stand there and admire it. Widen your perspective of it, walk around it, view it from different angles and degrees of closeness. Look up into it and ‘observe’ how it changes in the light, observe the direction it leans, which side has more foliage or buds and observe the direction the branches point! You’ll not only be learning about the tree, but you’ll also be learning about the direction of the prevailing winds, start to recognise the direction of North, South, East and West without a compass and you’ll also discover that moss doesn’t just grow on the North side as the old myth tells us it does! There’s a plethora of knowledge to be gained from a single tree, especially if you observe it throughout the seasons, just imagine if you took that observer’s eye and directed it at the world as a whole. You would be training and developing your brain, getting a better perspective on all manner of things as well as enjoying, understanding and appreciating the time you spend in nature a whole lot better.
By constantly practising the art of observing life, of participating through our sense of sight to its fullest and stop ourselves from being mere onlookers we can improve our perceptions of it through a better understanding and grasp of the bigger picture. This visual activity will give a boost to our already powerful brains, improve our memory and energise our own individual creative imaginations; to bring a clarity and reality to our perception of life that we never recognised or thought possible before. We will also feel a greater sense of mental well-being by feeling more in touch with our true-selves, others and nature in its completeness of separation. But there is so much more we can do to maintain and in certain cases enhance our sense of sight. There is far too much to discuss right here and now so I’ll just mention a couple of them for the moment.
Developing a sensible healthy diet and ‘eating our greens’ like our Mothers and Grandmothers drummed into us has many more positive benefits than just giving us curly hair! As my own new interest in healthy and appreciative eating has shown me, a home cooked meal tastes so much better when it’s presented well and eaten at a restaurant style table setting than on a tray on your lap in front of the TV? There are also eye exercises that we can do on a regular basis, how about trying some Yoga for your eyes? We can also use the simple common-sense methods of wearing eye protection when in bright sunlight or dusty atmospheres and of not staying up all hours staring at those alluring blue screens on our cell phones and other devices. Our eyes need rest just as much as our minds and bodies do so with that in mind I’ll call it a day and we can all close our eyes and our laptops for a few well deserved moments of recuperation!