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There is something I must dwell on
because I know more than I know and must learn it from myself.

— Marilynne Robinson

My mother likes to recall the story of when my artistic qualities were first spotted. The story goes something like this…

When I was a small boy at primary school we were asked by our art teacher to draw a picture of a tree that stood on the edge of the playground. We all dutifully sat down with our pencils and crayons and began drawing. Later that day when we had finished our pictures the art teacher spoke to my mother who had come to collect me from school. She said she thought I had the qualities to become an artist and told my mother that when she looked at the various drawings the children had created all the other children had drawn a picture of a tree but not the tree that they were asked to look at and reproduce.  They had created an imagined idea of a tree in their minds whilst I had managed to attempt to draw and capture what was right in front of me – the tree that I was actually looking at.

I was reminded of this when I recently saw an interview with the actor Ethan Hawke.  In the interview he spoke about people’s perceptions of him.  When people met him they either had a very strong idea of what they thought he was like such as really positive or really negative. He goes on to tell a story of being invited to talk to some university film students who were in their early twenties.  He was trying to have a real conversation with them about life and what they were interested in. He said, “Nobody wants me to be real they just want a photo. It’s kind of heartbreaking because I am actually here”. He goes onto say how he was interested in having a dialogue with them, but he realized it was never going to happen because they were perceiving him through a glass wall of being famous.

Now, we may never have the experience of being famous, but so often in life we bring labels and concepts of what is happening to the situation rather than just being with the direct experience as it is. Through conceptualization and labelling, we create a false impression of how something really is whether this is a person or a tree in the playground.  If we can learn to come into relationship with our bodies, simply stay with the sensation as perceived via our senses, allowing just the bare experience, fully attending to it in a relaxed and open awareness; then something alive, vibrant, constantly changing and moving is revealed; not a static solid fixed object or situation.

Perhaps we could hold lightly any ideas or thoughts about what is happening and just be open through our body and our senses to the mystery of the direct experience as it unfolds.