Contemplating art is a direct way to access the liminal state of nous sought after in traditional meditation techniques
Contemplating art is a direct way to access the liminal state of nous sought after in traditional meditation techniques

Artist Lanon Carl Prigge on "Entering the Liminal" from Notes on the Open-Ending (2019)

I remember the first time I came across a stereo-gram. I was at a party and the hosts had a stereo-gram postcard stuck to the fridge. A group had gathered around it and each person in turn had a go at trying to see what lay hidden or obscured in the 2-d pattern of colours. When my turn came around, someone explained how I should focus and then unfocus my eyes, to relax them, and to allow the image to emerge. I couldn’t get it right and I was extremely frustrated. I can get obsessed with this kind of thing.

A couple of years later I purchased my own stereo-gram postcard from a local bookshop. I spent hours exploring different techniques, trying to figure out how to relax my eyes to allow the deeper image to emerge. One day, when I had basically given up trying, my eyes adjusted and the flat surface I was looking at suddenly became 3-d. I was looking into a pond of water with koi fish swimming about. 

Prompts in the right direction

I soon lost the focus that day, but with time and practise I learnt how to adjust my eyes at will and see any stereo-gram I wanted to. When I eventually bought myself a book of stereo-grams and read the explanation in it on how to unfocus the eyes, I recognized the technique given was precisely what I had always been trying to do. No matter how much effort I had previously put into getting it right, I hadn’t been able to. Now it made perfect sense now and seemed so practical – but that was only in hindsight. Still, without the prompts I had received in a certain direction, I might never have been able to do it at all.

Meditation, mindfulness and trance states are not under the rule of the rational conscious mind. Their roots lie deeper in consciousness.

This held an important lesson for me when it came to studying shamanic gazing techniques. If I thought I had been diligent and disciplined about learning to see stereo-grams, I recognized it as child’s play compared to the hours upon hours of effort I put into learning to see the flows of energy that lie beneath the surface veneer of reality or existence. That has been a 15 year endeavour and I am still at it, discovering ever deeper layers. 

Over the years I have come to recognize that explanations of ‘what to do’ have to be held gently, as if in the peripheral vision, and that their guidance can only ever come to fruition if they are not focused on. The task is not to do as told, but to allow ‘as told’ to happen by itself without effort. Be present and ‘as told’ will be achieved by something deeply unconscious in you. 

Learning is never something we do, it is something that happens to us when we get our rational, analytical mind (some would say our ego) of the way. This applies especially when approaching metaphysical tasks or esoteric activities such a meditation, mindfulness or trance states. Why? Because these states are not under the rule of the rational conscious mind. Their roots lie deeper in consciousness

The task is not to do as told, but to allow ‘as told’ to happen by itself without effort.

When I began exploring meditation techniques many years ago, the same processes seemed to operate. In each instance, the mind has to adjust to a liminal ‘setting’ where awareness remains acute but diffuse. A difficult thing to explain. Attention without tension. Focus without concentration. 

If you have ever watched a baby or toddler playing, you might have noticed that every so often they ‘zone out’. In one moment they are present and accounted for, and in the next they are staring into space, their attention elsewhere. What is this moment?

They are still looking into the world, but the world is no longer what they are seeing.

Awareness seems to settle into itself, aware only of itself and not the world around it. This is a momentary state of passivity that gives the active, seeking mind a chance to relax and reset, and for the information that has been accumulated by the system through outward bound interaction to be integrated by the deeper conscious mind.

The liminal or the space between spaces, the space of present-centred absence, is not a doing but a being.

Artful Contemplation is one of the simplest methods for entering this liminal, or nous, state that I have come across in over twenty years of practicing a diversity of techniques.

I invite you to give it a try. To benefit from dwelling in states of wonder and reverie. To boost your immune system with doses of delight, rapture and creativity. To remember the source of light and love at the heart of our human existence. 

About the author

After a formal education in theatre, performance, creative writing and journalism, Lanon spent years as a self-taught spiritual and metaphysical coach exploring various practices including gazing, breathwork, dream recall, recapitulation, journaling and meditation. Painting visual mantras for Artful Contemplation, and commissioned LightCatchers as tools for personal transformation, is now his full-time vocation.

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