Curiosity and contemplation are the twin fuels of life. As children we experience the world as wonder-filled. A child’s eyes sparkle with delight and their fingers tingle with excitement. There is so much to discover because things have not been named, labelled or neatly boxed.
Inviting the unknown
When something unknown is discovered, a child will generally prod it, poke it and probe for more information. Either in action (a stick will do the trick) or in contemplation. We all recognize the image of the child who asks insistently: “Why?” “How?” “What?” And a parent’s fumbling attempt to offer a logical, reasonable explanation.
Occasionally we capture the same twinkle of curiosity and delight in the eyes of an adult, when for a brief moment someone allows them to drop their daily concerns. Or something surprises them into seeing the world differently.
Their usual “that’s just the way things are” is replaced by a state of wide-eyed wonder. Words elude them. Clear thoughts escape them. This state of rapture and receptivity is often associated with falling in love or encountering an object of desire.
Culture has a way of containing curiosity and diminishing contemplation. Templates and directives give us the answer before we ask a question. Rules and norms define the edges of the territory before we have even set out on the journey.
Schooling demands that we listen repeatedly to how things are. Moral teachings tell us repeatedly how things should or could be. Our capacity to judge what is good and right for us in the present moment is diminished.
We come to forget what moves us. The edge of our curiosity becomes dulled. Our gateway to reverie becomes overgrown.
A new way of seeing
Pause for a moment.
Notice your breathing.
Feel the texture of the chair you are sitting on.
Become aware of your feet making contact with the ground.
Let your eyes dwell on the artwork above.
Let your eyes wander.
Follow a line. Chase after a contour. Dive into a pool of color.
Only looking, lingering, attending.
Now, let your mind dwell on the questions below.
Let your mind wonder.
- What captures your attention?
- Which area appeals to your eye?
- What makes you feel uncomfortable?
- Is there a spot you could call home?
- Is there a place you would seek sanctuary?
Notice your breathing once again.
Ask: “Who is looking at this image?”
Culture does not only refer to large-scale community practices. Even as a highly individualized and independent person, you will find yourself feeling the pressure of cultural conformity. Culture is the grouping of ideas and behaviors with certain predefined expectations and morally-loaded outcomes.
Culture can arise anywhere. It can occur between a group of friends or within a small family. It determines an exchange between two individuals. You can exert it on yourself.
This means we all run the risk of getting caught up in cultural stories. We limit our perception and enjoyment of life when we repeatedly identify with certain characters and events. The truly inspirational answers we seek to meet our highly individualized needs become filtered, obscured.
Nature-inspired curiosity and contemplation
There is no doubt that spending time in untamed nature is a catalyst for our curiosity and contemplation. Mages, artists, philosophers, poets, shamans and seekers throughout time have recognized this. Nature reflects the dual forces of persistent change and constant pattern – a harmony made up of infinite variables.
“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect”, observes Alice Walker. We are reminded of our own nature, and connection to forces beyond our intellectual comprehension, when we wander through a wilderness. Our awareness is at once heightened and soothed. We feel both uplifted and grounded.
Nature brings us to our senses. And our senses are a direct line to curiosity and delight.
Art invites curiosity and contemplation
Certain art has the power to inspire curiosity and activate our personal sense-making ability. As Ken Wilber points out, “Conventional art is an expression of the self or world as it is now. Transcendental Art expresses something that you are not yet but that you can become“.
Transcendental art, visionary art, sacred art and intuitive art taps into the invisible currents and implicit energies that shape our known world. By entering a state of receptivity and mindfulness, the artist gains access to these realms beyond the looking eye and finds symbols and images to translate what is happening at a rate and intensity beyond the usual range of our common eye and rational minds. This is art that draws both artist and viewer into a practice of mindfulness.
Slow looking, deep discoveries
In our current technological age, we have grown accustomed to images flashing before our eyes continuously. We need to slow down to enter the frame of opportunity being offered by a still image. When we do, the benefits of activating our curiosity and deepening our contemplation are far-reaching.
Remember the child’s insistent “Why?” This question gets asked of anything and everything. The question is asked as a means to enhance and enlarge the child’s world. The child can take another step into the unknown when the question is answered with a resounding echo. Life remains inviting, open-ended.
We are all seeking a purpose-filled life. Deep down we know we are worthy, we know we are a unique being. We want to feel empowered to extract personal value and pleasure from our daily activities and encounters. We long to live permanently with wide-eyed wonder.
Artful Contemplation as a daily practice
Artful Contemplation is a gentle reminder of our intrinsic capacity to explore the infinite realms of perception. It invites questions that do not demand a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Daily Artful Contemplation practice offers prompts, musings and reminders that open up worlds of potential and dimensions of possibility.
Manipulating light and color are the essence of digital artistry. Artful Contemplation employs this artistic power to activate curiosity and contemplation, the twin fuels of a meaning-filled life.
Have you experienced a direct encounter through art? Feel free to share your insights.
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