How a trip to the Art Museum is reminiscent of how I live my life.
What we see is a reflection of who we are
I have only recently become interested in spending time at the Art Museum. It's not that I never had any interest in Art, but it simply wasn't something I felt the need to actively pursue.
Since developing a keen interest in Art in it's many forms I've also been learning more about myself. One of the lessons I'm learning is that as people we don't see anything exactly the same as another does.
We all have become who we are over various pathways and experiences. Through those experiences we develop a sense of right and wrong, good and bad and what is considered to be beautiful or ugly.
None of this is a big surprise but I just found some wonderful symmetry in recognizing the similarities of our view of art and our view of life.
I wish to explore some of the ways that I see our experience of Life and Art in a way to better appreciate both.
Opening your eyes and your mind
It is said that we "don't see things as they are, but as we are" and I could not agree more with this statement.
As I strolled leisurely throughout the Art museum yesterday I was reminded of this statement repeatedly. I recognized that there were no two people in the museum who would look at a work and experience it the same. Oh, we may have similar visceral connections to a particularly moving piece but it is still going to be experienced uniquely by each of us.
We all have filters that we've created over years of living; filters of our own attitudes, biases and more that affect how we see what we look at. Even twins who share the same DNA and grew up together will not experience everything the same. I absolutely love that we are as unique as snowflakes when it comes to what we see and appreciate in our environment.
For instance, I was casually looking at each painting in the Modernist exhibit and quietly noting the people around me as they too viewed the same pieces. I could over hear reactions and discussions among people and was aware that each one had something different that they felt or saw upon viewing.
I noted that for me, I had to step close to read the details about the artist and the piece, but to fully appreciate the item I stepped back to really take it in. I looked around and saw different variations of this among my fellow patrons.
I was reminded that we all have the same unique experience of how we see all that goes on around us.
While I may see something as beautiful and moving, it may be ugly or off putting to the person who views it after me. And that is OK as we all bring to what we see our own experience.
Such it is with how we look at people in our lives and how we experience situations.
Do you see with your eyes or with your heart?
We all take in our environment through multiple senses, not only visual. We use our eyes to see what is in front of us, but then our other senses come into play and our brains process the information in a way that is unique to each of us.
So it is with how we see the people in our lives. We cannot be objective observers of those in our lives that we love or have relationships with. It is impossible to be detached and removed because we have an emotional connection. It is through this connection that we experience how we feel about that person; do we love them or do we simply tolerate their presence?
I find that when there are people in my life who are challenging that I need to first check in with myself about the possible reasons this is.
It would be much easier to simply explain that "I don't like this person and it's because there is something wrong with them", than to look within and see if the fault is with them, or is it with myself? I don't even like to use the term "fault" because it may simply be that we are very different and nobody is to blame.
Too often we get emotionally attached to the notion that there has to be somebody to blame if there is not a close connection, or any friction in our encounters. But, this is a destructive attitude. It is much healthier to look at what you are feeling around this person and go within before you start pointing a finger.
For example, you may have a coworker that being around is like hearing fingernails scratching on a blackboard. You recognize that you avoid seeing them, or working closely with them because of this feeling. However, work necessitates that you do have to interact for the good of your job.
You might just decide that there is something flawed in this person and accept that being around them will always make you miserable.
Or, you could look within for a better answer. It is said that we are mirrors for other's and that they often bring up what we don't like in ourselves. Perhaps this person is exhibiting behavior that is something you yourself do and are ashamed of? Maybe they interrupt you when you are talking and you find yourself annoyed and resentful that you can't finish your sentence? Now, ask yourself if perhaps you are somebody who also interrupts and this is why it is bothersome.
I have had this exact issue with other people. And the issue comes up repeatedly throughout the years in the face of different people. I finally had to take a step back...and really look within myself. Yes, I had to admit it; I did the same thing! Yikes!
And, once I recognized this I was able to then explore why I did this and not just be upset that I did. If I only saw the flaw in the other person without any exploration of the same trait in myself, or without trying to find a reason for it, I could not move past it.
The mirrors would continue to show up until I could see myself!
If you don't like what you see....Change it
The hard part is recognizing where we are flawed. Now we can work on this and make the changes in ourselves. Sometimes, this is all we need to do to attract the same changes in others in our lives.
I learned that I didn't interrupt people because I was uninterested in them or a rude person. I realized that I am excited to share how something relates to me and in so doing, I didn't always take the time to let the other person finish their thought.
This certainly could be perceived as being rude or disinterested, which was the furthest thing from my intention, but still very off putting.
I would have hoped that the people who this happened with would have enough love or compassion to not hate me, but to see that I was flawed and be forgiving. But, in order for me to expect this from others, I had to be willing to do this for myself and for them.
I have worked very hard at containing my enthusiasm to speak up and share "Oh, me too, me too!" and instead take a deep breath and really listen. Not just be quiet and wait until it's my turn to speak, but really listen...and hear what is being said to me.
And, in doing so, I've been able to improve on my urge to jump in and add my two cents! It makes a huge difference in my conversations with other people and both of us can feel heard and valued.
But, the problem would have continued to show up to me in how I experienced others until I took a minute to look into the mirror and recognize my own part in it. Through this process I have learned to be a better listener and I have drawn to myself people who also are better listeners.
All of life can be this easy, if we are just open to changing that which isn't working. And the change always begins with ourselves!
This is just one example of how we experience others and come to learn more about who we are in the process. Unless you wish to live a Hermetic existence, this is a process that will be repeated forever but one that can get easier with time.
I believe we are all here to experience as much love and happiness as is possible. One way to do that is to simply open up to how we might better be Ambassadors of love and friendship by working on our own "stuff".
Make your life a Masterpiece
You can choose if you want your life experience to be a Masterpiece to be treasured and enjoyed by yourself and others, or if you simply want to exist on the walls of a museum nobody visits.
For me, I want to continue to step back and look deep and really see with my eyes and my heart. I feel that Life can be a rich banquet or a snack, but the choice lies within ourselves. You can choose to see the people around you as mere shadows or you can explore your perceptions and be enriched by the fullness of who they are.
I wish to experience people and life as abundantly as possible. What is the purpose of even going to an Art Museum, a film or just a walk through a sunlit park if not to go deep and see it from your heart? To really experience something viscerally and emotionally with all of your senses is to live! I like to think of life as taking a big bite out of a juicy peach and letting those juices drip from my chin. Life is to be savored and appreciated, not merely to be tolerated.
I believe we all have the capacity to experience life as fully as we are willing to invest ourselves. If we are willing to look within and work on the "man in the mirror" we might just open our hearts to seeing a bigger more abundant world in front of us.
The decision lies within.
When you look at a piece of art, a puppy playing; a child laughing today...what will you see? Open your heart and your mind along with your eyes and perhaps you'll experience a little bit of magic! I wish that for you and for me.