Walking on the beach, living near a major airport, there are often planes that appear in the sky out over the ocean on their landing approach. What’s interesting about this occurrence is that, as one gazes at the place where they seem to be coming from, there is nothing to see. Sometimes I find myself focused on the empty spot in anticipation of the emergence of a plane, certain that one will appear, yet wondering how it makes that shift from being “unseen” to “seen.” It seems there might be a slit in the sky – an opening that I cannot see through which the plane emerges. With awareness of that thought comes a smile – I am reminded once again of how our minds attempt to alter reality to suit what we think it should be. I expect to be able to see it, so why can’t I?
This situation may seem obvious in the sense of simply not respecting or appreciating the limits of our senses, however, how many times is this exactly what we do? How would it be to take a few steps back and look at the bigger picture here, acknowledging how easy it is to slide into the practice of making up a story when we can’t see clearly – bringing our own interpretation to what may seem to be happening (or not happening). And often, even when we are aware that we are providing our own home screen entertainment, some or all of that story becomes real for us. All the more so if it’s a particularly good story!
So, why do we do this? Why do we fill in the space? What gets in the way of allowing an opening for the unseen to become seen? Not such a simple answer – is it impatience, perhaps, being uncomfortable or unaccepting of not knowing? Maybe it’s a matter of the “shoulds” – feeling that we should already know. Or is it simply a moment of groundlessness? How might we see them more as “leap of faith” moments – certain that the knowing will unfold?
In the practice of meditation and mindfulness there are also many opportunities for filling in the blanks. We practice or sit expecting (or hoping for) the insight that will help us translate our experience into the bliss of enlightenment or at least move us further along in that direction. Perhaps it’s during our yoga practice or while taking a walk, maybe even when we awaken in the middle of the night, that we long for an answer that eludes us.
So how does a new understanding come about? How do we really move from the unseen to the seen with regard to even the most burning questions in our lives? I wonder if it’s not much simpler than we might consider. It begins with a pause – taking a moment to let go of the grasping towards what we want to know. Then a shift to trust that the answer or insight will emerge – in other words, that it’s in there somewhere. Then there’s the issue of readiness – being open to whatever the insight might be and a willingness to go with it. This last is important, because often the insight might come but we find ourselves digging in our heels saying, “Oh no, this isn’t the answer I was hoping for.” I suspect that may be the point where we need to go back to the beginning and pause again…
2 Responses to Unseen, then Seen
I’ve just returned from a conference where the keynote speaker, the poet David Whyte, advised his audience that, if we wish to start a new conversation with life, we need to first stop having the old conversation we’ve been having with it. Your post is inviting us to do the same thing, I think – if we stop habitually filling in the spaces of our experiences with our preconceptions, we can start opening up to these experiences with a spontaneity that might allow us to have a new insight from time to time. The pause you recommend might well be the practice we need to take up in order to start having that new conversation David Whyte so urgently recommended.
I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. It makes so much sense that pausing and perhaps returning to the breath is one of the most useful (and available) toosl we have to interrupt this habitual filling in of spaces.