“We do a lot of looking: We look through lenses, telescopes, televisions…Our looking is perfected every day—but we SEE less and less. Never has it been more urgent to speak of SEEING.” Frederick Franck
Frederick Franck wrote these lines in his handwritten book, The Zen of Seeing, dated 1973. I have the page dog-eared and these words underlined. They were important 4 decades ago and they are important now.
It turns out, there is a huge difference between LOOKING and SEEING.
Looking is for survival and coping. It is a quick glance to assess the situation, to size up what’s in front of us. It works for triage and fast decisions. To figure out whether the stick on the trail is actually a snake or the stranger really only wants directions. As we come to rely on our looking skills for these kinds of situations, we start to think looking can be used for all kinds of other situations.
We end up looking at art or people or clients and making fast decisions that rob us of the experience of SEEING. We label good or bad and any other label we think fits. And, sometimes, once we LOOK and LABEL, we stick to our conclusion like it’s fact rather than SEEING anew every single time. When we SEE each time we encounter art or people or clients we have a chance to refine our ideas, our conclusions, and even our own sense of experience in the world.
If you are doing a lot of looking, you could be missing out. Your clients might be missing out, too.
Here’s an activity to practice SEEing:
Pick something you see every day and draw it. It could be an ordinary object, something from nature, or even your own face. Set a time for 10 minutes. While keeping your eyes on your subject (not on the paper) draw. Practice SEEING the details without labeling. For example, if you are drawing your face don’t say to yourself, “Now I’m going to draw my eyes.” Instead, notice the smallest details—the variations, the lines that go in different directions. Allow your pencil or pen to flow on the page with these variations. Don’t look at the page very often—just to orient yourself occasionally. The practice is to really SEE with the tip of your pen or pencil, not to strive for accuracy. If you are SEEING you will notice things you haven’t SEEN before. Below is my SEEing drawing of my face.
When you practice SEEING in this way, you slow yourself down. You invite so much more IN.
I’m sharing another way to use art as a way of SEEING your clients in an online event on April 7th. If you’d like to learn and practice it with me and hundreds of other therapists from around the world, you can sign up here. I’d love to SEE you there!!