Don’t hesitate, meditate

Eryn Katsikea
“For a long time nothing, and suddenly one has the right eyes” – R. M. Rilke
Meditation is a peculiar thing. It is a breathing exercise, a little like a concentration exercise but really none of those things. It is a practice of mindfulness, that is to say a state of mental hypersensitivity, of balanced consciousness. Among the numerous contemplative practices, there are some that are different to the common mantra-aided meditation techniques, such as meditation on words, created to cure writer’s block, and meditation on art, used frequently in the psychotherapy process along the same lines as art therapy. Psychotherapy is about understanding why you feel the way you feel. The procedure of art therapy is pretty much textbook, the therapist will ask you how you think the people depicted in the painting feel, or why the painter might have chosen to use certain colors i.e. dark or bright ones. If you answer that the subjects of the picture seem lonely, most likely this will translate as an expression of your own loneliness, especially if the picture you are asked to work on is apt to multiple interpretations. Meditation on the other hand is about just feeling, a way of investing in your psyche and enriching your emotional and mental capabilities, a testament to the belief of Oscar Wilde, that “nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul”.

Meditation on art more often than not is used as a therapeutic exercise and as a medium that channels the subconscious feelings of the meditator. You stare at a painting long enough until the fundamental characteristics of the painting are no longer what occupies your mind and you can feel the tension flowing from the picture, generated by its general aesthetical dynamics. This triggers a perceptive process based on the residual impact of the past experiences and impressions of the meditator forming a kind of existential, solid bond with the objects and the people that, incredulously by now, stand lifelessly before you.

Contemplative involvement with a work of art does not solely concern the person staring at it but the artwork itself as well. It is when it actually comes to life, more intensely and more tangibly than ever, as it transforms into a glare of fascination, of intimate revelation in the meditator’s eyes, into a twitch in the face, an inquiring head tilt. Then, as the balance inside of you is recalibrated, it has meaning and it justifies your presence in front of it.

Before writing this article I debated it over in my head very carefully, as it concerns a subject – meditation, which many people vehemently dismiss and deem useless, a fate more or less similar to that of psychotherapy. Both practices are at least challenging even though meditation seems to need a little more self-discipline than a traditional psychotherapy session and thus, sometimes being a more difficult thing to do. I believe in meditation firstly, as a means to quiet down and recollect your mind and secondly, as a means to gradually let your mind to freely expand in your own head. Concerning the general practice of meditation, all the “how-to” articles start by referring to “our hectic way of living” as the main reason to meditate, an argument that, besides its tiring repetitiveness, is solid.  Even just the thought “now I am going to meditate” attributes a sense of organization and control to every day. Many years ago, Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher, thought that one of the requirements for attaining happiness was to have time to reflect on your life, and that reflection is through meditation. If Epicurus isn’t enough, David Lynch meditates too. He’s weird. Weird is good.

Over the last month, in order to complete this article, I have tried to meditate on Monet’s Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond, thinking that this way it wouldn’t demand much effort, but eventually realised that, as far as your brain is concerned you can meditate on a Rothko, a Freud or even Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood paintings with all their symbolisms and mystic figures. Whether it is abstract or representational art, it is the spark that shall ignite a fire of musings and will provide you with stimuli to get your mind going.