The fine art of being seen …
Being truly seen is something that we all deeply desire, almost more than anything else. And … at the same time it’s something we fear. Maybe we learned from a young age that being seen was not safe.
What do I mean by being seen? I mean feeling the freedom to open ourselves up: holy, raw, and real. Exposing all that we truly are: our strengths, gifts, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. Our interests, our passion, our hearts, and our souls deepest longings.
It seems that many of us carry a hope that someday we will be allowed to unleash the fiery beauty that we are … so that we can be embraced and acknowledged by the world around us. We think that being seen is the same thing as being validated.
It is not.
In order to truly be seen, we must be willing to see ourselves. Something amazing happens when we allow ourselves to see ourselves, embrace ourselves, acknowledge ourselves, and love ourselves. Only then are we able to truly see others for who they are.
So, herein lies another Holy Trinity.
Being willing to be truly seen.
Being willing to truly see ourselves.
Being willing to truly see others as well.
Seeing ourselves is not the same thing as beating ourselves up, or selectively choosing our most positive attributes to share while avoiding our shadow. It’s about seeing and embracing the very real place that exists in between the opposites we hold within ourselves. Seeing others means to allow them to dangle where they are in that same very real place - without projecting our judgments or opinions or beliefs systems upon them.
When we spend time examining ourselves, peering deep inside the shadows, resting in uncomfortable places, and dissecting what is true and what is not true for us in a slow and careful process, we understand fully who we are.
In time we enter a peaceful existence in all of our strengths and all of our weaknesses. We can sit comfortably in a space in between ourself and ourself, where we are not all good, we are not all bad.
We are just exactly who we are.
And so is everyone else.
Once we embrace the truth of ourselves, we can allow for others to exist in the exact same place, in between black and white thinking - in this place none of us are ‘all this’ or ‘all that’. We exist in a same gray area, whether we accept this or not.
Have you ever experienced being seen in a false light? Perhaps a person was saying things that were so off the mark to who you really are, and this caused you pain? Did you feel the frustration of being pigeonholed, labeled, or called names through accusations by a person or people who decided you were ‘something’ without even inquiring, or contemplating, or taking the time to suss it all out?
Was their assessment incorrect, missing the bigger picture, missing compassion, and lacking empathy?
We all do this. All of us. On repeat.
The truth is, none of us ever know exactly what is going on with another person. Just like nobody is going to ever know exactly what was / is truly going on in our world when we made / make decisions.
When we become aware of this, we can do our part in unlocking one another from the cages that we humans love to place one another in.
And so … this is how we can truly see others. By letting them be, considering their world, and believing there is always a bigger picture at play.
This applies to our every day relationships, as well as our inquiries into the past.
It does not mean being a doormat - quite the contrary.
It means acknowledging everyone has their own choices and consequences … and none of us are exempt.
It means to hold court inside yourself, in full acknowledgment of your full spectrum of behavior - and acknowledging others in theirs.
Because so many times we humans do not allow each other the clear, unbridled, birds-eye-view, live-and-let-live experience of one another, being seen can hurt like hell.
But if we see ourselves in that pure unbridled light, and can truly see others in that way, we can dust off, take a deep breath, and keep on trucking because we know exactly who we are.
We’ve done the hard, hard work and can hold the space for others to be who they are.
my project …
I am in the thick of it. My world is exploding with dot-connecting, punctuated by emotional landmines. How could I have known what I would open up when I decided to work with the potency of my time spent in the Czech Republic?
I guess on some level I knew.
I have been navigating a realm of feeling so swollen with inspiration and energetic information that I need to pour open in creative expression … to feeling like I want to curl up in a ball and sleep for ten decades.
I am accustomed to this place. This is always my process. Eventually, I birth. But first I need to swoop and nest until I get out of my own way.
Last week I shared about Ilse, who is one of my muses in my project. I am noticing that she is growing in importance in my story, which is surprising me completely. She’s not content to be in a sideshow! Images of nuns and nurses are crawling out of the woodwork, standing out everywhere. Strong personal surges around relationships in my life that carry a similar tone to her experiences. Deep dream-like states where parallels are drawn between her life and my choices. Snapshots of symbolism, colors, textures, and scenarios that want to make their way into my journal, or large-scale mural pieces (!).
I think she has a lot to say, and I am trying to allow her voice. In spite of my personal brain chatter: wait what? this isn’t what you planned. this is weird. no. this is about real life, real history. you can’t base a whole project on a make-believe nun.
I’ve known Ilse for years. Since the first time I visited Prague almost ten years ago.
That’s where I am at, friends.
Below is a quick one minute video. This crazy amazing thing happened that blew my mind. I made my painting in April or May. I found the image of the nurse in Prague very recently, a month ago or so.
What do you think about this?!?!?!
What you can do …
A Little Breathing Room
We’ve been doing some deep work over the last few weeks, so this week we will keep it a little on the light side in terms of our technical practice, so that we can nest in a little bit with the emotions that may be rising, and give them space to breathe while we ask deep questions.
After reading or listening to the above material, sit inside yourself and feel all the edges as they come out to play. Spend time cultivating space and quiet in which you can contemplate your personal position on being seen, seeing yourself, and seeing others.
When it comes to your story:
Where are you willing to see deeper?
Who are you willing to see deeper?
How much of your story are you willing to allow to be seen?
Is there fear? Shame? Pain? Regret?
Is there self-love? Self-acceptance?
Write. Doodle. Play in your art journal and begin to express if you feel it is time.
Next week we will start applying mediums (beyond gesso demonstrated in the video below) to our pages.
On the technical / creative side of things:
In the below video I show you something verrrrrrrry complicated: cutting out images. LOL!
In the video below that, I demo gessoing your journal pages.
Spend time in deep stillness … cutting cutting cutting.
Let your work be a meditation on you, your story.
Be with who wants to be seen. What wants to be seen.
Be with seeing yourself.
And then … gesso gesso gesso!
muse ::: francesca woodman
Trigger warning: Francesca took her own life at a young age. Her work can stir feelings around body image.
For me, Francesca Woodman’s photographs epitomize the push / pull of being seen.
I discovered her work while in fine art photography school in New York City. At the time, I was approximately the same age she was when she took her own life.
I had been exploring self-portraiture as an art form, and often used my nude body to express my extremely repressed feelings and self-identity (or lack thereof).
Francesca’s work hit all my nerves, because I felt like she was speaking the only language I was fluent in at the time, with her painfully beautiful and evocative images.
As I’ve grown older these last 22 years since I discovered her work, I see different things in her imagery. I see courage. I see strength. I see resilience sitting fiercely crouched at the intersection of vulnerability and wisdom beyond years.
I see a deep desire to be seen, and a deep commitment to exploring what it meant to see herself.
Francesca inspires me to go deeper, express more freely, and to believe that my raw realness has a place in the world.