empty canvas : wondering mind | book three

wildsight – the innocent eye


1  the innocent eye
2  relaxing the Buddha-body
3  attending to now …
4  observer, observed, …
5  enigmatic emptiness, magical marks
6  references


(pdf 573 KB)

The purpose of ‘looking’ is to survive, to cope, to manipulate
… this we are trained to do from our first day.

When, on the other hand, I see, suddenly I am all eyes, I forget this me,
am liberated from it and dive into the reality that confronts me.
– Frederick Franck

Excerpt from the innocent eye

Many years ago when I was living another story in America, I was enrolled in classes in painting, drawing and sculpture at the University of Cincinnati. The professor of art was a twinkly-eyed chap with a mop of chestnut curls, an old pick-up truck, and a soft southern drawl. I’ll never forget the day he gave me a copy of Frederick Franck’s The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation. “This is the only book you’ll ever need on drawing,” he said.

That precious gift was my ‘bible’ for years, not because it told me how to draw or how to see or how to meditate, but because it allowed me inside the secret senses of the artist himself. Very few artists have been able to, or have chosen to, share their creative insights so openly and so exquisitely as Franck did. He touched the often trembling and terrified artist in thousands who participated in his wonder-full workshops.

Years later, I was privileged to spend an English Easter in the Devon countryside finding out for myself some of the secrets of this great teacher. Franck’s emphasis was on creating a sacred atmosphere where the perceptual intelligence of the entire body was free to express itself.

We worked in silence for three very demanding days; it was like a retreat into a silent inner sanctum. Stopping our external verbalizing seemed to slow down the inner mental chatter. Franck’s input was unobtrusive, gentle, and perceptively accurate. He would quietly observe our working (we were seated well apart so that we couldn’t see what our neighbors were doing), and simply point with his pencil to a spot on the drawing. “You weren’t present here, were you?” or “This, where the leaf joins the stem, this is a point of meditation. Have you really been there?”

Franck taught me that the human body – and even my own version – knows how to draw exquisitely. That there is an invisible direct line from eyeball to the tip of the pencil – a line that doesn’t seem to go anywhere near the neo-cortex. I learned that the key to what J Krishnamurti called “seeing without shadows” was a kind of ruthless relaxed attention. On the final day of the workshop, I chose to draw a clump of mosses – or rather, it chose me. Never, never would I have contemplated choosing such a complex fragment of the universe, but we were instructed to select from the table the object that reached out to us. The clump of fresh, dew-dropped, springtime moss with a tiny primrose cradled in its softness was all I could see on the crowded table.

Where to begin? […]

– miriam louisa simons

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something …
To see clearly is poetry, prophecy, and religion, all in one.

– John Ruskin

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