Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.
My father was a landscape artist and he used to carry a small piece of cardboard with a rectangular section cut out which he used as a viewfinder.
Looking through this simple tool helped him isolate different aspects of the same scene and settle on a composition for his paintings.
I carry one around in the folder of my sketch book, and when using it I notice how it de-clutters my field of vision and simplifies my choices.
There are many ways we can use the idea of a viewfinder to focus our attention.
I’ve been on a few silent meditation retreats and I relish the feeling when that first bell rings, signaling the beginning of silence.
It’s like having a frame of simplicity placed over my life for a few days.
That single change reduces the many social interaction choices we need to make during the day, as well as bringing in a velvety cloak of silence. This has an immediate calming and focusing effect on me.
By taking away these choices it becomes so much easier for the mind and body to settle deeply.
My writing practice of noticing works in this way too, limiting my writing choices to one: record what is happening in the present moment. It takes something infinite and provides an access point that retains a sense of expansiveness, while reducing the sense of overwhelm.
This act of framing and simplifying makes it easier to give our full attention.
Once our attention is focused and intensified; beauty, and detail, and previously hidden patterns are revealed. Our curiosity is fed, and we are open to the vibrancy of everything around us.
This might be where we get that idea of attention as a form of love.
When I think of the word ‘attention’ in this way, other words float up; like ‘attending’ and ‘tending’ and ‘tenderness’.
As Rumi points out, when we do find ourselves walking through a garden, we have our own cultural frames that guide us in how to experience that garden so we can receive it fully. Beauty is all around us, but a garden acts like a frame, so when I visit a garden all my senses become attuned towards beauty, and I can’t help but find it.
There is so much focusing and attention required in the creation of a garden: in the act of envisioning the garden, the focused attention given as each plant is put into the ground and nurtured along, the thought put into the placement of each element, with an eye to how future visitors will experience the garden.
These all require shifting viewpoints that bring simplicity, the results of these choices then come together, like a mosaic, to build an experience of beauty for us as we arrive to experience the garden.
Are there activities in your life that you frame with simplicity? that inspire attentiveness, tenderness and focus? I would love to hear about them.