Thursday, October 3, 2013

Becoming Visible: Time and Color Gradation

One recent Saturday at the Esquela Artes Placticas in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, I encountered the concept of color gradation. The painting exercise we practiced was to take a color and mix it with white or black until an ever lightening or deepening shade results. While mixing and studying the color change, I reflected on how color represents time and that the subtle color variations are like moments in life. Most of the time we are not aware of subtle shifts in color. Green is green. Red is red. Blue is blue. Time is like that too because we notice that it's the morning, afternoon, and night. However, when a color is mixed with white or black in varying degrees subtle shades become visible. It is clear that green is a myriad of possible greens. Red and blue are potentials of color in which to dive! Our awareness of time is similar to our awareness of color in that we don't usually remember the moment. Anyone who has practiced present moment awareness knows this shift in perception. If you've gone on a mindfulness retreat, you know what I mean. Even the slogan Just Breath is a focusing practice that brings you into yourself so that you become aware of the real moment.

I remember a practice that I learned from reading G. I. Gurdjieff that is called (self) remembering, which is at any moment you turn your attention back on yourself and realize something such as, "Hey, I'm here. I'm alive." It's a practice of noticing that you are in existence. This self-remembering changes your daily experience of time.  I have practiced this technique on and off for years but at one time I consciously dedicated my focus to self-remembering for many daily moments for several months. What I discovered is that it altered my perception of time and my feeling of a solid boundary between my body and the space around it. Most of us experience time and life in chunky ways that are carefully divided by daily (and seasonal) routine.  We break it up every day into pieces such as waking up, eating, going to work, exercising, and  sleeping. The routine defines how we experience time.

For most of us, it is only when an event occurs that breaks our daily pattern do we shift in our awareness of time. Consider an unexpected event to your normal routine; for example, the arrival of an out of town guest. Suddenly you find yourself actively engaged in lively conversation at a restaurant well into the evening. It's past your bedtime!  You're so engaged in the moment that you forget all about your routine and your strategy of life management that organizes life into predictable chunks of experience. These occurrences let you know that time and pattern are constructs that make your life manageable but also invisible.  Unconscious routine can obscure gradations of color. However, a person's ordinary engagement with time can shift by consciously practicing various techniques. To illustrate, the method of periodically focusing on your breath can help you become aware of time and thereby, shift your ability to see, know and engage in more subtle ways. Try the self-awareness exercise below and pace it to your ever slowing and deepening breath.

I am here. I breathe. I am filled. I am empty. Inhale. Exhale. A moment. A string of moments. I am in life. I am life. Breathe.

Certainly the experience of breathing is ordinary but the awareness of breathing is another thing altogether. Conscious breathing can deepen your contact with a non-ordinary experience of life. Just as color has degrees and shades within what is normally classified as GREEN; time has degrees and shades that are made visible by strategies of consciously remembering.

Each moment is a prism of quiet vibrancy.

People have asked me that [what is the experience of inner awareness]
before, and I always feel that they expect to hear the dramatic account
of some sudden miracle through which I suddenly became one with the
universe. Of course nothing of the sort happened. My inner awareness was
 always there; though it took me time to feel it more and more clearly;
and it equally took time to find words that would at all describe it.

~~ Krishnamurti.

© Cynthia Pittmann 2013

Color Gradations with 20 steps:  Complementary, Monochromatic, and Analogous Demonstrations

Also in Oasis Writing Link (TM)