Pictures of Reality
“How many people leave their houses in the morning, expecting to experience something extraordinary?
We all live in the same world, yet our perceptions of and experiences in the world diff er vastly. Every one of us, you, me, neighbors and friends, a person in China or an astronaut working and fl oating in space, forms their own picture of reality. You could call a picture of reality also your world view, yet, it goes deeper than merely observing.
It´s a concept of yourself and how things work. Someone’s picture in the 16th century was very diff erent than yours in the 21st century. Apart from outside infl uences, your picture of reality also contains your inner world. It houses your thoughts, your feelings, your dreams and your wishes. It’s also imprinted with the stories of your life and how you feel about them, and what you think you can and cannot do. It even contains the future you envision for yourself and the planet.
The above quote by Jon Rappoport also plays into this. What do you expect from your days, from your life? Something extraordinary, fresh and new? Or just more of the same soup? Don’t underestimate the power that your picture of reality holds. It basically determines what you can get out of and give to life. Our world view is a magical canvas that not only holds the colors, emotions, stories and beliefs of our world –it’s a canvas we take with us wherever we go. It acts like a filter, we see (filter) everything that comes our way through our lens of reality.
Let’s take a tree for example. No two people will ever see the exact same thing in it or feel the same way about it. One person might feel an immediate urge to jump onto it and climb all the way up through its green crown. Someone else might suspect a snake in it and run away. A third one is transported back into the garden of their grandmother and hears her voice announcing coffee and cake. An adventurer, who for weeks has had cooking inside him a vague idea of crossing the Atlantic Ocean, might have the sudden epiphany of using a gigantic tree trunk as a boat.
As a child we knew what Imagination was. We used it to enhance everything around us. We didn’t just see a tree, we saw magic with arms and legs and a radiance in its leaves. We didn’t just see a road, we saw a road that curved away into an infinite distance. We didn’t just see clouds in the sky, we saw sailing ships and faces and cities. We didn’t just think of the day ahead as a series of routines, we saw the day as a potentially endless adventure. We weren’t only living in the present, we were living in the present and the future. Once our Imagination kicks into higher gear, we open up. We can see many different meanings and possibilities in one thing. William Blake, the great poet and painter, refused to think small when he said:
“To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.“
Blake also claimed that, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.“ Imagination is what cleanses the doors of perception.
It also gives you the keys to open many new doors. Our picture is never fixed and finished, it’s always a work in progress, and yet, some people´s colors and creative process have almost dried up completely. They forgot that they themselves can actively add to the picture whatever they like. They can add new figures or new colors. They can paint over old things or start a completely new picture on a fresh canvas.
Often, we have put our own creative endeavors on hold at some early point in our lives. Or we create in an automatic fashion, doing the same stroke, with the same color, over and over again, like a robot. Stifled by the shocks, cruelties and disappointments of life, our process of actively creating slows down and we forget that we are the artists. We take up a passive and complacent role, trying to make the best out of what life throws at us. We forget that we can throw ourselves and our creations against life. It´s a two-way street. If you find yourself in a precarious situation, when you´ve hit rock bottom or just feel an intense burning desire for change, you’re actually in a good position to succeed. You´re ready to pick up the brush and become the artist of your life again. If you find yourself somewhat successful already, you have enough energy to get by and you enjoy some pleasures of life, you might find it of less importance to change something about your picture and just stick to your way of doing and seeing things. You might end up okay, but you will never know how far you could have gone.
“I don´t regret the things I´ve done. I regret the things I didn’t do when I had the chance.” -Unknown
Our everyday lives give us another glimpse into our picture of reality. As we go about our routines and habitual actions, we experience a certain palette of almost chronic feelings that we have over and over – flavored by lame, predictable conversations and small talk. It’s just enough variety that we don´t fully realize we’re living a ‘Groundhog Day‘ existence.
A basic pattern, which can have variations according to every individual and their situation in life, is this: tortured by the alarm, which kills off all chance to revel in any remnants of a juicy nightly dream we might have had, we struggle out of bed. At breakfast, we´re dog tired and lack motivation (not to think of inspiration). When we drive to work, we stick to the same route, and we go through the motions with our colleagues. Once a week, something novel and surprising might happen and we´re enthusiastic, we see things in a new light and have some ideas. But the candle is extinguished and we sink back into our routine. Drinking coffee with friends whilst sipping from the ugly (and sickening) beverage called gossip. Maybe we take some Yoga or other classes during the week. If we feel highly cute and radical – we cut our hair.
Once in a while a crisis, like Corona, rolls by. It changes our everyday lives and is opportunity and invitation to take up the brush again and recreate our lives. By collapsing our routines, it provides stimulation and something new to talk about, until the dust has settled again. It then becomes a part of our permanent repertoire of things to talk about, when we don’t know what else to talk about. Like the weather.
Henry Miller wrote in his novel Sexus about the benefit of changing our routines:
“Always, when one digs down into the reservoir, when one summons the last ounce, so to speak, one is amazed to discover that there is a boundless source of energy to be drawn on. It had happened to me before, but I had never given it serious attention. Staying up all night and going to work without sleep had a similar effect upon me; or the converse, staying in bed long past the period of recuperation, forcing myself to rest when I no longer needed rest. To break a habit, establish a new rhythm—simple devices, long known to the ancients. It never failed. Break down the old pattern, the worn-out connections, and the spirit breaks loose, establishes new polarities, creates new tensions, bequeaths new vitality.”
Stuck in our routines, the years roll by, like the seasons. The seasons are actually an interesting part of our picture of reality. They add a gentle spin to it. In spring, if we still live somewhat close to nature, the elements of our outer picture change almost day by day. I think this is why spring feels so stimulating to many of us. After a long grey winter, that is acerbated without snow, which can add beautiful layers to our picture, suddenly everything is moving again.
Buds unwind artistically into flowers. There are new smells and the light shines in a play of shadows through a growing foliage. Greens and the pink of cherry trees are on the rise. Bees and birds are buzzing. Our picture comes to life, we might even feel enchanted, as yellow and white pollen float slowly through the warming air. In summer, when the sun is out and laughing, everything is alright, the sky is wide open and the pursuit of happiness is a given. We meet friends or journey to parks, fields and the beach. Unfortunately, summer lasts only about three months. Then comes Autumn and its beautiful colours, but they did not come to stay. Darkness grows, our mood slips and hits rock bottom midway in Winter.
Winter depression has come again! Everything is cold and dark, but sometimes cozy, and that for months!
At some point we feel stranded on the dark side of infinity. Of course, there are people who adore wintertime, snow and its myriad possibilities. But, to stick with my example, after a long Winter comes Spring and everything thaws slowly. Humans and nature rise from their Winter sleep. The sun comes back and the Earth keeps on turning. And the years go by. We grow old, and older, and novelty, the thrill of the new, is gone. The colours fade and the spark is lost. We become homey in our comfort zones and dwell in our picture. We shun the unexpected, bigger changes, or course corrections. “We’d better not mess that picture up. Boring is better than terrible or devastating. Let´s play it safe.”
And so we water the flower of inertia in us. Alas, if, in this world of many noises, we can find a moment of honesty and silence, we may hear a quiet but penetrating voice, asking: “That’s all? That is what you want to dedicate your life to? Where is the bigger story?” What we need is to find passions and dreams. There is simply no way around it. By making them a fact in the world, we go beyond the picture we currently find ourselves in and become freer. Some people, like professional athletes, did make a dream of theirs come true already. They transcended everyday life and had unique feelings and experiences that catapulted them into other spheres.
The only thing is, if we don’t have an internal motor that helps us to constantly create and leave the mundane behind, boredom, routine and repetition hit us faster than it takes to think “Netflix.” The athlete’s picture starts to freeze again. What happens to many athletes after their career? They get into trouble, lose their motivation and sometimes their money. They created one masterpiece and now they´re blocked. Some settle down to become experts or coaches in their fields. Apart from the instances where it’s their absolute burning desire to become an expert or coach in their field, it´s an act of consolidation, playing it safe, lacking inspiration for a move in a new direction. And that’s okay, everyone can do as they wish, but you can rest assured that the upward spiral of life has stopped. Playing it safe and consolidating won´t give you any new and amazing feelings, or make you feel turned on and excited about life.
Many people are at these crossroads. Teenagers, when leaving their high school, wondering what to do. Someone that busted his ass for a company, to support his family, but now just wants to reinvent himself. Somebody who climbed the high potential ladder for years but was suddenly sacked out of nowhere. Someone who always just did what other people thought they should do and then feels they´ve come to the end of that remote-controlled road. Or the artist who got sucked into one style of creating and feels the routine creeping in! Besides bringing you uncertainty, this crossroads is a great launching pad. We´re not married to our past and the painting we created up to this point. We are free to reinvent ourselves from the ground up. All your life might have been focused in one direction, expressed in one style of art and being. Today, you´re free to drop all that and start something completely different. Forget all the people that tell you to focus on your strengths and the ‘sensible things to do.’
You develop new strengths, talents and ways to deal with life as you go. It all starts with asking yourself what you want to do. What do you want to create in your life? These questions put you where you belong, in the center of your studio, creating many different pictures. When you ask yourself what to do, ask yourself what you would want to do if money and physical laws would play no role, if you had unlimited possibilities. The answers will bring you to the really juicy stuff that sits in your psyche, waiting to be tapped into and expressed. No matter where you are, the confined feelings of everyday life can haunt you.
Every picture of life or routine we insert ourselves into, when played day after day after day, becomes oppressive or dull. As a young woman once relayed to me, even alleged paradise can turn into something boring and draining. The holiday area she volunteered in had it all: an amazing beach, nestled into spectacular cliffs, a highly reliable sun, a jungle that bordered on the beach, an infinite amount of hammocks and tree houses, as well as a continuous stream of interesting people that came and went. There were even fascinating historical ruins for little expeditions and journeys through time. But eventually she only wanted to leave, to see and experience something else.
And there is always something else. I once met someone who had it all: a penthouse in New York City, sitting in the front row next to Central Park, with a jacuzzi on the rooftop and a gigantic art collection worth several million, as well as houses in Miami and LA.
Yet, he was not really happy.
He was gripped by boredom and did not know where to invest time and money besides obligatory charity. He was not actively creating on any thrilling level.
So, what awaits us outside the Labyrinth of daily life and recurring patterns? What is the promise here? Outside of the usual we find way more excitement about life. Spontaneity. Creativity. Energy and aliveness. Touching moments shared with other people. Adventure and new discoveries about yourself and the world around you. A sense of action and dynamism within you. A stronger sense of self. A fluidity of being. Seeing chances and potential futures you would not have seen before. An overflowing wellspring of ideas. It goes beyond a one-time feat of envisioning what you want in life. It’s about a state of mind. A state of mind in which every whiff and glimpse of what you want multiplies new sensations, emotions and energies, images and ideas. It is the ultimate uplifting.
That will all become a part of ourselves, once we start to express the dreams and big goals that sit within us. We discover these dreams by diving deep into our Imagination. And then we need to translate that and make it a reality. How we go about all that will be covered throughout the book, but before that, we take a quick look at a bigger picture of life, as well as potential traps and pitfalls that await us at the road of endless Imagination.