My Escape into Beauty
25/04/11During many years, I tried to escape reality through reading romantic novels and eating Benzodiazepine. My anxiety ruled my life. I was 19 when I had my first encounter with the psychiatric ward in my home-town. I was so alone and afraid, and I couldn`t sleep and I had started having thoughts about ending my misery once and for all. In short my life was a mess.
The result to my visit to the psychiatric ward was a prescription of Benzodiazepine and anti-depressants. (The Benzodiazepines were to become an addiction for nearly 18 years to come, but of course I didn`t know this then and it was many years before the Bipolar disorder was diagnosed and addressed properly).
I tell you this because today I read an old favorite book of mine called “The Zen of seeing - seeing/drawing as meditation” by Fredrick Franck. Franck wrote and illustrated the first book by hand in 1973 and the second volume followed in 1980 called "The awakened eye". I got my hands on both of these books at a used-book store I frequently visit when going to Gothenburg. Anyway, in the book Franck describes how he uses drawing as a meditation to “Escape to reality”, getting in touch with all the living things and himself in an authentic way. It is a fascinating read, and I warmly recommend it.
Franck writes about seeing and drawing as a way of becoming fully present. He says “Awareness and attention become constant and undivided, become contemplation..Seeing/Drawing is not a self-indulgence a “pleasurable hobby”, but a discipline of awareness of unwavering attention to a world which is fully alive. It is not the pursuit of happiness, but stopping the pursuit and experiencing the awareness, the happiness of being all there” s.8 Zen of seeing.
For me those are the words that best describe my work, my indulgence with digital photography today. It is a discipline of awareness rooted in an unwavering attention to a world fully alive and the happiness of being all there. Being all there, is a fairly new way of being in the moment to me. As anxiety ruled my life for many years I just hoped that every night when I went to sleep would be the last. I drugged my senses because I felt like my “nerve endings were bare.” I felt too bad, to much and to long. As a result I started to look at the world with dead-eyes as depression took a grip on me.
In “The Zeen of Seeing” Franck talks about the camera as not being a possible combination or compensation with or for drawing. “Drawing requires a different kind of seeing. Pressing the button is, of course, in-comparably better than walking through the world with dead eyes, but how easily it becomes a substitute for seeing, remains stuck in “looking”! For my purpose, the shutter clicks much too fast. I have found that in order to SEE I must allow my eye to rest on a commonplace thing – a face, a stone, a weed…in order to experience it with all my senses, with nerve endings bare.” s. 124.
I am fully aware of the risk of the camera becoming a substitute for seeing, remained stuck in “looking”, but I find that I don`t need to fret about this, because while I was stuck in looking through the dead eyes of depression, somewhere I longed to be able to see again. With the right medication and therapy I slowly began to respond to that light by wanting to create. During my explorations today with my camera, I enter a Mindful state of being as in meditation.
Today I can Escape into Beauty instead of using Benzodiazepines, nourishing my soul with colors and shapes of flowers. I can finally enjoy the Beauty of being fully alive and seeing. It beats the pills anytime, anywhere.