Could it be that we create our own world through our perceptions and our responses to our surroundings? It has been said that one has complete control over the world and one's own life when one completely accepts what is going on without fighting it or judging or feeling that it should be different in some way. In this sense whatever we see or whatever takes place is not happening in conflict with a mind that is fluid and simply observing. Easier said than done in a busy, modern world? However, a meditative approach to everyday life is definitely possible.
Drawing and painting are a kind of meditation. From first-hand experience I have noticed that often, when sitting in some woods or hill, for instance, usually on a freezing cold day (probably because the light and contrasts are better and more present in autumn and winter), inspired to look closely at the details infront of me and capture them in paint, after a certain amount of time (sometimes an hour or less) a change seems to take place in my mind, as if some connection between my eyes and the brain is under some fine -tuning. After this 'change' everything seems to gleam and sparkle – the ordinary appears extraordinary! You would have thought I was ingested a drug of some kind, but no.
Sometimes I do not even need to have been painting for this to occur, but I am sure that close observation through painting, as well as trying to be a bit flexible and even 'lazy' with my mind, has augmented this in me ( even though, on many other occasions, my mind and imagination can really run riot and I can feel at odds with the world and stop seeing anything as it really is!). Our minds are very tricky and erratic things. As well as being over-active (in extreme cases leading to neurosis, delusions etc), the mind can also become fixed and stuck in one way of operating and we then limit our own view of the world. Most of us live in a 'thought realm', divorced from 'what is', while the 'reality' of things is that we have no way of really knowing what it feels like to be alive. I have borrowed these phrases from the 'world teachers' Jiddu and UG Krishnamurti (both unrelated).
As well as describing it as living in a 'thought realm' you could say that we often live in a world of symbols rather than a world of the senses. We often reduce things down to symbols. If a child is asked to paint a tree they usually paint a brown stick with a green ball on top (I'm not criticizing kids – they are just learning, and they have probably told that this is how you paint a tree – ie – do not bother looking at the subject, just create the sign / symbol for a tree, then move on … whereas, in actual fact, kids probably see the world much more vividly until they gradually have that ability driven out of them ). I saw a tree today whose trunk was a deep, dark green (covered in thick ivy) and who foliage at the top was golden brown and yellow. It was a remarkable thing – not just a 'tree', because that is just a word – something beyond a word. If it was to be painted it might take on an other-worldly appearance, though it is a pretty common, earthly thing. And that is another aspect: once you start to move the paint around and create visual equivalents on the canvas to what you are seeing before you, you are then looking at two things, and the paint takes on a life of its own, as well .
What I am writing has been said before in various ways, but I have not heard anyone else mention the experience of a change in the 'sensation' of seeing, and the world / scene around them becoming more alive or vivid just from continuing looking. The best way I can describe it is like fine-tuning a radio in to a station that was a bit unclear and muffled before. Of course, our sense can be heightened at different times, and by different stimuli. I think that the physical eye allows the world to enter, but it's the mind that does the rest. if I was a scientist I might have more of an explanation.
Some references / inspiration for this article:
Tim Robinson etc