Updated: Jun 9
I sit. I see. Light falls. It reflects off objects and enters the eyes. The retina converts photons of light into electrical impulses that travel the optic nerves. The brain alchemizing these rivers of light into sight. It is wondrous. If the human eye were a camera, it would have over 500 megapixels. By comparison, the top digital cameras have between 22-30 megapixels.
Even though my mind may be agitated, my mood depressed, my thoughts fragmented, I can see. My eyes alight on colors. I perceive many shades. There are millions of receptors within the eye that detect light and color. I am aware of the empty space between me and the objects my eyes rest upon. Like a camera lens, the pupils contract and dilate, adjusting depth of field… with just a thought. The human eye is the only multi-focus lens in the world which can adjust in milliseconds. I am hardly aware of the muscles that dilate or constrict the pupils of the eye or the muscles around the eye that move the eyeballs from side to side (even as I type this). I blink without thinking, but, in this moment, am aware. As awareness blossoms, my mind settles. A calm mind is a refuge.
Because I have sight, I can enjoy art, writing, photography, and reading among my other interests. With sight, you can take in the symbols we called letters and translate those into sounds, recognizing the serpentine letter s, the curved letter c, the crossed letter x, the dotted letter i. Combined with other letters and blended together, they produce words. Strung together, these words make sentences which grow to paragraphs which may evoke thoughts and emotions.
Because I have sight, I can toss a ball around with my sons. The brain processes millions of bits of information (e.g. the size, shape, and weight of the ball), calculates the ball's trajectory, estimates where the ball will land, coordinates with the motor cortex to move, to extend the arms and fingers, to catch. The brain has already predicted, decided, and calculated my movements in fractions of a second prior to my first movements. It has determined how much energy the body needs to move, to reach, to catch. If I drop the ball, with practice, the brain revises its predictions, makes micro adjustments to movements, adjusting as needed so that I can improve my performance. Is this not wondrous?
The eye processes thousands of bits of information every hour. Again, photons of light are converted to electrical signals that are sent to the visual cortex. 90% of the connections coming into the visual cortex, however, carry predictions from neurons in other parts of the cortex. Only a fraction of what we 'see" is raw, visual input. What we see is filtered with predictions, evaluations, memory, identification, language from other parts of the mind. In other words, we co-create what we see.
To cultivate the habit of mindfulness, you may find it enjoyable to dedicate each day to one of the senses this week. Today, I invite you to celebrate the gift of sight. Be like an artist- sensitive to colors, shapes, form, texture, shadows, space, contours, and the play of light. Rather than anticipating or labeling what you're seeing, see if you can go deeper, without naming, without trying to identify what is there, without assigning it meaning, without judging as "pleasant" or "unpleasant" "interesting" or "dull," or looking at it through the filter of past associations. Be curious and open. Marvel at the details. Approach sight with a beginner's mind, as if seeing for the first time.
By literally returning to our senses, we can give ourselves a brief respite from the drama of life. May your sight be clear and your mind be at peace.