The featured image for this post is one of Monet’s paintings from the series, Les Meules à Giverny, which translates to, The Stacks at Giverny. I came across this painting recently thinking, “Oh, to see through the eyes of Monet!” And then I thought, I have and I think we all have at some point.
Have you ever looked at something for so long that your focus becomes a bit blurred? For most of Monet’s paintings, whether it be a landscape or an object, they all feel as if he needed to harness a defocused gaze in order to capture the style that defines his art. Take his painting, Meules as an example, and notice that this field of haystacks is filled with texture and movement that can only be captured with perspective that is not all together sharp and normal. It’s as if he needed to get lost in a different visual state of mind in order to get his painting just right. I believe Monet had to defocus his gaze in order to disconnect from the world around him, and instead, connect with something deeper that no one else could see.
To defocus means to simply cause (an image, lens, or beam) to go out of focus.
It’s as if Monet’s paintings shout to people: Hey everyone, you’ve defocused your gaze before when you’ve been relaxing and you did not even know it! Perhaps you were on the beach during the summer holiday gazing out at the ocean, the trees, the people, the tables and chairs, and at one point, your focus changed. Instead of the sharp, clear images you’re used to seeing, you were staring off with no particular focus at all, and a clouded image began to form, and that image had movement.
Here are a few of Monet’s paintings for reference as you read on:
White Water Lillies, 1899
Bassin aux Nympheas, les Rosiers, 1913
Here is some information I found interesting regarding the Defocused Gaze:
The defocused gaze is the pattern we use when we feel safe and connected. It is also reminiscent of the pattern that young babies use. They don’t yet know how to focus their eyes and they have no sense of self and other. They are connected to everything. A defocused gaze activates the secondary visual cortex (a donut-shaped area in the back of your brain that encircles the primary visual cortex) which is responsible for things like non-judgmental perception and recognition of familiar faces. It resonates with connection and belonging. – Mark Fiveman, Practical Tools for Reducing Anxiety
We effectively open the eyes in such a way that the rods and cones upon the surface of the eyes are saturated with information from the world. The result of this influx of information is saturation of the conscious mind, which can only process a limited amount of information simultaneously. The conscious mind checks out, as it were. What arises is communication of this information in the direction of Second Attention. This is evidence by the state of utilizing See/Feel neurological circuitry which cuts in directly as a result of the process. Having arrived at this state, it is to be noted that with all the components deeply and congruently in place, the cessation of internal dialogue is effectively cessation of the conscious process of maintaining our model of the world. We experience the world through new eyes. It is from this state of Stopping the World that we have the opportunity to assemble new worlds, to shift the Assemblage Point to new locations and experience and explore these worlds. – Unknown student of Carlos Castaneda (find link below)
There isn’t really a right or wrong way to do this. So long as we allow ourselves to be expectation free and open to the process, it generally can happen quite easily on it’s own. Truthfully, this type of exercise can also be done with nature. You may have found this has naturally happened to you before. By gazing at a tree, flower, or specific aspect of nature, you began to connect more and more with that single life form and everything else began to become less focused. You may have noticed the energy waves the plant or tree gives off and you may have felt very connected with it. This can be a great calming and meditative exercise to practice. – Joe Martino, The Powerful Practice of Eye Gazing
I hope this thought piece on how Monet’s work relates to defocused gazing leaves you asking yourself, is there a connection? I also hope you are left recalling a time this has happened to you.
I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite books that ties this subject together perfectly:
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern. –Aldous Huxley – The Doors of Perception
If your interested check out: Carlos Castaneda & Soft Eyes – Seeing Anew: Exploring Perception