Rembrandt’s “Philosopher Meditating in His Room” is the first painting that French psychotherapist Christophe André considers – in the literal sense of the word – in his book Art and Meditation. From such a deeply symbolic image, the author begins to acquaint the reader with the method he proposes.
The picture, of course, was not chosen by chance. But not only because of the plot, which in itself sets you in a meditative mood. The author immediately draws the reader’s attention to the ratio of light and shadow, to the direction of light in the composition of the picture. Thus, it seems to gradually “highlight” what is at first invisible to the reader’s eyes. Leads him from the general to the particular, from the external to the internal. Gradually taking the look from the surface to the depth.
And now, if we return to the title and, accordingly, the theme of the presented book, it becomes obvious that we are not just a metaphor. This is a literal illustration of the technique – how to use art directly for meditation.
Working with attention is the basis of practice
Offering for the practice of meditation an object that, it would seem, does not directly lead to work with the inner world, the author of the book actually sets more realistic conditions. He immerses us in a world full of colors, shapes and all kinds of objects that captivate attention. Very reminiscent in this sense of the reality in which we exist, isn’t it?
With one difference. The world of art has its limits. It is outlined by the plot and the form chosen by the artist. That is, it is easier to focus on something, to concentrate attention. Moreover, the direction of attention here is controlled by the painter’s brush, which organizes the composition of the picture.
So, at first following the artist’s brush, glancing over the surface of the canvas, we gradually learn to control our attention ourselves. We begin to see the composition and structure, to distinguish between the main and the secondary, to concentrate and deepen our vision.
Meditate means stop acting
It is precisely the skills of working with attention that Christophe Andre singles out as the basis for the practice of full consciousness: “”.
In his book, Christophe André shows exactly this kind of exercise, using works of art as objects for concentration. However, these objects are only traps for the untrained mind. Indeed, without preparation, the mind would not be able to stay in emptiness for a long time. An external object helps to stop, at first to remain alone with a work of art – thereby diverting attention from the rest of the outside world.
Step back to see the whole picture
Stopping and focusing on the details does not mean seeing the whole picture. To get a holistic impression, you need to increase the distance. Sometimes you need to step back and look a little from the side.
The purpose of meditation is to fill every present moment with awareness. Learn to see the big picture behind the details. Be aware of your presence and act consciously in the same way. This requires the ability to observe from the outside.
When words are unnecessary
Visual images are the least likely to provoke logical thinking. This means that they lead more effectively to full perception, which always lies “outside the mind”. Dealing with the perception of works of art can truly become a meditation experience. If you really open up, do not try to analyze and give “explanations” to your feelings.
And the further you decide to go into these sensations, the more you will begin to realize that what you are experiencing defies any explanation. Then all that remains is to let go and fully immerse yourself in direct experience.
Learn to see life
Looking at the paintings of the great masters, we admire the technique with which they reproduce reality, convey the beauty of sometimes completely ordinary things. Things that we ourselves would hardly pay attention to. The conscious eye of the artist helps us to see. And teaches to notice the beauty in the ordinary.
Christophe Andre specifically selects for analysis a number of paintings on uncomplicated everyday subjects. To learn to see in the same simple things in life all its fullness – as the artist could see – this is what it means to live in full consciousness, “with open eyes of the spirit.”
Readers of the book are given a method – how to learn to look at life as a work of art. How to see the fullness of its manifestations in every moment. Then any moment can be turned into meditation.
Meditation from scratch
The author leaves blank pages at the end of the book. Here the reader can place pictures of their favorite artists.
This is the very moment when your meditation begins. Here and now.