Exploring the Ordinary

You can do this whenever you have a free moment, wherever you are. It’s about softening perspective. It starts by having you look at the leaves of a tree, but any other object can work just as well.

How to Practice

Un-focus your eyes as you look at the branch of a tree and see how, after some time, the leaves begin to take on a life of their own. Their gentle movement in the breeze becomes more than just a movement. You see them differently, as if each different leaf had a dance of its own. The forms are not as strict. The patterns have more to do with movement than with shape or colour.

Don’t be too surprised at how quickly you force your focus to snap back to the ‘real world’. It’s where we navigate much of our lives after all.

Try it on other ordinary things: a blade of grass, a houseplant, the fender of a car. Relax your focus and allow your mind to disengage for just a moment while knowing that this is still a car fender or still a blade of grass.

See it fresh, the way a brand new baby does – unsure how to focus and unsure about what she is supposed to be seeing. What is this thing supposed to be like? What do you notice, the shape or colour, or the dance of light across it? The movement? The other sounds, vibrations or patterns? To which one must you refer?

It can be fun to see things from a different frame of reference. Leaves that were complex-yet-solid shapes swinging in the breeze become less solid. The car fender, while appearing smooth can take on a sense of flow and a shift in colour as you watch it. What was solid is not maybe not so solid after all. Eventually, that flexibility of perspective can be brought into other areas of life. Buildings, traffic, even people can be seen in a whole new light – maybe even that difficult woman in the next office.


I get a real sense of the fluidity of solid things when waiting at the doctor’s office. The carpet is one of those nasty industrial patterned things that is designed to take lots of traffic and not show a lot of dirt – but if you watch it steadily with an unfocused perspective, it can appear to undulate. The concrete underneath it might just as well be the waves on a lake. A relaxed focus out the kitchen window can have the lawn suddenly be seen as concentric circles, the grass not just single blades but part of a more complex system. It’s fun.