Las year I had the wonderful opportunity to study with one of my favorite painters, Antonio Lopez Garcia (b. 1936 in Tomelloso, Spain) for the second year in a row. This exceptional artist with his eighty-three years-old wisdom, opened my eyes in a very dramatic way. It literally felt as if he had drilled through the cement glasses I had been wearing. His poetic words and his guidance guided me through the beautiful path of relearning how to see, not only as an artist but as human being.
According to Zen Buddhism, I experienced what is called “Beginner’s mind.” It involves casting away all our preconceptions to see the world with renewed openness and eagerness as if we were learning something for the first time, as if were curious kids whose brains want to absorb the world around them. Despite all the years I had been painting before I was able to attend Antonio Lopez’s workshop, the experience taught me more than any other class, book or practice hours in the studio.
From all the knowledge, my favorite lesson was to learn how to observe the world with mindfulness, with care. After a few days, I felt as if I was in love with the world in a way I had never been before. The sun was beautiful, the clouds, the gentle rain, the leaf that fell at my feet, the amorous manner in which an older couple walked holding hands, the particular way my soul vibrated while listening a song, the shared laugh with friends. I was not passing through life, I was living. I started appreciating the beauty in all the things we usually overlook: the uneven pavement, the cars stuck in traffic, the sad face of a cashier.
His wise words also made me question not only if I wanted to look at the world carefully, but also how I wanted to do that. “There is a respectful eye, there is a loving eye, and there is cruel one. I have loving eyes,” he said and there was no doubt in my mind that he indeed had a very loving way of looking at the world. What kind of eyes I had? What kind of eyes I wanted to have? After all, everything we pay attention to transforms, grows, becomes relevant.
Shawn Achor calls it the tetris effect. We start seeing the patterns we want to concentrate on. So, what was going to be my pattern? I chose respect, I chose love, I chose possibilities. I chose to concentrate in seeing the best side of everything, not as a way to ignore the true essence of something of someone, but as conscious decision to acknowledge that besides the ugly parts, there is always something beautiful and inspiring. Of course, this is a task that goes against the current. We got to renew our vows to look at things in that loving matter every day, every minute. Sometimes looking at the world with respect involves observing with full honesty. Because if we are truly looking, truly mindful, not only beauty blossoms, also the truth.
I am really grateful for that lesson, for having regained a more profound sight. Hopefully by the time I am eighty-three like Antonio, my eyes will be drunk with beauty and my heart full and tender. Hopefully, my mind will still remember the day I learned to see, and hopefully my curiosity will remain as eager as when I was a little girl. But if I am not that lucky, I can only wish that my soul remembers how much beauty surrounded me.