In this article I will assume, on the part of the reader, an interest in individual experience, mind-body practices, exploring possibilities, and creative responses to life. I've used a bunch of ideas and my own understandings of some of my teachers theories to describe or point to insights I've gained from practice.
The Spatial Matrix - Being Conscious of Space
The Spatial Matrix is the space our senses take in information from. Here are a couple of definitions: Spatial means 'pertaining to space':
This Spatial Matrix also has 360degrees of direction on the horizontal and vertical planes, and all the space in between, forming a sphere of space. This extends outwards infinitely, and also inwards as the scale of increments decreases.
Obviously there things that are physically in this matrix, and unless we were in the vacuum of 'outer-space', we are able to perceive those things.
So we can locate objects by turning our attention with our sight, and likewise our hearing. We can also locate or sense things with a felt sensation. Importantly, we can sense the absence of an object, we can sense and perceive empty space. We can sense the shape of a space, using a combination of sight and 'putting ourselves in the space', from a distance. For example, a person can measure (unconsciously usually) the size of a doorway with their spatial awareness and come to the conclusion that they will fit through (or not!). We can, just by looking, and using our own 'body-map' awareness, tell if a moving car is close enough to hit us when we cross the road. This goes on with any number of actions, throwing or catching a ball or ducking under a branch.
Spatial Matrix as Canvas – Consciousness as Paint – Attention as Brush.
Much of my exposure to 'spiritual teachings' and ideas has focused on the cessation of suffering, healing, or progressing on the path to some form of enlightenment. It was through these kinds of lenses that I was introduced to the Vipassana tradition, awareness of multiple different conceptual paradigms, the occult, psychology and motivation in human experience, creative therapy, and embodiment practices.
This all happened alongside my formal training in sculpture, performance, and installation art. These days I can't help but run my 'Spatial Matrix' filters as move through the world. Shopping malls are INTENSE.
All of these topics and practices have informed this metaphor:
Spatial Matrix as Canvas – Consciousness as Paint – Attention as Brush.
So hopefully I have defined the canvas as being an essentially limitless dimension of awareness, in any direction within our perception, on a sliding scale of size, the spatial matrix. Also hopefully I have attended to attention, (heh heh...) the ability to direct awareness, the brush.
So what of consciousness as paint? Well consciousness is an interesting term, it is used in lots of different ways and I want to be clear what I mean. Here is the Google definition:
Consciousness as Paint
Phew, that was chunky as! SO...Consciousness as Paint. Cool. Well paint has different qualities, and also quantities. Qualities include color, tone, brightness etc. Also when painting, one can dollop a whole lot of paint on the canvas, or put just a little spot in the corner. A painter might choose a color of paint to represent something or communicate a 'feeling or mood'. For example 'what mood do you want in the children's bedroom'. It could also be totally random, and then the audience interprets as they will.
Likewise, consciousness has different qualities. It can be sharp, or vague, light or heavy. It can have an emotional aspect. For example happy feelings can be associated with consciousness of the beach, either as symbolized in memory, or as in actual experience of being at the beach. Other qualities could include 'comfortable, peaceful, content, inspired', for instance. I know I'm often inspired to update my consciousness of the contents of the fridge.
In what way are we painting?
So when we apply paint to canvas, we do so with a certain technique. We might aggressively gesture with the black acrylic, or delicately paint a small circle with sky blue. In each case a quality is being recorded. Consciousness is no different. The way in which we put our attention on the subject, either a symbol or a space within the spatial matrix, will be part of the information recorded by the neural-map.
There are many techniques of 'painting with consciousness'. And there is a spectrum of awareness about whats happening when it's happening. This is why we can say 'so and so seemed very unconscious with their affect on the space'. They might also be very conscious and just not really mind what the consequences are.
'Don't look a gift horse in the mouth', 'Biting the hand that feeds', 'looking on the bright-side of life', 'bull in a china-shop', 'appreciate the little things in life'.
All of these metaphors refer to techniques for painting with consciousness. It is arguable that the 'bull in a china-shop' is not using any technique, but still getting results...
The calligraphy traditions of China and Japan are some of my favorite visual art disciplines in the world. The refinement of touch, the conviction of gesture, and the simplicity of composition all speak to something deep in my psyche. In much the same way, slow deliberate movement and comfortable arcs in martial arts and dance are symbolic of time and care put into technique.
The technique required to create beauty is closely associated to the technique required to perceive beauty. The care and consideration, the balance of creative intention and attention to the medium that is demonstrated in these art forms is applicable to the spatial-matrix.
The term gratitude can mean 'appreciating something' or recognizing its value. In this way, gratitude is a quality of consciousness. It is a way of seeing, a way of looking and perceiving deeply without bias. It is an essentially practical method of painting with consciousness.
Whats super cool is that the better get at using a technique in one context, the more readily accessible that technique is in others, this is to say that if we get really good at painting a certain pattern, we can get a brand new canvas and make use of our access to the practiced skill within our neural-map. You can put a rock-singer or a comedian on any stage and if they are well practiced, should be able to access their established patterns, or techniques of consciousness. So the skill is transferable in ideal circumstance, with 'best practice'.
What do we want to paint?
So it seems to be clear now that the possibilities are vast if not endless. Whoa, that can be overwhelming. Well since we are using our own attention as the brush, and our own consciousness as the paint, the choice is undeniably up to the individual themselves. There are myriad coloring in books of consciousness available to those who want to experiment with color. There are 'connect the dots', 'learn how to draw aliens', 'paint like Van Gogh' courses and teachings. The are go-to guides and how-tos. But is there a DIY section for the 'consciousness artist', the 'wizards and witches' of the world? A mentor can offer the techniques that they use to paint their canvas.
As a student of such mentors, I fumbled through clumsy attempts to get 'my blue to look like the instructions' and 'get the perspective right in the landscape image'. One of the main barriers to my progress was trying to paint with consciousness before understanding the colors or the canvas. This is to say I only had limited resources. Therapy in this context can be thought of as rediscovering resources within ourselves. I had lots of black and red, but not much else. And my canvas as all torn and grubby, and I couldn't see the edges. You get the idea.
So in many ways, we can only really 'work with what we have'. Some people get really good at this, and then don't ever want to move outside the comfort zone. However! Other people go on a mad rainbow ride, rediscovering colors and shapes and techniques they either never knew existed, or had forgotten within themselves.
Perhaps health is simply effective process, essential to which is curiosity, experimentation and appreciation of ones works, and the works of others.
The point is, it's a trans formative process...We change as we practice. Maybe some-days we want to paint big and bold, and others we are more inconspicuous.
The flexibility to both try new things, and practice the ones we love, means that we can have a variety of resources to 'draw on' (pun intended), and tangle with the wondrous mess of life.
2 Examples of Creative Use of Meditation Practice: