Here is a photo that registers one single of the 58.000 seconds I happened to be awake yesterday. Luckily, we don’t need to document all of our seconds.
Shortly before sunset, I had gone for a brief aimless walk. Feeling a bit tired, I lay down on a just-mowed slope and closed my eyes for a minute, almost (but not really) drifting away in a nap. The second when I lifted my head and opened my eyes again, the outside world struck me full force.
Before getting on my feet, I fumbled for my phone and tried to shoot exactly what hit me that one special second when I opened my eyes. So the photo shows the same, from the same skewed position – just a few seconds later.
Nothing special here. A distant view, a single past-bloom flower that had survived the other day’s mowing, and the handle of my old wooden walking stick. Mainly, it shows grass:
I will not remember this one second because I took a photo of it. It’s the other way around. I took that photo because I knew this was a memorable second. And why? Because this was one of those seconds when I opened my eyes.
For a second, I really saw everything. If you don’t understand what I mean, please click the photo for a larger, clearer sample.
What did I learn from this single second?
We normally take in our surroundings through a kind of filter, a filter of habit. Depression can work like a similar filter, but more strongly. It will often put some kind of misty barrier (metaphorically speaking) between you and the actual, physical world that surrounds you.
Now maybe closing your eyes for a minute and then suddenly opening them again, can work as a simple, primitive technique to break that barrier. In that first sudden second of seeing again, your habitual filter can be taken by surprise. For a second, you see things clearly again – unfiltered: you see what you see.
I think this can help. Sometimes. Consider it a brief instantaneous moment of “mindfulness” (full concentration on your immediate environment) that’s thrown into your lap for free. Without the need for exercise or meditation.
I don’t know if this will work always or for everyone, everywhere. It may not work in a very familiar environment such as your own living room, where habitual associations may filter immediately what you see. Maybe it also will not work in an environment with a lot of moving distractions, such as in a busy street where your focus may be redirected instantly to specific moving objects.
But perhaps this is still worth a try? Just closing your eyes and after a brief while suddenly opening them again?
If you are lucky, what you see that first second will hit your mind full force, unfiltered. For a second, you’ll be reminded of the fact again that you’re alive: that you’re right here and now. This reminder, however brief itself, will stay with you for the next few hours: it can be valuable and helpful.
• tip: Just experiment with this a few times. Try it with at least something nearby in your field of vision (grass, or the rough paint on a wall, or even just your computer keyboard). Now close your eyes for a minute, allow your mind to drift away a little, and then suddenly open your eyes again.
Of course you’re free to think this is just nonsense. I myself don’t think it is.