Seeing Clearly

A 2021 Project

Welcome to Seeing Clearly by me, Kim Manley Ort. For the year 2021, I’ll offer weekly reflections and practices for seeing more clearly in everyday life. We’ll draw from my studies on the topic of perception, notice how our mind affects what we see, and practice relating to the world around us with mind, body, and heart. I hope you’ll join me.

With your email subscription, you’ll receive a weekly post to your inbox throughout 2021 (via the Substack platform). You can unsubscribe at any time if it’s not for you. This isn’t a photography workshop, but you may share photographs that come from your practice on Instagram and add the hashtag #seeingclearly2021.

How can you support this work? I’m making this project free and available for all. However, you can support the work in the following ways: By signing up and sharing on social media or telling your friends! And/or by making a one-time or monthly payment - $5 per month or $50 for the year (USD). Any way is greatly appreciated. You’ll see a pop up when you subscribe. Choose ‘none’ if you want to try it for free. You can change your level of support at any time.

Please let me know if you have any questions or problems with the site.

Background for this Project

For the past ten years, I’ve been cultivating the art of seeing using my camera as a tool for practice. In 2016, I self-published a book called Adventures in Seeing, which includes 45 exercises for learning how to pause, focus and connect before clicking the shutter. Contemplative practices have become a daily part of my life. The contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, described this way succinctly.

“There are degrees of attention: the glance, the cursory look, the look, the long look (self-forgetting, therefore contemplative)” ~ Thomas Merton, Master of Attention by Robert Waldron

This self-forgetting happens when thoughts become secondary and I’m focused on sensation and other embodied responses in the moment. This is the heart of the perceptual experience of seeing.

Premise for this Project

While staying home for much of 2020, and watching the pandemic unfold, I spent much of my time writing and going deeper into perceptual practices. I reflected on what might be needed moving forward.

This past year has brought to light many flaws in our societal systems. I’ve seen how the proliferation of information and misinformation only leads to confusion and division. None of us ever see the whole picture so it’s important to be able to listen to others, be able to discern fact from fiction, and to know our own biases. It’s more important than ever to see as clearly as possible what’s really happening and to respond in the best way we can.

Seeing clearly is a skill that can be practiced. I want to be more able to see clearly what’s working and what’s not, what’s constructive and what’s destructive, and where there’s inequality. I want to see beauty as well as brokenness. I want to experience joy and offer compassion.

With this project, I’ll explore all kinds of perceptual landscapes - sensual, emotional, mental, built, and natural.

Benefits of this Project

  • Greater awareness of your sensual and emotional landscape, what you’re feeling in your body.

  • Greater awareness of how your mind can distort reality; how it spins stories based on assumptions and previous experiences. By slowing down, paying attention, and noticing where your mind goes, you can open to subtleties and nuances instead; seeing new possibilities.

  • By pausing a little longer in that space between perception and conception, and seeing what’s there and how my mind reacts, the heart gets activated. This is seeing in terms of relationships and interactions, instead of things. It’s like dancing with life from a more grounded and loving place. There is a surrender to the moment, a letting go – of guardedness, preconceived ideas, assumptions, and even desires. It’s pure experience.

This type of practice is not idle play; it’s transformative. We need people who can see clearly in order to address the crises we face.

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