I took the photo above when returning at dusk from a boat trip on Lake Como as the mist descended on the mountains and water.
When viewing this scene as it appears, you could focus on what you can see. You could look at the shapes, the trees, the contrast of light and dark, the colours and the sun reflecting on the rippling water. Alternatively, you could focus on any one of the other four senses – taste, touch, hearing or smell.
We are reminded by Buddhism that there is also a sixth sense, the mind. It influences our perceptions through our thoughts, emotions and mental images. (China Buddhism Encyclopedia) So when actually experiencing this scene, you could experience peace, tranquility or even anxiety.
As we have mentioned previously, what you see is not what I see because of our different experiences and our interpretation of those experiences. Our minds, like our other senses, are continuously free roaming – they are not in our direct control unless we reign them in as we grow in mindfulness.
It is interesting that mountains and water featured very prominently in Chinese landscape painting over the centuries and in different traditions. Mountains and water had different meanings within the various traditions of Chinese landscape art. For some, it evoked a sense of freedom, for others, the perfect balance between Yin and Yang energy. (Karen Albert, Mountains and Water in Chinese Art).
Shan shui (literally, “mountain-water”) landscape painting, for instance, sought to give expression to the artist’s inner landscape – thoughts and feelings generated by nature – rather than provide an accurate representation of reality. (“Shan shui”, Wikipedia.org)
As we grow in mindfulness, we are better able to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of nature and to use mountains and water as a source of meditation – opening up the possibility of exploring our own internal landscape.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution–Non Commercial–No Derivatives)