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To see and to be seen.

Today I had a very special day. It was long, intense, but truly magical. I am finishing a teaching trajectory and just finished the individual conversations that round up the course. This semester I decided to try more experimental approach to my course, a different approach, more engaging, playful and free-flowing. Especially after such a difficult year, it seemed important to bring more joy in the classroom, boost togetherness and lift up the spirits. My idea was to facilitate stress-free environment, try to spot the moment stress might arise and not allow it to develop. Many times I emphasised how important it is to have stress-free conditions to be able to create in innovative, experimental manner. When we are under stress we tend to shutdown and are prone to take risks, thus reluctant to try new things. If you are an artist, especially an art student, the ability to explore boundaries is fundamental for your development. Most of the time, unfortunately, the conditions are not there. Sometimes the intensity of the program is very demanding, which results in tension and can cause general unsettlement.

During our first class we proclaimed the classroom is going to be a stress-free space, wherein we can engage in various experiments, play and move together, explore artistic boundaries and open into our togetherness. I also decided to give everybody a “pass” before the end of the class to eliminate this stress factor. This way, every week we were undergoing various activities, building trust and exchanging ideas and feedbacks. It was exciting but I never had hesitation or doubt about the outcome. Today, after talking to everyone, seeing how this class landed with students, I became filled with joy and happiness. There was so much generosity and honesty from both sides. It was beautiful to see the growth, pure intrinsic motivation, good work and lots of smiles.

One phrase that kept popping up in our conversations is that they felt they were seen. To be seen this feels important. And it is important. For some reason, previously, I never used this phrase too often. I was even trying to translate it into Russian but I couldn’t come up with an equivalent that feels natural. It stuck with me, though. Especially since I started to feel seen myself more regularly, this sentence entered my lexicon with full grace. And it even starts to feel quite comfortable to say it. I think it has something to do with my former difficulties to connect with people or tendency to drift in abstraction. I would avoid to be seen and thus avoid seeing. This realisation came with a lot of sadness together with regret for missed connections. We use our eyes all the time and perhaps it complicates the process of seeing. It seems we are seeing, but we are actually just looking. Looking refers to the process of directing your gaze towards particular object. Seeing involves becoming aware. Truly connecting to what is being looked at, understanding it, relating to it and allowing it to engage with the one who is seeing. To see someone is a skill that comes with awareness training, focusing and concentration. One must be present to be able to see. As we know today being present is not something that comes easy. We are constantly distracted, too much in our heads, stressed, anxious and uncertain. Under such circumstances seeing someone becomes rather rare. There is a necessity to be seen, it is a fundamental existential need - if nobody sees us, we can’t survive. It didn't come as a surprise that being seen is a rare experience, decrease in true connection leads to that effect, but the question is, how will our experiential invisibility affect us in the longer run?

To be seen we need to be open, to show ourselves. This ability requires, trust and personal sovereignty, capacity to make choices and own our experience. These preconditions are weakened or remain under the radar in educational structures. In my opinion there is little emphasis on reinforcement of individuals’ core and the nurture of true authenticity. We talk about authenticity but the meaning of the word is diluted and has lost its meaning. Authentic is the one who is the author of her own life. I see that the process is not being stressed enough on practical level. We are placed into right formats, structures that are made for us to fill in, and sometimes the inflexibility jeopardies the self-authoring qualities. We are trained to look and not always to see. Fortunately we can shift a few things here and there and revitalise out super seeing power in no time.

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