Patterns part 2 - being shown a secret

Derek Thomson

Derek Thomson

Each moment, a totally new experience

We are creatures of habit. In fact habit is the theme of the next blog post, you could say what we each are is a pattern of habits. Our habitual nature dulls us to the world around us, we no longer notice things because we are so used to them.

Once, on retreat in a new venue, someone said, ‘Imagine if you’d never seen a tree before!’ Someone else pointed out the window and said 'you have never seen that tree before!'

We are constantly encountering things that we have never seen before, but rather than meeting the direct experience we search for the filing card in our brain that says 'tree'.

Joanna Macy goes as far as saying that there is no such thing as cognition, only recognition. In other words we only see what we've seen before. We  know the category ‘tree’,  we don’t really need to pay attention to actual trees.

The secret dimension of time 

One of the other things I rarely notice is my perception of time, or more specifically the speed at which things are happening. I am used to the speed of life, so I don’t need to really pay attention to it.

That is until it is changed. If, through the medium of film, we see time speeded up, or slowed down then, suddenly, it is as if we are being shown a secret. The secret dimension of ‘time’ is revealed, we see that everything is happening at a certain speed. We notice our perception of time. The video below is a mixture of time-lapse and slow motion. 

The whole universe, all experience inner and outer, is made up of patterns

In Patterns part one - leaning into emptiness we saw that everything we experience, inner and outer, is made up of parts, those parts form a pattern, we then ‘read’ or recognise that pattern as some 'thing'. To use the example above, we see a pattern of leaves and branches and recognise a tree.

Kartik Bhattacharjee

Kartik Bhattacharjee

Aaron Burden

Aaron Burden

But if we change our perspective by zooming in, or zooming out,  a new pattern is revealed. Maybe we even have a moment of not-knowing ‘what’ something is?

Us living together creates a pattern on the earth

I build myself a shelter in the woods and I want to visit you in your shelter, my walking to you time and time again creates a path. Other people build shelters nearby and as a community gathers we meet regularly in the centre. At other times we leave to go far away. The paths that we walk become roads, the roads become busy and are lit at night.


After centuries our living together has created this pattern, it can be seen from the air. Each town, each city, has it’s own unique, unplanned pattern.

We ourselves are made up of the same patterns


Then lets imagine our view zooming in from above, like satellite view in google maps, but this time you come right down to the tip of your finger, entering your body and finding a microscopic view of tiny nerve cell.

It's communication and connection that creates the patterns of our cities from above. Here too, each nerve cell is the pattern it is because of it's function, to connect and communicate. The nerve cells are shaped like little octopuses, having all these tentacles reaching out, transmitting messages, at 250 miles an hour, to our brain and other parts of the body. 

Take a fresh look - if we want to see things afresh, one way of doing that might be to change our perception, to zoom in, or to zoom out, noticing what new patterns are revealed.