Eyes see much more than just the surrounding visual stimulation. After spending most of this past summer, temporarily, completely blind, artist and musician Robert Cerins found out first-hand how much he could see beyond his vision.
Fifteen years ago, Robert had an initial warning that his eyes might have problems, but that didn’t prepare him for two detached retinas and four surgeries that found him laying still for five weeks, painting only in his mind and having endless conversations with himself.
“When I couldn’t see, I had to lie in the same position without moving and my body was saying, why am I laying in the same spot? Where are my pillows? Why is my head draped upside down so I feel nauseous? I’m six feet seven inches tall and my whole body is designed to look down, so it felt completely backwards.”
Born in Winnipeg, 54 years ago, Robert had two major fears as a young boy - being held down and losing his sight. During his time of complete immobility, he found himself experiencing both fears at the same time. So, he turned to meditation, trying to understand himself more and getting deeper into himself.
“I’ve had a great deal of pleasure playing my instruments and I draw and paint every day,” he says. “But during that time, I couldn’t get up to draw and paint, and I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to do that when it was all said and done. So I would meditate for hours and hours, then I would say, OK that’s enough of that, now what can I do? My old goal was to get good at not thinking, so I got pretty good at that. But then I tried actually holding on to a thought. I would practise that, and I would catch myself holding onto a negative thought. And I decided, at that point, not to get into deep conversations with myself on what I don’t want - only what I do. And now, I practise loving everything.”
Stephanie Linn, Robert’s true love of five years, cared for him and continued to love him without a flicker of abandonment during a time that ended up bringing the couple closer together. While looking into each other’s eyes, when Robert’s sight started to reappear, brought a realization that their connection has become divine, and has helped Robert find his centre.
Even without his normal eyesight, oddly enough, Robert helped Stephanie find her way around Vancouver on one of their many trips from the Island to the hospital.
“I used to live in White Rock and, one time, when we took the ferry over, Stephanie had never been that way before. So, I directed her by memory to the hospital. It was like I had a GPS in my head and I could get everywhere. I didn’t even know I had that - and it worked. We’re not as helpless as we think just because one thing turns off,” he says. “We are richer than we think and I’ve received some very powerful gifts from everything that has happened.”
Music is another gift he’s shared with the world since he was in Grade 4. As a young boy, he had the precocity to collect a few fellow musicians, write some songs, and was given permission to play at a school assembly. They went on to renting a hall and even if they only had enough songs to play for an hour - they had the ingenuity to repeat songs, pretending they were playing requests.
Lately, joining with friends and jamming has brought Robert back to the great joy of music.
“There is this incredibly enlightened feeling and glow that comes out of all of us when everyone is so satiated after playing for hours. Music puts us all in the same vibe and, when we are jamming and playing in the moment, we feel safe. When you stay in the blissful state with some old friends and some strangers and you communicate with instruments – it’s very divine. We don’t talk about the key, we don’t worry about the structure - every note is correct. We don’t listen to a song as it should be; we just play what’s in our hearts.”
As another integral part of his healing journey, Robert and Stephanie have slowly adopted a 75 per cent raw foods diet, including sprouting. While his eyes are healing, everything else is healing as well. He’s learning to tap into his inner eye more and he can even hear better. He’s found that his ability to communicate with himself has also increased dramatically.
“That is partly due to the combination of having to hold still for so long and having conversations with myself,” he says. “No matter what we face, we can find a way to cope. There is incredible safety in knowing that. There’s a feeling of calmness and understanding that no matter what happens - you have yourself. That brings you back to loving yourself completely.”
Learning to see the correlation between emotions and the physical manifestations is yet another dimension in Robert’s quest for understanding.
“Pay attention to what you hear, pay attention to what you feel, understand what you feel because your emotions are great barometers of what you’re thinking. All of a sudden you think, ‘oh, I am having an upset stomach.’ But are you? No, you are having an emotion. The emotions are there to guide you in a direction that is predestined to be good; the emotions may feel yucky, so pay attention and change your thoughts. Pay attention to what you’re thinking and own them. Then when you own them, you can change them. I actually change them back to practising loving everything. Why worry? In fact, don’t even answer that ‘why worry’ - just feel love instead.”
Love and gratitude keep coming back to Robert. He’s written that down countless times in the stacks of journals he’s sketched in over the years. Knowing and honouring that belief has brought him opportunities to continue sharing his art and passion.
Previously part of the Spirit Bear in the City project in 2006, Robert was recently asked to participate in the Eagles in the City project in Victoria. For six weeks, he travelled with Stephanie to the CHEK TV studio and painted the seven-and-a-half-foot fibreglass bald eagle. In his unique, creative and whimsical style, he’s encoded braille messages amongst the swirling cascades of black and white. Some of his favourite inspirational sayings such as “honesty is sexy” and “meditation is my medication” have found their way onto the majestic bird. And if you look closely, you’ll see subtle acts of protest in the eyes of the fish in the form of the “no-tanker loonies.” His eagle, named “CHEK My Bald Ego” will become part of the Bald Eagle Flight Path Map; all the painted masterpieces will be auctioned off this summer with proceeds benefiting Easter Seals.
Robert’s future is soaring. “It’s my choice whether I enjoy what I’m doing or not, so I do what I enjoy – that’s the main thing isn’t it?” he asks. “I’ve had people question me on that - that you can’t be doing whatever you want all your life.”
But Robert is proof a person can.
To find out more about Robert, visit his website at www.robertcerins.com. And for more information on the Eagles in the City project, visit www.eaglesinthecity.com
SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND - April 2009
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