I read Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley many years ago and its title has stayed with me ever since. Gaza, in the sense of our perceptions of both inner and outer worlds, is such a different place for everyone, some don't even know it exists.
For me Gaza is a place I go to when I want to chat to myself or listen to my inner friends, now main characters in the novel I'm currently working on.
Gaza is also the place from which I can go on any adventure I chose. Any story, any activity - it's not just an inner place, its a magical space where the inner and outer worlds can meet and together shape their own destinies.
The more often I visit Gaza, the more often I find my way back there. Sometimes, it's Gaza that pulls me in unexpectedly, like when I see a white butterfly dancing at the end of the garden, or hear that all 13 Thai boys and their coach have been safely returned to their homes.
Being sighted rather than eyeless in Gaza is far easier when I quieten my mind and start listening and looking rather than speaking or rushing through a myriad of thoughts and tasks and struggling to find a way through.
The best way I have found to listen, is to actively make choices about what I listen to. That might be silence, music, the news, someone talking to me, a particular thought, the crunch of snow under my feet... I make choices about what I don't want to listen to and either stop it, move away or zone it out.
When I want to see better, again I make the same choices. What am I looking at? Do I want to spend time looking at this? If not, what do I want to see? Right now I can see exactly what I want to see. London's Mediterranean weather is thankfully continuing so I'm sitting in my sunbathed garden. I'm looking at this laptop against the backdrop of a dried-out lawn with roses and greenery at the back. It's not my dream garden, but I'm too lazy for that. Maybe one day. That butterfly? I really did just see it.
When I have less control over what I'm seeing, for example while on a tube, I either find something I want to look at or if alone, read or listen to music with my eyes closed. Sometimes I look at other people and wonder about their stories. Simply closing my eyes is the quickest and easiest way to 'see' in Gaza.
Once I'm there, really hearing all the sounds and listening to what's being told to me, the next step is easy. Once you're listening and seeing you have arrived in Gaza. Now it's time to 'be' in Gaza. I'm not in my garden anymore, I'm watching an ambulance drive along a wet and wintry London street. It arrives at A&E and porters pull Anaïs in on a trolley. A drip is feeding into her right arm and a paramedic continues to administer CPR.
Time to get back to my story so I can record it.