I can’t recall who said that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but there’s something to that. Think of the last time you made eye contact with someone else and actually held it. Something immediately softens when we actually look at another human being.
We don’t usually feel comfortable holding someone’s gaze. Perhaps it is not socially appropriate. Perhaps we are afraid the other person will make assumptions about why we are looking so deeply into their eyes. Whether it’s because of social norms, because we are within a culture where eye gazing might be considered offensive or disrespectful, or because it can be uncomfortable to really look at another person, we don’t often eye gaze.
The practice of eye gazing… can be an incredible exploration in intimacy.
The practice of eye gazing, however, can be an incredible exploration in intimacy. When we relax enough to see and be seen, we open more deeply to who we are. There is so much one could say about intimacy and opening to another human being, but ultimately no words can do it justice. The point is that when we look into someone’s eyes and hold their gaze, we allow something in ourselves to soften. It can be uncomfortable, awkward, funny, frightening, intimidating, or any number of other things. We begin to see our own reaction to being vulnerable. Allowing yourself to be seen is just that—becoming vulnerable. A teacher of mine once told me that vulnerability is bravery and bravery is vulnerability. I’ve found that to be true.
We begin to see the other person as a sort of mirror, recognizing what we see.
If we hold our gaze in spite of whatever is arising, just relaxing and softening into what is, we gently open ourselves to experiencing the other. We begin to see the other person as a sort of mirror, recognizing what we see. We see someone who suffers like we do. We see someone who has hopes and fears just like ours. We see someone who is looking back, also uncomfortable or awkward, or whatever it is, but still looking. We someone who is willing to be seen. That, my friends, is the key. When we are willing to see and be seen, then we can truly connect with another.
How to do it
1. Find a comfortable place to sit, perhaps with some privacy at first, and face one another.
2. Take an upright but comfortable posture.
3. First, close your eyes and check in with how you feel.
4. When ready, open your eyes and look into each other’s eyes.
5. Hold the gaze for longer than normal. Notice how you feel, without trying to change it.
6. You can practice for short periods at first, then increase the length. You will find that two to four minutes is a very long time!
7. Take breaks if it gets too intense, and then go back to it.
8. Don’t use words during the gazing, but you can talk about what came up afterwards.
9. Do it with someone you trust.
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