At a recent seminar entitled “Living Fearlessly,” I was asked to select a partner, another student in the class who I did not know, and sit face to face with him, knees touching, and take five minutes to simply stare into his eyes. In the scheme of my daily tasks, this did not seem to be a hard request. However, I soon found that it was almost impossible. I could not stare into his eyes for an extended period of time without looking away. I felt like I was intruding on his personal, private space, as if I was creating an uncomfortable intimacy with a total stranger by peering right into his soul, and allowing him to look into mine. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul and this exercise seemed to have given me powerful evidence of the truth to that popular proverb. After that class, I was intrigued and began my own personal experiment. I decided to make a conscious effort to make clear and lasting eye contact with people throughout my day. The results were quite amazing. To simply look into my husband’s eyes in the morning and wish him a good day, had a completely different effect than my usual routine of yelling good bye to him while making the children’s lunches as he walks out the door. Next, I took the time, only a few seconds, to look into my children’s eyes as they went off to school, wishing them a wonderful day. This was an incredibly loving gesture that warmed my heart, and hopefully warmed theirs as well.
I also noticed that by taking the time to look into my children’s eyes while they were speaking to me made those moment so much more intimate and meaningful. It allowed me to be present, to truly listen and let them know that they were being heard. That is an incredible gift that you can give another person, especially your children, just by looking into their eyes. Of course, this required me to stop texting, to take a break from checking my e-mails or reading the newspaper or cleaning the kitchen. It required me to be in the moment and truly connect with those around me. In doing so, I made those daily interactions much less mundane and routine, and much more meaningful and loving.
I didn’t stop there. I quickly realized that it is quite simple to go through my daily routine without making eye contact with the strangers that I encounter throughout my day. I could go to the bank, shop at the grocery story, sit through a meeting and never make meaningful eye contact with anyone. So, I decided to look into the eyes of everyone I came in contact with that day. The results were amazing. At my local grocery store, for example, I looked right into the eyes of the cashier and found that she looked right back at me. That moment was very powerful. On most days I would help bag the groceries, swipe my card and be on my way. By taking the time to look into her eyes, I made a brief connection with another human being and saw that she was a loving, caring person with an incredibly rich and complex life. For that one moment, she saw me and I saw her. In those few seconds of eye contact, it seemed like everything else stood still. I can’t accurately describe the feeling I got, but it was quite moving. When you look into someone’s eye and they look into yours, there seems to be a connection that goes straight to your heart.
We are all moving through life at such a rapid pace that taking a moment to acknowledge the existence of another human being who crosses your path, to truly look at them and acknowledge them, brings greater joy to those seemingly ordinary moments that fill our days, and who wouldn’t want more joy in their lives?
It’s not easy. I know that I often do not look into other people’s eyes, not because I don’t want to see them, but because I don’t want to be seen. Allowing someone that access creates a great feeling of vulnerability. You open yourself up and it can feel scary, intense and awkward. My meditation teacher asked us to do an exercise that was a little odd, but very telling. She asked us to go to a mirror, and stare into our own eyes for a while, and tell ourselves, “ I love you.” It feels very strange and a bit silly, but it is an interesting lesson in learning to love yourself and in really looking inward. If you cannot do this exercise, then perhaps you should ask yourself why.
So, give it a try and let us know what you find. I hope it will be a simple step to help you be in the moment, and to truly connect with yourself and all of those amazing people in your life!
This is the first article in a series entitled Simple Steps. Simple Steps are little things that we can all do that can really make a difference in our lives. Check out our complete list of Simple Steps.