Last week I went to an event where the main activity consisted of silently looking into the eyes of a stranger for 15 minutes. You did this three times with three different people. 80 people had signed up that evening!
Over the course of different trainings I’ve done and from the retreats I facilitate gazing deeply into someone else’s eye is a familiar practice to me, and still, it felt somewhat daunting to walk into a room full of people and taking a seat in front of someone completely unknown. Many I talked to afterward had never done anything like this before, and it struck me that so many people were drawn to an evening like this. I mean there are countless ways to spend your time, so why would you want to put yourself in a somewhat uncomfortable situation of pairing up with a person you don’t know at all and look them deeply in the eyes?
To me it’s a clear testament to the fact that we as humans need each other. We are wired to connect, and we need real-time profound interaction. Even more so in our highly individualized lives that are saturated with screen time.
What happens when you share prolonged eye contact is that you actually meet the other person through the gaze. It can feel vulnerable to show yourself and to really see the other person. In our daily life we can easily have conversations without meeting the other, we’re often scared of eye contact, or be so occupied with ourselves that we don’t really connect. It takes courage and focus to be really present to another being.
We all want to be seen, valued and understood, and the practice of eye gazing helps to meet those needs. It’s a powerful way to cultivate intimacy in relationships – and it connects us to our common humanity which is a potent way to reduce sensations of isolation or loneliness.
How to practice
If you want to try for yourself, you can do this anytime. Set a timer (I’d recommend at least 5 minutes), sit in front of a person and gaze into their eyes silently. You can move if you need to adjust your body, and blinking is normal and fine. If you feel nervous or tense take a couple of deep breaths to center yourself and relax. Allow any emotion that comes to be expressed. Sometimes you might feel a need to cry or laugh and that is welcome. Keep the focus on meeting the other person through the gaze.
If you give it a try I’d love to know how it went and what you experienced - let me know in the comments below.
There’s a lot to be said about why we need each other, and it’s a subject I’m currently exploring; in this video I talk with Steph about interconnection, triggers and how we mirror each other when we interact.
This month I’ll be sharing thoughts and tools for deepening interpersonal connection – it will happen on social media and if you want to follow along find me here and here – but don’t worry I’ll compile a recap that I’ll send out to you next month.
What I see in the world now is a clearer understanding of how everything is interconnected, finally we’re waking up to the undeniable fact that our actions and ways of being on this earth have an impact, nothing exists in vacuum and as humans we’re part of nature too – everything needs nurturing in order to thrive. All our actions can be a step towards higher wellbeing - personally, interpersonally and globally.