Much of our winter retreat has been focused on internal practices, seeking the root of compassion in our own hearts. It is so important to connect to our inner source of wisdom & strength, and to know by our own investigation that the wellspring of loving kindness and compassion is infinite, limitless, boundless.
Today we bring our practice to bear witness in the real world, today we get a chance to bring the strength of our self-discovery to benefit others in a very real way. Our world feels so divided in these times, even families, church groups, schools are torn apart by competing ideologies, by the strength of misperceptions. When was the last time you looked your husband or wife in the eyes – deeply, without saying a word. When was the last time you looked a complete stranger in the eyes? Or, is there an unwritten rule somewhere that makes us avoid each other? My brother got this advice before his first trip to New York City:
“Keep your wallet in your front pocket, and keep your eyes down. Don’t make eye contact.”
How terrible! I thought. Really? Is that what it takes to survive in NYC? Is the Big Apple really that brutal? Or are there real people, even in the depths of the biggest metropolitan areas of the world who hurt, and who love, and who are just as confused as we are?
For the past several years, a phenomena called the “eye contact experiment” has been popping up in cities around the world. Two hula-hoops or cushions or chairs are set up across from each other in the middle of a busy pedestrian area with a sign asking folks to sit across from each other and make eye contact for 60 seconds.
One volunteer at an experiment in Belfast shared:
“I often see myself when I stare into someone’s eyes.
“Eye contact is how we connect as human beings and it is different every time, but it always reminds me that I am part of something much bigger than myself.
“When we look into each other’s eyes we see beyond our difference, I can’t think of anywhere where this is more important than in Belfast.”
Can you think of a place where this could be an important tool? 😉
In the BBC’s report on this experiment, they interviewed participants who stopped spontaneously to see what it was all about:
One of the participants, Marcela Vojacova, 44, explained why she got involved in the project.
“I wanted to see what could be achieved by staring into another person’s eyes and what I might see,” she said.
“When I take part I feel a sense of fulfilment, love and happiness – I hope the other people do too.”
Mark Graham, who stopped by the event to see if it would help him de-stress, was surprised by his experience.
“I have a job interview coming up and sharing 60 seconds with Marcela really helped me to relax,” he said.
“For the time we were sharing the experience it was like no one else was around.
“I think a lot of people would laugh at the idea of taking part in something like this but it could be really helpful for some.”
Today’s practice: make eye contact with someone for 60 seconds. No pretense, no judgement. Any person, it doesn’t have to be a stranger – even your partner, your child. Tell us what you discovered!