Two people looking into each other’s eyes sounds pretty trivial, right? Actually, it is not as easy as you think if you do it for a while. I discovered this at a recent yoga/wellness retreat I attended organised by Breath Body Earth, where the focus was on nourishment of both body and mind. The weekend contained some unexpectedly profound experiences. One of them, which in fact proved one of the most powerful practices that the retreat’s leads, Rachael Haylock and Melissa Colon, guided us through involved simply looking someone in the eye for an extended period of time.
We were paired up sitting opposite one another, to spend 5-10 minutes looking at each other in silence. This simple act of seeing and being seen was a beautifully enriching practice that brought an unspoken deep closeness between my practice partner and me for the rest of the retreat or…forever? Being seen was a very vulnerable act. Part of me wanted to hide, to remain invisible. Staying in the practice was courageous and rewarding. I had dived into a pair of millennia-old eyes. I loved. I felt loved. I saw strength. I felt strength. I witnessed beauty. I felt beauty. I witnessed sorrow. I felt sorrow. I saw truth. I felt truth.
The second part of the practice required us to discuss what we had felt while looking into each other’s eyes. Rachael encouraged us to listen actively, which meant just being present without reacting to what was being said in any physical or sensory way, the idea being that the person speaking had the freedom to express themselves unrestricted. This intentional lack of response felt alien to me so I questioned the effectiveness, the appropriateness even, of staring at someone without reacting to what they were saying. I felt that showing attention, reflecting the emotion that someone feels when they speak, affirming their words with a nod, is an act of caring and validates the speaker. Rachael’s response to my pushback was one that made me sit up straight and think: “Maybe the lesson here is to give you the opportunity to learn to say what you want to say, irrespective of whether anyone approves or reacts to it.”
That one statement brought me to this realisation: sometimes it is the act of saying that matters, because when you speak without seeking approval, you express your true nature. Over the years, there have been many times when I have felt unheard and hurt by a lack of response to articles or blogs – thoughts and feelings I have sent out into the world. I rewound all the recent occasions in my head. And it felt immensely soothing to see them in this different light, to reframe them as acts of expression of my true nature. What’s more, with that reframing came trust that those who needed to hear what I had to say had heard it, even if I didn’t know about it.
So the lesson I have taken from it is this: we must learn to share even if no one gives us anything back. Honour your truth.