Lessons learned from unadulterated eye contact

There is no more profound way to connect with another human being than through sustained and unguarded eye contact. The trouble is, nobody is doing it anymore. Thanks to technology and the frenetic pace of life, it’s become an antiquated process.

Meanwhile, a few pioneering people throughout the world have begun looking back over our history for better ways to live. This includes cooking from scratch, consuming organic products, pre-agrarian diets, barefoot running, bodyweight exercise (a la crossfit), simple living, and building their own tribes.

In my own exploration of life as led by instincts, I found gazing. Not just eye contact, the infrequent flitting of eyes back and forth between two or more people in an effort to be courteous and provide a bare minimum of acknowledgment. I am not talking about staring (or leering) either:

I am talking about gazing: Sustained, meaningful eye contact.

Last spring, I was introduced to the process from a few different sources. It was not an easy habit to rebuild, for a lot of reasons. [For more on how to gaze, check out powerofeyecontact.com.]. Exporing this ‘primal’ process has been a profound teacher. It seems most communication roadblocks and intimacy issues stem from the absence of this simple action. It fosters a connection that we all crave and can be as nourishing to our hearts and minds as a home-cooked meal is to your stomach. I also discovered the following:

  • Eye contact takes practice. It’s like a muscle that needs worked out constantly to prevent atrophy.
  • There is a right way and a wrong way to gaze.
  • You have to be ok with yourself before you can make quality, lasting eye contact with another person.
  • You have to be ok with seeing (and accepting) things in people they do not necessarily want you to see.
  • You can communicate volumes more love and friendliness with a “present” glance than with hours of conversation.
  • People are afraid of eye contact to whatever degree they are afraid of themselves.
  • Gazing makes people feel received and understood and so they linger. It quickly becomes a crash course in how to exit conversation gracefully.
  • Gazing does not have to be romantic.
  • It’s just as important to make eye contact while listening while speaking.
  • Gazing makes way for appreciation of another person’s humanity.
  • Babies and small children gaze fearlessly.
  • It is a constant reminder that we all have one commonality: being human.
  • It’s addictive.

Gazing is not only about other people and their reactions to you. To do it successfully and continuously, you must have a willingness to learn about yourself. Without the safety of words and protective humor, your own emotions bubble up. Emotions you may not have known were there can become suddenly, and unexpectedly, present. Anger, hurt, sadness, mistrust, physical attraction, love, kindness and so on. Then, the challenge is how to apply this information. Do you shut down? Do you attack? Do you turn inward? Do you self-medicate? Do you accept and go with the flow? In many ways, gazing teaches you more about yourself than about others. It is a good barometer for how comfortable you are in your own skin. Discomfort with eye contact marks a very real discomfort with the self.

That is part of the reason so many people are uncomfortable with giving and receiving eye contact. It’s also why so many people find a passion for gazing laughable. Many people react like gazing is new-age nonsense when it is, in fact, the oldest and most direct form of communication.

It’s a lost art, a retro trend, that I (and a handful of others) are bringing back to Phoenix. If anyone is interested in finding opportunities to build this skill and share it with others, please let me know! 

More information and events to come, please stay tuned.

6 comments on “Lessons learned from unadulterated eye contact
  1. How we look at people defines who we are. That’s a powerful concept. Great post. I like the blog!

    • Shauna says:

      Sorry for the delay in approving your comments. For some reason, I’ve stopped receiving the notices. This is me cancelling moderation altogether…

      Alex: Thanks for the support!

  2. I see a certain irony in the fact that as we have gotten so much more accustomed to staring at screens for hours at a time, even to the point of doing ourselves harm, that we have simultaneously eroded our ability to look one another in the eye, or even in the face.

    Frankly, I see the whole thing as an analogy to how our society is changing, too, and I don’t mean that in a positive way. People are confusing “Facebook Friends” with “Actual Friends” and I do not believe that is a good thing.

    I feel the two phenomena are related. As we impersonalize our interactions conceptually, we impersonalize them physically as well.

    • Shauna says:

      Great point, Brandon. Quality of interaction, depth of relationship, stability of intimate relationships all suffers when we treat each other as a series of avatars to be collected like baseball cards.

      We are, in essence, commoditizing each other.

  3. Verrrry interesting. It is true that direct eye contact is extremely important in relationship building. It’s also true that we hardly ever seem to give anyone eye contact any longer.

    I went to an important business meeting for the first time in a long time this week and was shocked to see that NO-ONE (including myself) was giving the speakers their full attention. We all had our electronic devices to which we were giving the vast majority of our attention.

    • Shauna says:

      It’s sad how common that has become. We split our time so that we are never fully present to any one thing. It’s like trying to eat four flavors of ice cream at once: they all just melt together and there’s nothing really special about it.

      Thank you for the comment!

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