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.