Looking into someone's eyes intently, going deeper, staying there, meeting the urge to bolt or flee and staying anyway, is a little process I've been calling soul-gazing. It's an instantly disarming practice, one that puts me right up against my fear of being seen.
Since having my third baby three months ago, I've discovered the power and beauty of the cliche that your eyes are the windows to your soul. I've spent accumulated hours staring into this baby's eyes in a way that I didn't appreciate with my first two- she's a soul-gazer and is perfectly content to lie there staring straight into the center of me. I watch her unfold, her smirks and smiles growing bigger, her eyes lighting up more and more as we dive in and out of each other's presence. This simple act has exposed a quiet power, one that's both wildly accessible and daunting. When I'm consciously looking in her eyes, I'm faced with the decision to stay there with her or to run.
Now, with a baby, it's not so scary. She is a clean slate of human. No judgement there. What doing this with her is showing me, though, is that I'm terrified of looking deep and being seen with anyone else. The simple act of consciously holding deep gaze with someone is a profound exchange of energy- in many cultures looking directly into someone's eyes is considered rude and intrusive. For me, it puts me right up against my impulse to hide, to stay small and unseen.
One of my assignments for my "homeplay" with Renee Jeffus was to look consciously in the mirror with myself- to "soul-gaze". I stood in front of the mirror, looked myself in the eyes, and repeated "I love you" until it landed. Something so subtle and simple turned out to be really challenging. How often is it that we glance in the mirror at the periphery of our faces, checking to see how our jawline looks at a certain angle, or if our hair is as sexy as we imagined. I did this practice every day for a week, and it put me in touch with just how little I actually really look at myself, and how deep those waters are when dived into with intention. (And also how hard it is to tell myself "I love you"!)
Lately, I've been really playing with this power to connect with my partner (incidentally, soul gazing is an exercise in Tantric traditions). Not only am I discovering that when we're in a heated mess, when I'm falling into the fear of being seen, I do everything I can to avoid making eye contact. But I'm also realizing that I can ask him to look at me when he's acting like a shit as a way to break through the walls (like he does to me). As a trauma survivor, I admit that I have an acquired ability to glass my eyes off, to glaze over if I need to, but it still faces me square with the decision to stay or go.
To show up or not.
Soul-gazing is good medicine. I'm soaking up every last drop of it with my infant daughter, exploring the expanses of our souls' agreement with each other and the beauty of her presence in my life. I'm using it as a way to create a level of intimacy with my partner that words or touch can't do. And I'm doing it with myself as a way to come back home.
Try it. Tell me. What do you find there when you really dive in? Does it scare the living daylights out of you? That's good. There's a sweet spot past that. Go find it.