I have always been intrigued, and often mesmerized by the profundity of the eye, not only in humans, but in animals as well. The concept of the eyes being a window into the soul may be cliché, but that does not diminish its validity. In every moment that I allowed myself, or even forced myself, to stare into someone’s eyes, I’ve experienced something extraordinary.
On some level, we’ve all had an experience where we’ve connected deeply with a person or animal because we allowed ourselves to linger, if only for a moment, in an interlocked gaze from our soul to another by staring into another’s eyes. It allows for connection on a level that often goes far beyond our comfort zone.
Recently, at DO Lectures Costa Rica, presenter Giancarlo Pucci of Costa Rica Aerea delivered a beautifully moving speech about his journey of articulating the awe inspiring, interconnected perspective of the Costa Rican landscape through photography. During his talk, he asked each of us to turn to the person next to us and look deeply into their eyes.
He pushed our limits as he requested us to prolong our gaze, longer and longer.
I turned to my neighbor and stared deeply into her eyes, as she stared deeply into mine. Prior to this moment, we had only exchanged the typical greetings of strangers before sitting down to listen to the lectures. Other than knowing her professional career, I didn’t know her at all. Giancarlo encouraged us to go beyond sight and to truly connect at a soul level.
It was uncomfortable. I felt my body temperature rise. I fought the urge to turn away or to act like I had to blink or scratch my face. I wanted to experience this connection and learn from it. So I let myself go. I pushed through my fear of feeling vulnerable, embarrassed and exposed.
After only a few seconds, I began to see her: the real soul within her human existence. I felt bits of her pain, and her joy. Her insecurities, and her genuine confidence. I felt her apprehension, and her letting go. I experienced her emotions in real time, as she navigated this uncomfortable, yet captivating moment of connection.
I felt the ebb and flow as she pulled away and then let go of her inhibitions and allowed herself to connect with my innermost being.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I experienced this deep connection with another human, a stranger I’d never even spoken with prior to this moment. Yet, in this brief moment, I felt more deeply connected to her than many people I have known for ages.
It was a raw, human connection at the soul level. In that brief thirty second period, I felt as though I truly experienced a part of her soul. And all I had to do was deliberately stare into her eyes and allow myself to be vulnerable, just for a moment.
Society has become so comfortable with disconnectedness. Our fear of vulnerability and exposure to our innermost feelings has caused us to form habits of disconnection. It’s part of our survival mechanisms. “Don’t get too close, or you might get hurt.” We’ve been conditioned to put up our guard and opt out of deep human connection as a way of protecting ourselves.
Imagine if we spent as much time staring into people’s eyes and truly connecting, as we do staring into our smart phones and laptop screens. Imagine the interconnection that could spawn from allowing ourselves to experience these deeply human moments, with strangers, and with those that are close to us.
I believe empathy is paramount to understanding and positively impacting humanity. I now believe that the simple act of connecting with people, through their eyes, may be the window not only to our souls, but also to our ability to empathize on a deeper level.
In every human interaction, I am now faced with the decision between reacting to my fear of vulnerability, or deliberately responding to an opportunity to connect with another soul.
“When my desire for soul filled connection overpowers my fear of vulnerability, I am truly human.” ~ Jared Angaza
Take a moment to connect with someone you love and stare deeply into their eyes. Feel their presence intertwined with your being. Connect. Experience their emotions. And if you dare, practice this connection with strangers. Embrace the mystery hiding somewhere between the antipodes of your collective mind.
From this day forward, I commit to fostering a habit of overcoming my fears and allowing myself to connect with people more deeply through their eyes. Thank you Giancarlo for having the insight and courage to challenge us all to connect more deeply, and to be truly human.