Some days, when I’m feeling drained, I find myself withholding eye contact.
It’s unconscious—I don’t really mean to. It’s almost like I’m a little tortoise, hiding in my shell the entire day.
There is such latent energy in wordless communication, eye contact being the most potent. I love making eye contact, it’s such a powerful means of conveyance. It can say so much. It makes people feel important. It makes me feel connected. It’s like a bridge between two separate entities—myself and another person—that can make us feel as one for even just a brief moment.
Eye contact can be a wonderful gift to give and be given. It can be vulnerable, intense, intimate, healing. It can also be uncomfortable, empty, lingering, intolerable. So much depth and possibility are present in this simple act.
I feel the eye contact I offer is usually pretty meaningful, which I suppose is why I sometimes find myself holding it back. It’s energy, shakti, that we share (transmit, if you will) when we give eye contact. A true opportunity to give and receive vitality, oftentimes with a perfect stranger. They say eyes are the ‘windows to the soul,’ after all, so isn’t it only natural to sometimes feel the need to conceal one’s eye contact?
Withholding eye contact can be an act of self-preservation.
Some days we just leave the house with only enough shakti to get us through the day, no extra to doll out. It’s a bummer, but those days happen. Those are the days when my eyes cling to anything but another person’s.
I might feel less vulnerable after a day spent in my tortoise shell, but I certainly feel an air of loneliness too.
If you’ve ever experienced that intense locking of eyes with another human being, then you know just how intoxicating eye contact can be. I’ve encountered people in my line of work who seem dejected, on autopilot, eyes downcast. When I ask them how they are, they mumble an answer, eyes still down. When they look up and notice I’m directing meaningful eye contact at them, they’re visibly startled; the expression on their face morphing from inattention to surprise to ease in a matter of breaths.
I’ve seen that person, time and time again. I’ve been that person, too. So jolted by a fellow person’s penetrating gaze, their look of authenticity, piercingly genuine.
We are starving for eye contact.
We are, in other terms, starving for profound, raw, real exposure to humanity. It’s not often that one stops a stranger on the street to tell them they have a great haircut, stunning eyes, a smart ensemble or are carrying a brilliant novel. It’s infrequent that one even voices intimate thoughts to a stranger. It could be misconstrued, unwelcome, awkward; so many possible outcomes.
We like to over think things. There could be so many awkward, weird ways if I put myself out on a limb and connect with this person, so I just won’t. We just ride the train or the bus or walk past the person who we find interesting, kind-faced, deeply human or quirky. We don’t feed our desire for contact.
If we’re starved for meaningful, consistent human connection, then why do we sometimes hide our heads deep down our shells? Why would we shy away from making conversation with a stranger? Why would we withhold eye contact?
Because it’s out of our comfort zone—it’s just easier not to connect, sometimes, right?
I love making eye contact, having conversations with perfect strangers so profound in their brevity; extending meaningful compliments to people I’ll likely never see again. I have days where these experiences infuse my awareness and fill me with love and compassion for mankind.
But other days I just feel too secure in my tortoise shell, too comfortably sheltered inside my comfort zone, to step out and break that ice.
I think it’s time we melt that ice. Speak the words. Make the eye contact. Pop our heads out from inside our tortoise shells. Dare to dance outside of our comfort zones.
What would a day filled with eye contact be like? Just as receiving a certain allotment of hugs per day has a proven positive effect on the human body, so does the receipt of pure, undiluted, honest eye contact, I believe. Imagine going through a day where you walked around, eyes up, gaze ahead, an open channel of contact.
Just think of how much positive energy you could accumulate! Contemplate how many people you might warm with your unabashed, human sincerity. Just imagine how many people might move you, how your inner tortoise shell might be infused with light by simply making eye contact.
It’s unpredictable, a bit insecure, to walk around all day gazing into the eyes of strangers; an act both fearless and gentle. It’s an act I’m fairly certain we wouldn’t regret. One we might even grow to love. Possibly even make into a habit.
Some days, when I’m feeling drained, I challenge myself to make meaningful eye contact, everywhere I go.
Because I will not live my life as a tortoise in a shell.
Sara Courter holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Creative Writing and is in the process of completing her 500-hour YogaWorks Teacher Training. She is also a proud myInsens Ambassador. Sara is passionate about holistic wellness, integrative nutrition, yoga and body image. In addition to being a writer and yogi, she is also a DIY junkie, ocean lover, healthy foodie, animal lover, hula hooper and sports nut. Sara’s intention is to spread love and self-appreciation amongst fellow beings and, one day, lead yoga retreats by the sea. She also intends to someday have a family, a few dogs, a bursting garden and an eternal sense of peace within her heart. Follow her blog or her twitter and facebook.
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Assistant Ed: Amy Cushing/Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo by: zombierose