I had an insight dream the other night that vividly showed me the evolution of who I've become since a small child. The fascinating thing about the realizations that arose is that who I've become started as a chain reaction to the fear I experienced growing up as the youngest in a sometimes explosive and chaotic alcoholic family system.
I awoke from a dream this morning with all the hope of the world that there is a way to find ourselves out of this mess we find ourselves in--this mess we've created. The dream was set at a large street event of which I was somehow one of the facilitators. In the midst of all the activity, I had come to a profound realization that things began going wrong for us humans when we stopped looking each other in the eyes.
Whether it was because we were concealing something or had to move faster and faster as a result of our belief that we needed to work faster and harder to support ourselves, or that we had an "enemy" to defeat and we had to dehumanize them before conquering them, we've somehow shifted away from this simple, but deeply meaningful exchange with another.
In the dream, I took to a loud speaker and began sharing this revelation with the other attendees in the street. I envisioned and invited us all to return the next morning for a "face off." We would all line up down the street in two rows facing each other and just taking time to gaze in each others' eyes. (If you haven't tried eye-gazing with another, do try it with someone you trust--it can be an astoundingly revelatory experience!)
Someone had once told me that animals won't meet your gaze because to the animal, it is a form of dominance. I wonder. But, not looking animals in the eyes--especially before taking their lives--might explain how our food system has gotten so sickly distorted with industrialized animal farming and dehumanized slaughter techniques. Having seen with my own eyes the images of our food production in the movie Samsara and recently released footage of pigs being processed into some food form, my intake of animal as food has declined dramatically. I certainly couldn't look them in the eye and then torture them as they are being tortured to provide me food.
But, I think the event that triggered the dream last night was having an exchange with a youth that seemed to be having an emotional meltdown for some reason and was being disruptive and disrespectful to himself. When I was explaining my expectation within the classroom, he couldn't look me in the eye. I can remember clearly as a kid not wanting to engage by eye the adults that were either lecturing to me, or from whom I was hiding something. In not doing so, I was able to hide the truth--or so I thought. It's most obvious now, as an adult, how much that does tell about the person unable to meet my gaze.
The dream ended before the big event took place, but this has left me wondering--could we stage an eye-gazing flash mob somewhere? If so, would YOU want to be involved?
If not, I invite you just take notice of how much you actually meet the gaze of another in your day-to-day life. Are you too busy? Too isolated? Too in shame? In any case, the next invitation is to take the time to eye-gaze with yourself--in the mirror, alone. I sometimes forget that I'm this human body having this human experience and when I catch a glimpse in the mirror and really engage with my eyes, there is a deeper connection and remembrance of what it means to be human. I'm curious, what do you experience when you eye gaze with yourself or with another? Please, share it here and shed some light on this for us.
JoAnn Saccato, MA is an author, mindfulness teacher, educator, and consultant in Northern California. She helps her clients and community discover many ways to create the conditions and apply simple tools to companion themselves on a sacred journey, bringing more groundedness, acceptance, clarity, joy, authenticity and values-based responses to life.