In one of my retreats, we do an activity called Soul Gazing.
Soul gazing is when you simply look someone in the eyes and they return the gaze for a few minutes.
If you’ve ever participated in this activity, you know how utterly challenging it is. Just watch what happens in this video of people Soul Gazing for just 4 minutes. (YouTube; 5:17)
Soul Gazing is the act of beholding another person without taking the opportunity to engage with them, to change them, or to try and help them. It is also the act of being beheld. You are seen exactly as you are without words or actions to support you. Just beholding is all that is needed to break down barriers in a relationship.
So, why isn’t it easy?
To bare witness to someone is to hold them without leaning in to physically hold them. They must stand on their own and that can be terrifying. To the one being witnessed (held), it may feel like being under a scrutinizing spotlight. To the one witnessing (holding), it can be really hard to allow that awkwardness to come up without soothing it or trying to comfort that person.
We humans just inevitably lean in towards each other.
I don’t ask my participants to soul gaze for very long and I always introduce many ways to adjust for people’s comfort levels (not trying to force some big awakening or break through). I just want them to get a taste of vulnerability.
Vulnerability sets us free.
In the contemplative prayer practice, called Centering Prayer, you allow yourself to be vulnerable before the Great Creator. Your small, nothingness is laid bare and you are loved completely.
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow-this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert (link to credit)
Centering prayer is Soul Gazing with God. This powerful practice will change your life.
It isn’t easy but it will set you free.
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