If someone asked you to look a stranger directly in the eye for three solid minutes, do you think you could do it?
Well, yesterday, I did just that.
I have been taking a mindfulness meditation class and it has been nothing short of inspiring. Gina, our meditation instructor, is a peaceful person who is passionate about her craft and wants to share it with the world. This class is partially designed to challenge an innate spirit that lies within all of us and to deepen the meaning of why we were brought into this world. During this class, we have done a number of activities to calm the mind and body such as walking meditation and Yoga Nidra. There have been several activities throughout this eight-week course that have resonated with me, but there is one activity in particular that really struck a chord and I would like to share it with you.
As our class sat in silence, waiting for the next activity to arise, Gina quietly whispered, “Grab a partner and face each other.” Without hesitation, we did as we were told. I chose a partner that I had never met before. We introduced ourselves. I don’t recall my partners name, but he seemed nice. “Now, look at each other in the eye and don’t look away until I tell you to. If you feel the urge to laugh, laugh. If you feel the need to cry, then let the tears come,” she said with a gentle voice. My immediate reaction was discomfort and confusion. Thinking he would take the lead, I looked at him, struggling to keep a straight face. I was pre-occupied with what his thoughts were and if he felt, at all, awkward. Nonetheless, I knew I needed to focus. Gradually, my urge to smile faded. All of a sudden, a strange emotion abruptly came over me. I felt happy and sad at the same time. Perhaps I even choked back a few tears. As I gazed into his eyes, I saw a human being. I saw a generous man; a man who may have endured a lot of challenges in his lifetime. In my mind’s eye, I thought of him as a wise and gentle person. However, if I were to pass him on the street, I probably would have not given him two looks. Boom! Three minutes were up.
Gina softly rang her yoga bells to get back our attention. As we faced her, the tension in the air slowly drifted away. We could all breathe again. We went around the room and shared our experiences with each other. Surprisingly, I raised my hand to speak first. I said, “I realize how infrequently I look at someone and really connect with that person. I’m often too distracted by my own thoughts to truly notice someone else.” I typically don’t like to share my experience first because I want to hear other insights before I share mine. However, on this particular evening, I felt confident enough to share my experience first. I was eager. I felt alive, fueled by companionship.
So, how did this simple endeavor change me you ask?
Well, after this experience, I have started to make small efforts to say good morning as I pass people on the street, or to say hi to someone when they sit next to me on the train. I have found that this helps with my inner self-confidence and makes me a happier person. Also, saying hello could really turn someone else’s day around. Most importantly, I realized that taking the time to truly see someone can be a positive force for good, and, I must say, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
“And if your mind wanders a thousand times, gently and kindly bring it back a thousand times.” – Gina Sager