Remembering How to See
Last Thursday evening, I attended a talk by Reginald Ray, founder of Dharma Ocean and tantric buddhist practitioner.
He spoke about the intimacy and the power (and terror) of really Seeing another person.
What is Seeing? It’s when we strip away the filters through which we most often see the world and take the time and space to witness what is actually before us. Usually we half-ass our seeing. I look at my partner, but what I’m really seeing is what I expect to. I impose upon him everything that I think a partner is, or should be, or what my own expectations are. I will frequently assume that I understand a situation or person without actually taking the time to see and hear them. How many times have I been caught up short in an argument, saying, “I didn’t know you felt/thought that way!”
Seeing – and then allowing ourselves to be seen – is actually terrifying. As an acting instructor, one of my favorite exercises is to have people simply enter the room and stand in front of the group. And wait. And stand. And wait. And do nothing. Because – as an audience – we are actually Seeing them, they are feeling the intensity of being Seen. And because they’ve been asked to simply be there and do nothing, there is no distraction available but to simply endure it. It’s a terrifying and liberating experience. Terrifying because we feel vulnerable, but also liberating because we can realize in that moment how powerful Seeing actually is.
When we really take the time to See and Be Seen, it is amazing to notice how quickly our defenses can rise. Even with our closest friends and partners, how much do we hide? How much do we resist intimacy?
After Reggie’s talk, I had tea with my friend Vicki in the library’s atrium. As we chatted, a homeless man came up and started to talk to us. His name was Norman. And as he spoke to us, I tried to SEE him. Rather than scuttle away or assume that he wanted something from me, I just took some time to see him for who he was and what he was doing. I found out that Norman wasn’t scary, although he was pretty pretty drunk. This previously invisible man became visible.
This week, I’ve been practicing Seeing People. Seeing my waitresses, the woman behind the counter at the visa office, the grocery attendant. My friends, my lover. People BLOSSOM with being Seen. They light up like plants in sunlight. Creating the space to see another person reveals our underlying human connection. Time slows down. We relax. Common ground rather than difference is discovered.
When we practice yoga, or when we meditate, we can practice Seeing ourselves. Can you give ourselves the space to be – without judgment, just with presence and compassion?