One of the things that struck me most about India was the people and the way they looked at me straight in the eye. For a westerner visiting India for the first time, this was a bit unusual.
Every woman I passed or man I exchanged money with took the time to look into my eyes. I felt seen by a beautiful stranger and was also given the opportunity to truly see the other. This had a profound impact on my life and my relationships. In Hindu culture there is a strong emphasis on darśana.
Darśana is a Sanskrit term meaning “sight” and refers to seeing or beholding the sacred, usually in the form of a deity, sacred objects or saint. A yogini sees the divine in all things and looking into the eyes of another is the holiest of sights, a window to the Soul.
Mahatma Gandhi said it plainly, “If you don’t find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time to look any further."
Eye contact has tremendous effects on the way we interact with others; it enhances communication, connection and relatedness. There is a knowing that is shared without words through the communication of the eyes. We have all felt it before. No one can deny the power of a newborn baby’s sweet stare, the twinkle in the eye of ones beloved or the kind glance of a stranger. The warmth that you see is referred to as tejas. It is the luminescent fire that radiates outward from within and by receiving another’s gaze; one is nourished by the tejas that emanates from the fire in their eyes.
While we can intrinsically feel the power of eye contact when it happens, many of us find ways to divert our gaze avoid making that primal connection or are afraid to be truly seen by others. The busy urban western technological model seems to reinforce a lack of eye contact with other human beings and instead, replaces it with computer screens, televisions, and other hand held devices. Have you noticed as you walk down the street half the people you pass are looking down on their iPhone or Blackberry? That is, if you are lucky enough to walk and not be belted into your hybrid on the 405, or sitting at another major intersection alone in your bubble.
As life-loving individuals, let us reclaim our humanity and return to our simple nature. One way to do that today is to make eye contact with everyone you meet along your daily routine. Truly see your lover, the cashier, the car wash guy, the lady walking her dog. Park your car far away from where you are going so you have to pass a few people on the street and practice darśana, beholding the Sacred. There are endless opportunities to meet the divine. Today, have a true and intimate experience with life that is showing up as the beautiful human being right in front of you and let yourself be truly seen.