Guru, him say: Any two lovers know the power of gazing into each others’ eyes. It carries one deeply inside and creates a harmonious whole which is bigger than either of the pair; a oneness identification; a union. It can be erotically thrilling at times but more typically it goes beyond body thrill into the realms of delight and surrender.
In Transformational PsychologyTM, we use “eye gazing” to enhance perceptions and connectivity with others. It is absolutely vital (and little practiced in most psychotherapies, I observe) that you process the person in front of you, not some imagined trial case. You can’t do that without actually looking at the person in front of you.
So often the practitioner is trying to force the client to fit their preconceived notions, he or she fails to observe the individual in front of them. Often the practitioner has only a narrow range of skills and wants the client to align with these—or has some crank pet theory—so he or she pretends the case fits into these prejudices and misses the real signals from the client. How else could mischief like false memory syndrome get started?
But there is much more to eye gazing than just learning the skill of quiet contemplative listening; it can lead us to see the soul of another and, as if by magic, our own soul too. In fact eye gazing can take us to extraordinary mind spaces and I highly commend it as an exercise, leading to better communication skills and deeper insights.
History Of Eye Gazing?
It’s a practice which has a long and honorable tradition. Will Rogers in his book The Spiritual Practices of Rumi (originally titled Rumi: Gazing At The Beloved) gives us a few examples:
Darshan is a Hindu concept. It comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “Seeing and being seen by God”. Well, most traditions declare we are made in the image of God, so why not? If you look deep into another’s soul or Being, you should be able to see God there. And by the way, what you see is just a reflection of yourself too…
It may have a formal setting, where the Master or Teacher sits in front of the class and encourages them to share darshan with him. He pours out his gaze; students return it and learn the mysteries of God. Ramana Maharshi, a great twentieth century teacher and one of the great givers of darshan, said “When the eyes of the student meet the gaze of the teacher, words of instruction are no longer necessary.”
It can be further said that something takes place between the two, which almost defies words. Love, in my experience, is a word that doesn’t really cover it. Or if it does, than normal measures of love are seriously lacking.
According to Johnson, the Cowichan Indian tribe of Vancouver Island have a concept of “disease of the eye”. This refers to the tendency to pass another human and averting one’s gaze as one does so. To them, it’s a kind of affront of God, to deny or try to sidestep another’s presence or Being.
Well, there’s a lot of eye disease on the streets of modern cities. Maybe that’s part of the problem of urban craziness?
Oscar Ichazo, the Chilean shaman, has developed a practice called traspasso, in which students sit across from each other and hold each other’s gaze. It means, roughly, giving up oneself.
The late Charlotte Joko Beck (1917-2011), modern US Zen teacher, author and founder of the Ordinary Mind Zen School, included eye gazing in the meditation routines she taught. For her it was a pathway to the intense here and now, no clutter, just being “here”.
The willingness to accept and hold another’s gaze, without being uncomfortable or confrontational, is something of a skill. It is, in a sense, a measure of our spiritual maturity.
Rumi’s True Love
Jalaluddin Rumi is one of the most read poets of our age and one of the most admired love poets of all time, along with Ovid, Sappho, John Dunne and, perhaps, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
It comes as a surprise to many of his devotees, that Rumi’s love poems were entirely directed towards a man called Shams of Tabriz. As Johnson points out, everything Rumi ever wrote can be rightly read as a letter to Shams:
O my Beauty, I have fallen in Your love,
I follow Your way.
Your love is a sea, my heart is as a fish.
If you turn Your face from me,
If I don’t see You,
My soul that resembles a fish will die.
Fish cannot survive without water.
It’s the same for lovers, they cannot endure
The separation from the Beloved
Who took their hearts.
Not that this is a declared homosexual relationship; clearly it goes way beyond the erotic into the realms of mysticism and passion. Of course the true soul has no gender; that sex stuff is in the province of the Self.
Rather, the kind of union Rumi was writing about is really about finding a different, greater self in the other; or more than that—finding a new Being which is a meld of the two.
For reasons nobody really understands, respectable young Rumi, already a wise and cherished teacher in Konya, falls under the sway of Shams, a notoriously wild and irascible outcast. The two disappeared for months into a private retreat together and Rumi emerged utterly changed.
Nobody knows what actually transpired between the two but clearly Shams had some divine message for Rumi and it was not to be passed on with mere words. Instead they gazed into each other’s eyes for hours a day, for many weeks.
When they emerged, Rumi talked excitedly of their being one soul in two separate bodies. He poured his feelings out about love and togetherness and, through it all, there was this continuous theme of gazing deeply and meaningfully into Sham’s eyes and the unimaginable (or ineffable) love that he found there.
Of course, there was a scandal and attempt to cosmetically overwrite the events that took place in 1244 but that need not detain us here. We ignore the politics of the day and focus only on the transcendental technique of “eye gazing” that Rumi made so famous.
The Waters of Union
Johnson gets quite poetic about it: “Like iron filings being drawn to a powerful magnetic source, we experience ourselves as being ineluctably drawn closer to a shared feeling of union, relatedness and love. Where formerly we were two separate beings, we join together through the practice and become something that neither of us could quite be on our own. When hydrogen comes into the presence of oxygen, suddenly there’s water. Likewise, through such a meeting, two people lose their sense of separateness and drown together in the waters of union.” [Johnson W, The Spiritual Practices of Rumi, Inner Traditions, Rochester VA, 2007, p. 5]
If you see my related Scale of Love and Connectedness, this all makes sense. The acme of love, the top of the scale, we all know as “being one” with another; the two viewpoints really do fuse. Often telepathy takes over; each knows what the other is thinking, even before it is said. Rupert Brooke caught this nicely in a poem about re-incarnation:
“Spend in pure converse our eternal day;
Think each in each, immediately wise;
Learn all we lacked before; hear, know, and say
What this tumultuous body now denies;
And feel, who have laid our groping hands away;
And see, no longer blinded by our eyes.”
And, sure enough, when we are deeply engaged with another who we are helping with Transformational Psychology™ techniques, we often get their thoughts before they speak them aloud, or see their mental pictures, sometimes before the client has seen them.
Touching With Our Eyes
Touch is very important to humans.
It has been found that infants deprived of proper human contact fail to thrive and even die. In overworked orphanages, for example, where staff are few and contact lacking, up to one third of the children will die, even when well fed and hygienically protected. Half of the rest — at least double the rate seen in the general population — will suffer from mental illness. Each month spent in an orphanage in early life reduces IQ and increases risk of behavioral and psychological problems, according to proper scientific studies.
Austrian psychoanalyst Rene Spitz, later at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, found the same thing and published books and articles on this in the 1940s and 50s.
But the first ever case study seems to have been Frederick II, a thirteenth century Holy Roman emperor and king of southern Italy. He unwittingly conducted the first study of human bonding and the importance of touch. Frederick II spoke several languages and wanted to discover the inborn language of mankind by raising a group of children who would never hear speech.
The children were cared for by foster mothers and nurses who were allowed to suckle and bathe the children but not to interact with them at any other time. All the babies died before uttering a single word.
So when Ida Rolfe Ida Rolfe, one of the great somatic teachers of the 20th century, pointed out that gazing at another was a form of remote touch, it assumes special significance. It is not surprising then, that eye gazing can be so powerful and therapeutic, as well as spiritual.
In doing this practice of eye gazing, you must allow yourself to conceive the idea of touching and stroking the other; maybe not with full erotic import, if that is inappropriate, but at least with tenderness, kindness and good will.
Let your eyes stroke them around the face, as if being intimate, for indeed it is!
The Undercut With Self
Notwithstanding what I just wrote, you can even do eye gazing with self, as an undercut. So there is no need to be deprived.
You will need a large mirror and sit close to it, looking at your own image, as if it were another person present. I think it tells us a lot about self, the fact that we can relate to a mirror reflection as another persona.
It probably works because we are so accustomed to seeing ourselves from “inside”; the new viewpoint of seeing oneself “over there” can be quite startling.
The good thing is this has the same psychological impact (well, almost) as someone else “stroking” you. Look over yourself in a loving, caring and intimate way; admire what you see; get beyond the body image nonsense and see yourself as the Beloved.
Rumi was most passionate about the degree of love that eye gazing evoked. If you feel short of love, do this for yourself and you never need feel deprived again.
Practical Tips For Eye Gazing Meditation
Participants are twinned off and sit facing each other, at a comfortable distance. This can be close enough to hold hands or a little further apart. The key factor is that they are close enough to observe the others eyes and face very clearly. Lighting needs to be adequate for this.
There should be no distractions. Usually a clock or timer is visible and the length of the session is agreed beforehand, otherwise participants should ignore their surroundings.
Simply sit with your chosen partner, allow your gaze to go to his or her face and let it relax there. There is a myth that the left eye is the “soul eye” and the right eye the heart. I dismiss it because any skilled practitioner will tell you there are people who are “switched” (nothing to do with right or left-handedness).
THIS IS NOT TESTOSTERONE-DRIVEN MILITARY-STYLE CONFRONTATIONAL EYEBALLING! Also, if you find anyone using a baleful, hypnotic stare to get control, you have my permission to punch them in the face: it’s a spiritual blow!
You can look at either eye, or both. Hopefully, your gaze will settle down and not wander after a time. But there should be no rigidity and it is not a fault to look elsewhere. It is only “wrong” if you can’t handle gazing deeply into another’s eyes and that will clear, simple by doing more of it.
Early on, you will get many body sensations, some of them unpleasant. These are old somatic memories, trapped within the body and are the source of tension. As they release, you will feel more comfortable.
This is one of the many, pleasant “side effects” of eye gazing!
What Will Happen?
You can get some very strange, even uncomfortable, effects early on and some rather wonderful ones later on!
When I first did this on 1964 I had such a fabulous change in perceptions, it was amazing—like seeing the world for the first time. The colors were so intense and sounds so bright, I had never experienced anything like it before.
It was like a Zen satori.
Of course I now understand that I came out of my body (in the spirit sense) and was not really using my eyes and other senses at all. It was just immediate apprehension of reality: BEING the world outside.
That’s when I first knew, in the personal sense, that consciousness not only creates the world; consciousness IS the world. Rumi, too, I think, found this merging of the bright self with a bright world:
I have no idea whether I am a bright soul or a bright body
In truth we are not a self, looking AT the world, we are part of the world we see and experience; we participate in the creation of our reality. The guy I was with that day was not a Beloved, in any sense; just someone helping out. But the transformational effects we awesome.
He was great but I was so busy running around yelling “Wow!” that I forgot to ask him how he did.
There can certainly be unpleasant effects, at least in the beginning. Old aches and pains can surface and be felt quite strongly in the body.
You may see your partner’s face change to that of another or even animal! I consider it idle to speculate whether these might be from past encounters, or even past lives. Such thoughts are a distraction.
We want analytical thought out of the way, in order that the Higher Self can connect and come in.
Naturally, the ego can give you a trip. It’s quite hard, penetrating the veils of pseudo-self that we hold in font of us, especially when confronted by the proximity of another person or soul.
It can be unnerving, embarrassing, distracting.
The natural instinct is to run for cover and hide: put on airs and graces, tics, facial spasms and all kinds of substitutes for the raw self. You will want to avert your gaze; you will shuffle around, pretending to get comfortable; you will yawn and your eyes water.
It’s all nonsense, flung out by the timid self, in an effort to avoid coming to the table. Just keep going till it all dissipates. In the words of Robert Frost, “the way out is the way through.” Persist and these impediments to true self will slowly evaporate.
Then you will find your true self, truly being “there” or rather, “here”.
Surrender is the key. You give yourself up to what you see; you shed the complexities of Self and try to simplify to pure viewpoint. Just see and Be.
Most of us are so rigid and tense in everyday living that we cannot truly BE, we are DOING, not BEING. But once we break through that barrier to our inner self, the discovery of our real nature is revelatory and inspiring.
I think this is where Rumi got his passion. Like me, he probably went out of his body into the realm of true Being; he swam in the Ocean of Love, which is immanent and ineffable, though he tried to capture it with brave words. Our nature is love; we ARE love. So when we truly become, we flame up in intense love. It is natural that the person who took us there should be the object of our adoration.
There is probably an imprinting effect too, like geese and other animals fall for the first living thing they see and bond with that. So anyone around when these experiences happen is likely to become an object of love.
Let’s be honest; this is not just about seeing and revelation; it’s also about energies. Two people cannot sit in close proximity without their energies fusing and producing a higher dynamic of the two.
If you happen to be with a true Master, you will respond mainly to his or her energies.
Wise beings know that there is so much more to this than mere seeing; or even deep seeing. There is an energy too. To be in the presence of a great sage or teacher is to feel a divine force.
That also answers the question: can a blind person do eye gazing? Of course. You don’t even need to touch or feel; you just have to be there, because of the presence of the energy of another being.
Healing With Eye Gazing
Eye gazing can be incredibly healing. I did this with one guy back in the 1970s and was astonished that he just blew away his chronic ulcer pain. Two hours of eye gazing in which he faced his true self and connected to others, with no barriers or tricks, and his problem resolved. He never took another antacid!
Since then, I have seen many examples of dramatic physical and emotional healing, using this procedure.
The negative emotions surface but they are soon wiped away by the very act of ignoring them and refusing to be drawn aside from the purpose.
In the face of the safe and loving eye contact, emotional pain held within the energy field and physical body will at some point surface for healing. It’s best to allow the feelings to come in full flood; don’t fight them. In doing so, you will release the pain and unblock the chakras, allowing more life force to flow. Since the movement of energy is often pleasurable when we surrender to it the healing process can be very enjoyable.
Loving and God
It may or may not be revealing, to think of God as some force or entity beyond the world of forms. It doesn’t serve us that well because it tends to make God “unavailable”. The truth is, that God is everywhere and in everything. It’s not even separate from us, never mind remote.
The quickest way to see beyond the world of forms is to look for Being. We need to search for it in another because it’s hard to see our own (like a knife cannot cut itself). We do this by eye gazing.
Gazing into another’s Being is a pretty good way to reveal God. Connecting with them and getting them to connect with you is a surprising fast track to a higher world, as Rumi discovered.