It is odd how we take for granted the most basic of our sensory capacities until life teaches us otherwise. Losing our sight is one that is common to most of us as we age. Although both my parents wore corrective lenses, I boasted perfect vision until suddenly, as I approached 50, small print became illegible. It was the first real wake-up call for what was coming and I must admit that I didn’t go willingly towards the declining capacity that before then, seemed like things that only happened to other people. Suddenly I started to pay attention to what I could see well and maybe even more attention to what I could no longer see. My attention alone made colors more vivid, gave the subtle textures of fabrics and plants more depth; and the tones of the gray overcast sky became more subtle.
Recently, in Real Simple magazine I read about a special mom’s group for the blind. I tried to imagine what it would be like to never see my child’s smile or face crumple in sadness. They talked about this too, about not being able to witness emotions in their children so they had to feel for them differently. They trained themselves to listen for different cues, voice intonations and even energetic fields in the room. Arguably, many of us who have vision never take the time to really see what, or more tragically who, is in front of us. Taking our eyesight for granted, we frequently get blinded by the insistence that we can look at 2, 3 or even 4 things simultaneously, kidding ourselves into believing that we can take it all in. Studies show that we can’t and don’t, and that our perceptions are compromised when we don’t have the time to singularly focus on any single topic or person. This is especially true when it comes to discerning meaning on someone’s face. When we accelerate our visual stimulus to digital levels, the deep interpersonal gazing into someone’s eyes for the information they can’t put into words is often lost. We only see what we are prepared to comprehend, which explains why we so often walk away from our closest interpersonal encounters feeling invisible.
Losing the authentic, in-depth sight of those we love is not surprisingly the revolving door in which we also lose the capacity to be seen. Like listening deeply, the felt sense of being seen is a kind of witnessing that requires our full attention so that our heart can engage to both inform and filter our vision. This deeper seeing is a kind of curious and compassionate witness that feels like an embrace. We are literally held in someone’s regard, which heals both the person being seen and the person looking. This focused attention speaks love and it rewards us with a fresh perspective on issues that keep us apart.
We learn in this authentic seeing that we can change our situation and improve our intimate connection just by the way we choose to see it. How we look is our perception and entrusting our vision with the emotional intelligence that comes with our full attention is often all we need to see our relationship with new eyes.
Practice this for just moments at a time. Use Rumi’s advice and “Close both eyes to see with the other eye.” Then when you open your eyes, look softly upon your life, your home, your lover, your friends and see if gratitude is not the first perception that arises.