“Look Into My Eyes…”
Would you try eye gazing? It sounds awkward but apparently the benefits of sustaining unbroken eye contact with a stranger are worth it.
You can practice yoga and meditate regularly, but have you considered eye gazing?
The latest trend to emerge on Australia’s wellness scene has no associated apps, no elaborate accessories and certainly no administration fees. All you need is a partner to sustain eye contact with in silence.
Since April, The Human Connection Movement has put on four public eye gazing events – three in Sydney and one in Melbourne – where guests “share a minute of silence and connect with someone [they’ve] never met” through unbroken, engaged eye contact.
“As a society, I think we’ve been conditioned to avoid eye contact because it’s confronting and not socially acceptable, and these events are about unlearning those paradigms to foster genuine interactions”, says Igor Kreyman, the founder of The Human Connection Movement.
“Most communication is non-verbal and through eye gazing, we’re able to connect with each other on a deeper level. It’s a transformative and healing practice”, he says.
Interested? Here’s what you need to know.
Eye gazing itself is not new. It can be traced back thousands of years. Ancient tantric tradition espouses the spiritual benefits of eye gazing (or, soul gazing) as a practice used to deepen intimacy.
The practice was propelled into the zeitgeist in the noughties when author Michael Ellsberg invented Eye Gazing Parties, a fad that fast became a popular alternative to speed dating in New York. At the time he was quoted saying, “it’s a lot easier to have a mesmerizing conversation with someone after you’ve spent two minutes looking into his or her eyes”. (Or not, depending on who your partner is, we suppose.)
In 2010, Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović garnered headlines – from and beyond the art world – as she completed a three-month retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Abramović’s exhibition, entitled “The Artist is Present”, saw her sitting silently in the gallery space, sustaining eye contact with patrons who sat across from her. Kreyman sites this exhibition as his inspiration for starting The Human Connection Movement.
Testimonies cite a broad spectrum of emotional reactions, from elation to utter relaxation, after the initial awkwardness washes away. “At first, you might feel a bit nervous or unsure, but quickly you’ll become aware that something profoundly moving is happening. It’s important to be open and not have any expectations”, says Kreyman.
“In saying that, like meditation or yoga, every time you practice it’s slightly different. Different people mirror different aspects of you, and there are a host of factors that influence what response a session might trigger. I usually leave feeling extremely grateful and grounded”, says Kreyman.
“I was uncertain what to expect [the first time I went to an eye gazing event] but also curious”, said Mark Clough, 51, from Melbourne.
“The first time I practiced eye gazing, I was surprised. My partner – a stranger – wasn’t just staring at me; she was looking into my eyes, inviting me to meet her there. In that first session, I was shaking and had to ask myself if I was brave enough to allow this total act of vulnerability, during which she cried and we both laughed.
“I am now still in contact with several of the people I eye gazed with at the first eye gazing event I attended in May, which I thought was an incredible way to connect people in such a disconnected, busy world”, says Clough.
What are the benefits to eye gazing?
“You become more mindful in your everyday interactions, you start developing more meaningful relationships with people, you become more patient, your relationships with your family and friends improve and your sex life sky rockets”, says Kreyman.
5 tips to get started…
- If you’re uncertain, you don’t have to go to an event. Try eye gazing with someone you trust for one minute.
- If you don’t yet feel comfortable to participate at an eye gazing event, just watch everyone to see what it’s about.
- Meditate for a few minutes before you eye gaze.
- Remember: there is no time limit. With each gaze and you can stay as long as you like, and leave whenever you like.
- Wear something comfortable, so you’re able to focus.