When I was younger
, I went through a prolonged crisis of faith. I had been raised a methodist
, by no means devout, but it was still something that had always been a part of my life. During my darker
times I turned to this, I prayed and believed that there was a higher purpose and in the end it was not all just a meaningless
exercise in existence. When I moved out on my own it all began to fade and I found myself stuck in a deep depression
, mercilessly short but painful nonetheless. I found myself feeling empty and searching for answers, looking everywhere
I could to find some meaning. In time I grew to realize that the answers I was seeking could only be found within.
Since I was young I've often noticed that some people don't seem real. Perhaps that's not the right way to phrase it, but it is the closest I can come to an explanation. For a long time I could not figure out why I got this feeling, what it was that was different about these people. This wasn't something I constantly experienced, in fact it was more of a rarity though not due to a lack of such people in my life. Over time I came to realize that I only felt this way when I was paying attention, focused on the world around me rather than the world inside me.
Walking down the street after work, I pass many office dwellers. They are carrying their briefcases, wearing their ironed shirts and ties, talking on their cell phone, busy minding their own business. I like to look at them as they go by. There are many ways you can look at someone, and I do notice things like the color of their shirts, their hairstyle, and of course the shoes that women wear (what can I say, I like shoes). But I also take a moment to look deeper. To do so requires you to look directly into another's eyes and open yourself. It is something that I cannot explain how to do, and sometimes I can't quite get it right, but I have found that if you can be truly open and look deeply into another person's eyes, you will experience something quite amazing.
Most of the time other people are not open to such an experience, they typically walk with their eyes cast downward or looking anywhere else to avoid having to make eye contact. On those instances when I can make direct eye contact with them, I open myself and give a gentle smile. Not always, sometimes I get too absorbed in my own world to do it, but lately I've been making more of an effort to do this. When I succeed, in that instant a connection is formed. It's not a connection based on needs or desires, it's not a moment of flirting or trying to get attention, it is a moment of truly connecting with another human being.
Often times when I do this, the other person immediately becomes uncomfortable. They will quickly glance away and do anything to avoid any further contact with me. Yet during that instant, we still connected and I find that I am immediately aware of what it is they are experiencing. Perhaps this is what they call empathy, I don't know, but I do know that when I am truly open and can connect like this with a complete stranger, I can tell you exactly what they are feeling without having to say a single word to them.
Sometimes, however, the experience is far more beautiful. When I make this connection, in rare cases the other individual is also seeking to make the same connection. When I open myself and look into their eyes, with calmness and compassion, they look back and open themselves. Typically we both smile at each other, a small peaceful smile. When this happens I still feel what it is the other individual is experiencing, however in this case the feeling is quite different. It's a feeling of love, a feeling that we are on the same journey and open to whatever may come. At the same time, a piece of me is reflected back and I see myself in the other persons eyes.
When you are walking down the street, paying for your groceries, getting your haircut or any other mundane activity, try it out and see what happens. You will probably find it much easier to make such a connection with a random stranger than with someone you are close to. I've thought a lot about why this is and I think it is due to the fact that we have vested so much in our personal relationships that we feel there is too much to lose to truly open ourselves to those people. We feel that by opening ourselves to those we love, we create the possibility to be hurt by those people. Yet experiencing this small connection with complete strangers always reminds me that such a connection is possible in any relationship, and that regardless of what other people in our lives do we are still not alone. It reminds me to realize my connection with the infinite.