If someone won’t meet your gaze, it’s assumed that they might be lying to you, or being deceptive and trying to hide something. Calling a person “shifty-eyed” implies a devious character. On the other hand, the person who won’t look you in the eye could be extremely shy, bordering on afraid. This was the case with me years ago when I wore thick glasses and was highly near-sighted. I did not want to look at anyone because it seemed like they could see right through my eyes into my private thoughts, making me feel vulnerable and exposed.
When I started vision improvement, it was a brand-new adventure, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, or if I could dare hope to actually help myself see more clearly. Would this work, or was I doomed to wear my thick -10 lenses forever? As I examined my habits and way of being in the world, it struck me that I hardly ever looked anyone in the eye. When I went for a walk I looked at my feet, not ahead and out at the world. If anyone approached me, I tended to glance to the side of them or beyond them. I was clearly not using my eyes to connect!
For most of us, our vision is the dominant sensory modality with which we interpret our environment. “Did you see that?” we ask a friend, meaning “Did you perceive what I did, and understand it the same way?”. When I studied with Peter Grunwald, the developer of the Eyebody Method of vision improvement, he told us to look all the way out to a distant object, even if it appeared blurry at first. If we were in the habit of stopping our gaze a few feet ahead of the object, not making full eye contact, we wouldn’t ever see it clearly.
Years ago I was very shy, so it was easier for me to practice looking fully at a tree than at a person. I felt my energy go out from my visual system, and imagined I felt the tree receiving it, then sending it back with gratitude. How many people take trees, the lungs of our precious planet, for granted? In all seasons, bare-branched in winter, or fully leafed in warmer weather, there’s plenty to see, clearer and clearer. But I had to look to see!
Now when I go for a walk I enjoy looking out at the scenery around me, left and right and overhead and far down the sidewalk in the distance. I practice engaging visually with the people I see, which is still not automatic for me, as I tend to be more introverted than extroverted. Most people who look at me are not inspecting me for flaws or about to interrogate me, which is how it used to feel, they’re just interested in me!
All those years behind thick strong lenses kept me separate, apart from the world and others. If I choose to be alone I still can be. However if I choose to be out in the stream of Life, I want to really be in it, not “phoning it in”, doing it half-way. Do those you love a favor today: really see them. Another bad habit I used to have was to see what I expected, a remembered or imagined image in my head, instead of seeing what was right in front of my eyes in the moment. What a gift to be seen and received just as we are! Are you making eye contact?