I've done plenty of workshops, trainings, teacher trainings, and classes involving partner work, so I didn't anticipate the huge effect this would have on my nervous system. As I gazed, incredible anxiety flooded my body: Not only was I being seen by this person, but he was reflecting what he saw in his gaze. I took some deep breaths as my heart started beating faster, totally petrified by the intimacy that was happening in the moment. Stay focused, I thought. Don't break it, hear the birds, relax your gaze, blink if you need to, I encouraged myself. As I tuned in to my surroundings to alleviate some of the anxiety, I heard sniffles and heavy breathing from what I believe were little breakdowns. Good, I thought, I'm not alone. My partner's eye started turning red, tearing up a little. I wasn't sure if it was mechanical or emotional, but it deepened our experience even further.
Time slowed. I started seeing his eye anatomically, noticing where the light was shining, seeing individual blood vessels, a tear duct, eyelashes, and even how the pupil changed shape. I do love figure drawing, so I wondered if this was a natural instinct breaking a body down into simple shapes. Eventually, even those shapes faded as his eye lost meaning altogether, kind of like when you repeat a word like "oil" over and over again. I was simultaneously intrigued and impatient, wishing it was over and wondering what would happen to the world if we all did this once a week. It was the most attention I'd received or given anyone so intently in recent memory, and the effect was powerful—I'm better able to hold eye contact and attention now, after just one five-minute session. To me, this is a huge change that will guide me in making more authentic connections and also ground me in the present moment.
When it was over, we hugged, and my partner asked what my experience was like. I told him about my fear of being truly seen and how everything became formless, feeling too overwhelmed and vulnerable (and let's be real: self-righteous) to share my anxiety. He shared that he does these often and has developed an ability to hear people's bodies and asked me if I'd like to know what he heard from mine. Naturally, I said yes. He said that he heard my heart, loud and clear.
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