A Look at How we See

     Shakespeare wrote the line “The eyes are the window to your soul” over four hundred years ago, and the truth expressed in those few words is still repeated and believed.
     In modern times we have learnt to see only what immediately matters, and somehow we filter out most of the world. We do not see individuals in the crowds we navigate. We do not consciously read the signs and billboards and storefronts that we pass by. We are often unaware of website banner ads and headlines crawling across the bottom of the television screen. Our interaction with the visual world has become narrow: we have a kind of tunnel-vision that focuses on what we need to see, rather than what is there. Our visual world has shrunk to serve our laser focus: we see what serves us and the amazing human brain is able to censor most of the rest.
     Sight is vital to how we move through the world. Our experience is informed by what we see, which fills our brains and minds with images to process. We move around obstacles; our built environment guides our travels. We avoid walking into people and things. We locate our goal and progress towards it by piloting ourselves along the most direct route.
     One of the first instructions I give when working with Mindfulness techniques is to close the eyes. Without visual stimulation, it is possible to shift our attention to what we are hearing and touching and smelling. The sounds and sensations and odours were always present, yet our awareness was so busy with visuals that we missed them.   
     Encased in a world of light, we disconnect from the other physical senses, and barely cognizant of the emotions and thought patterns and connexion to Spirit that are ever-present as well.
     As the Bard understood, the eyes are much more than a way to bring the outside world into our experience. We remember about ‘windows to the soul’ when we are in the early stages of love relationships. We gaze into the eyes of another, peering for a glimpse into this other soul who feels at once familiar and exotic.
     Holding a newborn child we can get lost in the waves of love that rise up within us. Our eyes see some tiny distance into this newly arrived soul, and we are granted a minuscule view of immortality. Baby eyes, so recently arrived from the Source of all Life and the eternal love which sustains it, are vast clear windows into something we cannot comprehend.
      In our regular daily activities, we have little time to spend seeking the soul within others. We rarely gaze deeply into the eyes of anyone else. Even less to we contemplate the eyes we see in the mirror. If my eyes are the window through which my soul sees the world, how am I conducting myself?
      Are my curtains wide open: my soul on view to anyone who cares to look? Or do I peek carefully around a blind that protects me from the scrutiny of others? Am I available at the clear glass to welcome you? Am I hiding?
       Where I live we have experienced our first snowfall of winter this week. I have looked at November snow before. Many times. This year, though, there are visitors in our village, adults who live in Africa, and who arrived while the world looked like autumn. They asked, when they got here, if we would please pray for them to see snow. Because they never have.
      I have no idea how many people made the prayer. I know that by the fourth day of their visit our world had moved into winter. Our guests were seeing snow for the first time. Delighted and amazed by the whiteness of the world they exclaimed and shared their exuberance.
      Canadians, accustomed to winter, used to snow, carrying memories and experience that makes snow ordinary were drawn to view it anew. Flakes of frozen weather, covering so vast a land, enough for every tree and rock and shrub. We beheld a winter wonderland, quite miraculous. When we look at the ordinary through the eyes of the visitor, we expand our soul experience.
      We can choose, on any day, how our soul will interpret the visual world. Look at your pets as though through eyes of a child. See the wonder and the excitement.  Watch the sunset with sparkling eyes, take in the way the sky colours and the shadows march across the land.
     When your family and friends gather together, look at them with shining eyes, knowing these are the people your soul loves. Their faces are worth your attention. See them for the miracles that they are.
     Go out in the world with eyes that are open to the probability of wonders and marvels. Leaf litter and gravity’s pull on water, and a bus that arrives through weather and traffic and construction to meet you when it should.
     When people and circumstances seem not to serve your desire for comfort in life, be aware that you do not know what has brought them to this place. Allow them. Do not judge. Look at them with soft eyes, and the soul that is looking will be softened too.
     When we see the world through eyes like these. The window to our soul reveals our shining, sparkly, gentle and childlike soul in all its wholeness and beauty. What matters is not how we look, what matters is how we see.
     Jo Leath has been seeing and supporting clients through change and growth since the 1980s.
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