The experience of deep bonding through concentrated eye contact is not limited to lovers. There was a time in my life when I measured personal success by the frequency of deep and personal eye contact spontaneously generated by a friend pulling everything they had into a gesture of respect and gratitude. I did not look away, staying with the moment and honoring the gesture. If I’d heard of the word Namaste at the time, I might have called it the “Namaste gaze,” conjuring the sacred self to freeze time in a moment of genuine recognition.
We are capable of seeing eye to eye with any creature with eyes. Many of us have experienced this with pets. With every animal friend in my life, there have been moments of recognition that began eye to eye. For example, I might get down on the floor with my dog, naturally looking eye to eye. Something shifts, and our species differences would vanish as we shared a moment of connected creaturehood.
It’s not limited to domesticated animals. Early in my shamanic practice I visited a zoo to witness my power animal. The large cat turned and looked straight at me: we shared a moment seeing eye to eye.
I shared the experience with a hummingbird. After meditating by an isolated lakeside, the hummingbird suddenly dropped down directly in front of my face: eye to eye. It seemed like the moment lasted for a very long time, but it was probably seconds. I may have shifted into hummingbird perception of time.
And now for two of my favorite hovering insects.
The memory is clear: I’m sitting in a circle at a staff meeting. It’s summer, cool enough to open the patio door. The screen is broken and removed, leaving nothing but air between business and the outdoors. A bumblebee flies in, crosses the room in a straight line and stops about seven inches from my face. Hovering, we’re staring eye to eye for a long moment. Then the bumblebee flies a straight line back out-of-doors. The room is silent, until someone says to me: “I think that was for you.” No one suggests we close the door. The room is filled with grace.
Then there was my experience writing a poem while up north at the dome near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The poem was based on an actual experience with a dragonfly – up close and personal (closer than the bumblebee). What made me shiver with vibrations of the non-ordinary was summed up in the notation that follows the poem.
Dialogue with a Dragonfly
Planted into stillness, my chair took root
like the neighboring cedar and pine.
I felt like one of the gang.
That’s when solitude sent a curious relation.
A four-inch dragonfly, filled with the light of summer,
flew straight at the bridge of my nose –
stopping to stare for long seconds
into my sky blue iris and night black pupils.
Eye to compound eye,
we searched for the soul of the other.
What did he see from that circular view?
My eyes move like mountains,
the wing quicker on the fly.
The dragonfly departed and Existence lingered,
that which I longed to acknowledge.
We had spoken, felt vibrations of planetary wings –
thoughts, not of ourselves, but of a much larger
intelligence of which we are a connected creativity.
(Note: just as I finished writing the last word to this poem, I heard an answer from Beyond. I heard strange sounds echoing from the trees staring at my back – the voice of daimons and the divine. In some ways almost catlike, the sounds rose and fell like a livened wind, or a creaky hinge moved by a ghost. Eventually, the occasional low rasping caws identified the creature: a lone crow. I have heard many crows, but this one sounded like the earth speaking through the slight crack made by the writing of this poem.)
Postscript: For those interested in phrase origins, the phrase “seeing eye to eye” may have originated in the Bible (Isaiah 52:8): “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.” There is a sense of both brotherhood and (the potential of) a communal experience of homecoming. Being of like mind is a more modern take on the phrase.
“Who looks out with my eyes?” Rumi
It is good practice to see the soul of the other reflected in their eyes, or to see your soul reflected in your own eyes.
A portion of this essay (the bumblebee and dragonfly experience) was taken from Gathering My Life into Feathers (available on this website). Photo by Jim Price
Next up: Seeing Eye to Eye (Part II) – A Real Pot-boiler