It is such a rare occasion to stand in the presence of another and be truly seen; it is what we all so deeply long for and when it happens, healing takes place. The illusion of separation dissolves and we begin to experience true connection. Perhaps this is the experience we could move towards in this world. Instead of arming our schools with guards carrying weapons to keep violence in check, can we begin to truly see one another and live from a place of embracing compassion so that no one slips into a space of feeling unseen?
I’m discovering that this is an ancient truth that bridges across cultures and time.
The South Africans use the word ubuntu which means: I am because you are. I love this notion that until I know the fullness of you, I can never completely know myself. It’s a way of showing up in the world celebrating everyone, where ever they may be. Rather than judging others, ubuntu is about embracing them for just existing; for showing you a new aspect of yourself.
The Celts have an old Gaelic term that means “soul friend.”I learned about this in the book Anam Cara by John O’Donahue. In the presence of an anam cara you could share your innermost self, your thoughts and your heart’s longings. Since you can never be fully visually present to your self; your anam cara is the truest mirror to reflect your soul. When you gaze at someone with soft eyes and an open heart, and the gaze is returned, there is a merging and deepening of both souls.
The Buddhist tradition has a term called Kalyana-mitra or “noble friend.” One must depend on the Kalyana-mitra to see what you cannot see for yourself. So once again, I can’t know myself without another to show me. The Kalyana-mitra compliments the scope of your own vision of self – like a mirror.
These terms point to the same notion that we are not whole without the vision and expression of everyone. Often I hear people say, “Yes, we are all one!”, but this feels like a cliché despite its truth. Maybe this is because its’ deeper significance resides in a world most of us don’t experience, especially not with strangers. Can you imagine what it must feel like to look so deeply at someone who they become part of you?
This past fall I had two occasions to speak publicly about truly seeing one another as ourself. One was Call of the Wild Soul Art Workshop in England and the other at the Sophia Circle in Coronado, California. During each presentation I shared an exercise I learned from two of my teachers, Claire Zammit and Katherine Woodward Thomas of Evolving Wisdom.
I call it my Ubuntu Exercise because it allows one’s eyes to soften and heart to open enough to experience the woman they are listening to, sitting across from them, not separate but an actual part of them. Taking attention off of self and letting go of concerns of being seen in a particular way is a powerful exercise. I invite them to see their partner (the speaker) subjectively instead of objectively. I offer visual snippets from experiences in the speaker’s life, universal to us all. For example, “there was a time when she went to school for the first time and was scared. Her parents cried because their little girl was growing up. Then there was the time she bought her first bra, and a time she had her first kiss. She has a story about the time she betrayed a friend and felt horrible about it and another time when she was betrayed.” These are just a few examples of the experiences I bring to their attention as they are looking in the eyes of their partner.
After this, I ask the speaker to speak from the edge of her own knowing about what her soul is calling her to create next. The listener is asked to listen as if what she is about to say is the most important message ever spoken and that the future of the world depended upon it. Can you imagine what it would feel like to be listened to with that level of attention? What would you say?
Not everyone is able to fully engage into this exercise but if they do what happens is magical! Women begin to swell with pride for the woman across from them as if she is their own child, tears then slowly fall down their cheeks as they fall in love with this stranger sitting across from them. An energy swells between the two and there is no more separation because each one is seen deeper than their own sense of vision. Their souls are embracing outside of their bodies and they are enshrined in a circle of belonging.
The true contour of their spirit is illuminated in this soulful space and each woman is able to witness the ancient radiance of the other as themselves. No longer on the outside of their skin this sacred blending begins to heal the wounded self.
This is the world I want to continue to dance in through art workshops or wherever I am called. I am urgently interested in revealing the infinite, ancient connectedness of one another that melts the hardened shell protecting our hearts and allows us to be free of our fear of judgement, vulnerability and being truly seen.
Perhaps because it is what I need the most!
With Deep Love,