I often send my single patients to Starbucks to sit and people watch, in a different way than they are used to. I ask them to scan for people who look kind, responsible, trustworthy: the type of person, for example, who thinks it would be fun to coach Little League after work. People often get all tangled up in their love lives because the kind of person who would make a good parent to their future kids does not look like the person who fuels their erotic fantasies.
Back when I was studying tantra in India, we did many of our exercises blindfolded. When we couldn’t see, we learned to read the information our bodies were giving us about a person, such as whether or not they could be trusted, whether or not their energy was compatible with ours. Experimenting in such an environment of trust and vulnerability, we all fell in love with each other regardless of who our eyes might have prejudged as unworthy.
It seems to me that the way the advertising industry spends billions to convince us that only people who look a certain way are desirable may be related to alarming new statistics about a 60% increase in reports of chronic and crippling loneliness. We are endlessly encouraged to focus on abs and sexiness, not on whether a person would make a good friend or partner. Some of the images selling perfume are down right frightening – if you look closely enough, several of the male models, although conventionally good looking, have the menacing stare of a rapist.
The reports back from Starbucks are that this practice is revolutionary. For many of the clients who come to me lonely and wishing they were partnered, their eyes have become their false friends, encouraging them to search in a way that can’t bring them happiness. Osho, the great tantra master, once said, “If you are alone and lonely, it is only because you have too many criteria on your love.”
Even if you’re not concerned with dating or finding a partner, consider how relying primarily on your eyes for information might be keeping you from more fully exploring smell, touch, sound, and taste. Closing your eyes, getting out of the realm of the visual, is one of the most transformative practices you could take up. In the same way that silence can be the most beautiful sound of all, not seeing in the way you’ve been trained to see could offer you unexpected vision.
© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth