In any relationship, there are two forms of experience.
To know them, we’ll use the example of eye-gazing.
This is where two people look into each others eyes for an extended amount of time without breaking the gaze. It can be between two strangers, two lovers, two siblings, friends, whomever. What often happens is a disturbance in our normal experience of ourselves and another person.
Giovanni Caputo, an Italian psychologist who spent time researching eye-gazing, reported it to alter-consciousness in many participants. 90% of the participants in his study claimed they saw deformed facial features, 50% reported seeing their own appearance in their partner’s face, and 15% said they saw a relative’s face.
Now, onto the two forms of experiencing this:
Looking into your eyes, I may begin to feel overwhelmed with the presence of the moment, the suchness of just my eyes and yours. Alongside this, there’s a shushing of mental commentary that happens when you give in to the vulnerability of such intimacy. I’m acutely aware of the beauty in us both, of my own goodness and simple purity of this speechless connection.
Meanwhile, you’re aware of my experience. Because it has taken me so suddenly, the energy of my experience has grasped you with a brilliance you didn’t expect. You see my rapture and stay with it, witnessing it with admiration. You are swept into non-judgmental awareness of my experience. It’s beautiful in it’s own right.
Thinking about this, I wanted to know if this exchange was O.K. Should one person’s experience take precedent over the other’s? Is it fair for one person to get the immediate intimate experience while the other gets the domino experience? Obviously this isn’t just in eye-gazing, but in every aspect of a relationship.
I don’t really believe it matters. In fact, I’m sure that these roles would swap, if not the next time we gazed, then certainly the next.
What does matter, is that we fit together in that experience. Whoever has the immediate experience must have needed that particularly meta-intimate moment. The other must have been O.K. with witnessing, otherwise they’d have fought to have their own meta-intimate moment. This wouldn’t have worked.
We each need the other. For me to have my full experience of inner-blooming of consciousness, in that moment, I need you to facilitate it with me. Only by holding the space for me could I have ever continued the experience.
If two people hear that someone close to them both has died unexpectedly, don’t both grieve? Doesn’t one, almost always, end up putting their arm around the other first? This doesn’t detract the fullness of mourning from either. By being more of who we already are in that moment, whether it be the comforted or comforter, we deepen the experience, the way brighter colors in a rainbow make it more of a rainbow.
When eye-gazing, you are witnessing me through my eyes with nothing else in our space. It’s such an intimate moment that only presence-based awareness can exist there. Its mindfulness meditation catapulting through space and time and catching back up to itself.
It’s not just eye-gazing or mourning that balancing roles are critical. It’s in all of our relationships and interactions.
We are always a little more and little less of something than someone else.
Play to your strengths.
We have grown up in a world that encourages us to believe we are either not good enough as we are, or are valuable far beyond our worth.
Truth is, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Allowing our strengths to shine, especially in moments with others, is how we grow.
This is why relationships soar and dissolve, why we begin careers and end them, why we are born and we die. As callous as it sounds, we are above all else catalysts for each other’s growth. We can accept this gracefully, playing to our strengths so that we might grow into more of what we already are while supporting the same process in another, or we can fight the natural growth process, wanting to be just as good as the other in all ways, so that we might be even, neither better than the other in anything. That’s the path of most resistance, fighting the natural process of growing together, being drug from the grasp of each other with claws extended and eyes straining.
Don’t be a cat.
Relax your paws and your brow. Breathe deeply. Despite losing people and possessions, we will always have the gifts we were born with.
Let that been a comfort in a world of slippery and passing exchanges. Clinging will only keep you looking at something in the past just long enough to miss that which was trying to get your attention in the Now.