By Andrew Peers
Every now and again I travel down to London to stay with some old friends.
Twice a day I take a 10-minute tube journey into the city sandwiched in amongst all the other people going to work. Everyone on the train observes what we used to call in the monastery “custody of the eyes.” I find it amusing that everyone seems to be behaving like well-disciplined monks! Most commuters are looking at their mobile phones, some are reading a book and a couple of schoolgirls might be talking about exams coming up and the subjects they want to take later.
What strikes me every time is the fact that nobody ever really looks at anyone else.
Now I’m not a gawker, but it’s clear that people generally avert their eyes if you look at them, or simply ignore everything. Everyone has their objectives for the day—the deadlines that have to be met—so I’m guessing it’s the fear of not being able to get everything done that keeps them so monastic. I suppose people want to mind their own business anyway; they don’t want any trouble. After all, you never know who you might meet on public transport these days. Then again, as there is so much to look at, maybe folk are conserving energy. Is this a way of doing it? It seems a little exhausting to me.
In the beginning, assuming this was how to behave correctly on the tube, I followed suit.
I would look out the window or down onto my lap or even into my shirt—anywhere where I wouldn’t be caught simply looking at someone else. But then I called myself out and questioned what the hell was going on. I certainly didn’t feel very relaxed. It made me feel inhibited and uncomfortable. One evening I snapped out of it and returned to my usual default setting. It was like finding my spectacles after mislaying them. Suddenly everything seemed lovely again and better focused. No one seemed to notice though; no one looked back at me with a knowing smile or gave me a wink. Only I knew I was looking around very differently.
And I knew then that whatever I saw, or whatever happened next, there was no room for fear.
Looking with the heart like this is to look without fear because it’s a look out of limitlessness. The heart is something far more than who I think I am or what I should be doing. It’s more than the mere physical or emotional centre of the human being. It’s the fullness that excludes complexity.
It simply is.
All positive attributes naturally belong to this perspective, so it is naturally fearless, good, compassionate and kind. Above all it brings the feeling of space that is a freedom from fear in which the body relaxes again and finds its own balance. This way of looking is actually extremely practical too because it means I miss far less of what is going on around me. If someone else is returns my gaze, a quiet smile can be exchanged or a look of understanding and respect, which is something that’s missed with blinkers on. There is nothing aggressive or nosey about such a look.
It’s like a soft and non-discriminatory kiss, a cherishing regard that neither looks to defend itself nor intrude upon the other, all the while silently longing to meet itself there.
Editor: Dana Gornall
Latest posts by Andrew Peers (see all)
- Disappearing Stress with Meditative Wizardry - February 1, 2017
- The River: The Opposite of Trying to Gain Control of a Life That Flows. - November 19, 2016
- What it Means to Have a Fearless Heart. - May 4, 2016