As soon as we open up our eyes in the morning, stories run through our minds that influence the way we see people. When we walk out the door, our experiences can be filtered through our own thoughts and preconceptions—we already have ideas about the neighbors, baristas, grocery store clerk, colleagues, and even strangers who are walking up the street. We are wired to sum up whether someone is beautiful simply upon a surface glance of their body.
So the question is: Do we actually even see the person behind our conceptions of who they are? Most of the time the answer is a resounding no.
Mother Teresa said, “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of not belonging.”
We live on auto-pilot in our everyday relationships and our ability to automatically interpret the world can lead to disconnection, dis-ease, and unhappiness in life.
It’s that simple.
Here is a four step practice to try out today with anyone you come in contact with to help your eyes look beyond the body and see the person. As we intentionally practice and repeat looking beyond the body, we create connection which is an essential ingredient for a more enduring happiness.
1. Check your lenses.
Whether you believe it or not, you instantly judge someone as soon as you see them. It may be the color of their skin, their ethnicity, a memory you have of this person, or maybe the expression on their face. See if you can set that aside for a moment and adopt fresh eyes.
2. See the person.
This is someone who has a history of adventures, sense of failure, loves, fears, regrets, triumphs, traumas, family, and friends. They have a beauty inside that they likely aren’t even aware of.
3. Ask yourself: What does this person most deeply want?
The answer is likely within you and it has something to do with being treated kindly and feeling a sense of belonging.
4. Provide a gesture that feeds this need.
Smile at the person; ask them if you can help; listen to what they have to say; if its family or friends, tell them you love them, etc. There are so many ways to do this.
We can always ask ourselves if what we are doing is in service of connection or disconnection. It’s a simple question that can sometimes lead to important answers and actions.
The fact is, when we or others around us feel understood and cared about, a sense of acceptance and belonging arises. This breaks down barriers and simply makes relationships better. Like anything, this takes practice. A moment of connection may have rippling effects across many people, like a pebble thrown into the water creates ripples of waves.
Adapted from Mindfulness & Psychotherapy