I’ve adapted this exercise from the book “Slow Down: The Fastest Way to Get Everything You Want” by David Essel.
I truly believe our eyes are the windows to our real selves, the selves so many of us try to hide or avoid, or simply fail to celebrate. In order to be able to create the lives we really want, we need to be comfortable and honest with ourselves about who we are and what we like and don’t like. This exercise is a good first step.
If you are new to self-reflection, you might find this exercise a bit difficult and it can be quite emotional. That’s okay, it means the exercise is working and that you are very brave.
Looking inside yourself
Head to the bathroom! The light is usually a bit stronger, making it easier to truly see yourself, and since you’ve spent time looking at your face in the mirror there, you might feel more comfortable.
- Please bring a timer, clock or phone that you can set.
- Get comfortable standing in front of the mirror.
- When you are ready to begin, set the timer, the clock or your phone for 1 minute.
- Pause. Take a deep breath – in through your nose, out through your nose, exhaling slowly.
- Pause again. Make sure you are standing or leaning-in comfortably.
- Take another deep breath.
Then look straight into those beautiful, expressive eyes of yours. Please spend at least a full minute looking into your eyes. Do not break your gaze, but no need to stare, just look.
The goal is to work up to five minutes. Yes, five full minutes of doing nothing but looking into your own eyes. Five minutes will give you time to go through a range of reactions and emotions, which usually begins with the thought “This is stupid. What am I going to get out of looking into my own eyes? Why am I doing this?” And, progresses to something like, “Hmm, this isn’t so bad. I guess it won’t kill me.”
Your mind will wander, please without chastising yourself, bring it back to your gaze – to you, your eyes and nothing more.
Really look at your eyes. Notice their color, shape, lids, and lashes. Try not to critique them, simply note their details, the variations in color, the specks, the size.
Maintain your focus on your eyes, not your eyebrows, nose or any other surrounding facial features – just your eyes.
Then, begin to look beyond their physical aspects, begin looking inside your eyes.
- New emotions will emerge from behind those soft, pools of vision.
- You may feel a rush of happiness, or appreciation – “Gosh I like my eyes, they’re really pretty.”
- Empathy – “They seem so lonely, scared, tired, and sad.”
- More frustration – “This really is stupid.” (That’s okay, take a deep breath and relax while maintaining your gaze.)
- Denial and Fear – “There is nothing in there, and if there is, I don’t want to see it or be reminded of it.” (Just keep gazing, try not to talk yourself into stopping.)
Honestly, whatever comes up is great; don’t turn away. Gaze, silently into yourself. Let the tears fall where they may. The smiles, and even, the love grow.
At first you will be very aware of the time, the seconds will slowly tick by, but after a few minutes you may lose track of time and become engrossed in the task at hand – you. You may become so engrossed that the ring of the timer or phone may startle you.
No matter what happens, you, courageous, strong you, took the time to look into your eyes to discover a new way of looking inside yourself and to receive lots of goodness and self-compassion.
I suggest repeating the exercise at least once a week for a month, and then at least once a month. Just you and those baby blues, brown, black, hazel, grey eyes of yours. (You might want to put a note, or some other reminder, inside a bathroom drawer or cupboard or on the mirror to remind you to do the exercise.)
Let me know how it goes!
And, as always, “. . . you’re much braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne and now me to you.