Eye Contact, iPhones and Hongi
Before I got sober, eons ago, I had a lot to say about everything. Mostly trying to impress people I didn’t know to pacify my low self-esteem with their approval. The residual of that defect of character is still reminiscent in my review of the number of Facebook likes on my posts. Progress not perfection… right? I remember having an acute awareness even back then that making eye contact was difficult for me. Then when it became easier to make eye contact and continue the behavior, bullshitting and lying, I guess the depths to how far my soul was off course was even that much more tragic. Sobriety, inventory work, the 12 steps seemed to systematically clear away the baggage and allow the rebuilding process and change to begin and take place.
I began to keep my mouth shut when I would start becoming aware of the fact that I was tempted to say something just for the sake of saying something, or for wanting to impress people. The more and more I brought awareness into my interactions the more and more I found myself connecting to others. These days, almost 19 years since the first day I got sober I strive to connect with people and the eyes seem to be the latching mechanism for humans to share in this connection.
It’s sad that I have to report that in social settings, restaurants, coffee shops I observe people and how disconnected everyone seems to be with their surrounding neighbors and how indifferent they seem to be about it. Once in a while, a smiling soul will come along, their energy sparks my immediate attention and a shared smile and a connection in the eyes takes place. Almost as if the two of us have a secret between us that only we know about. These people are few and far between. I reach out and I’d have to say sadly that more times than not my eyes are met with either a turn away look or a stare down, like “what do you want”. I don’t want anything.
Two nights ago I was sitting in an AA meeting in the front row, I made eye contact with the secretary of the meeting. I smiled ever so slightly and my earnest desire to connect was met with a smirk. I guess his brain was pre-occupied judging my intentions. It was a little disheartening. If you know me, you know that I went to him at the break to speak my mind.
I guess it makes me sad to see so many people disconnected or connected to their iPhones instead of each other and sometimes I get tired being open to connecting to others. Don’t get me wrong,I’m not excluding myself, maybe that’s why I’m writing about this topic. I’ve been told once or twice by my wife or daughter to put away my iPhone at dinner time. But I stay hopeful for all of us and try to put the phone down when I realize I’m doing it. I want to be that “once in a while smiling soul.”
One of the greatest practices in connection is that of the Maori’s of New Zealand. A “Hongi” is the practice of greeting one another by pressing one’s noses and foreheads together at the same time. “In the hongi, the ha (or breath of life), is exchanged and intermingled…. When Māori greet one another by pressing noses, the tradition of sharing the breath of life is considered to have come directly from the gods.” ~ Wikipedia
I think I want that vs. waiting for apps to finish updating or waiting to see how many likes I have on a post.