I HAVE a spiritual teacher in India. This year, when I was with him at his ashram, I sought a private audience to discuss my concerns.
As I spoke, I’ve never since early childhood seen a look like it. It was the gaze a mother gives her newborn, the look of purest love imaginable, full of kindness. It was something one might yearn for all of one’s adult life, from one’s own children, friends, partners, never to find again.
The maternal gaze is an unconscious phenomenon of nature known to elicit oxytocin — the bonding chemical between infants and mums. But even our parents grow out of that look by the time we are teenagers.
I walked out of the room in a floating dream. What was that look?
A few weeks ago in Sydney I saw it again, at the annual Mind and Its Potential conference, which brings renowned neuroscientists and spiritual leaders to Australia to explore the brain and its cohort, the allusive mind.
At the conference were two brilliant speakers: B. Alan Wallace, physicist and leading Buddhist teacher, and Tenzin Palmo, a Western woman and now Tibetan Buddhist nun, famous for living in a cave for 12 years in deep meditation.
Both looked at everyone who asked questions or approached them with “the gaze”. Not a flicker of the eye, a complete and adoring listening amid the kerfuffle without a moment of distraction.
How is it possible that these two masters be so in love with those in front of them? Is it from meditation which, through neuroplasticity, is known to change neurons and chemicals in the brain?
The answer came from their joint lecture.
“The greatest gift you can give anyone is the gift of total attention — as if there’s no one else in the room for those few minutes — fully absorbed and listening completely.
“We’re all so distracted by multi-tasking and technology we make people feel overlooked, unseen, unheard, which leads to feelings of alienation in our society and a desperate need for validation.
“Being truly present for someone gives them pleasure and feelings of peace. This deeper connection in turn opens our own hearts.”
The key is being mindful or the practice of “mindfulness”, a form of meditation that is gaining popularity in the corporate world, politics and schools. It’s a state of total presence and intimacy that can be linked to a spiritual philosophy or simply be taught as a practical tool to aid in concentration.
When you “drop” into the moment, the tree, the meal or the person in front of you becomes the only thing that exists.
And in that state, there is pure joy for both the seer and the seen.