Walk No. 29: Soft Gaze Walk
Categories: General Excerpt Fitness & Sports Health & Healing
Walk 29: Soft Gaze Walk
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
How you look at the world is how you see the world, and there’s more than one way to look at the world. The Soft Gaze Walk invites you to see and experience your surroundings in a new way. Rather than allowing your focus to fix (hard focus) fully on one thing, object, or person, which is the norm, soften (relax) your eyes to see that one thing, but not to the exclusion of everything else.
In other words, your soft gaze/soft eyes take in much more. It is the same “soft eyes” principle used in many martial arts, perhaps most commonly in aikido, which allows participants to see, sense, and engage with a larger field of vision, limiting surprise attacks, etc. Softening your gaze opens you up to life, expands your breath, heightens your senses, and often “takes the edge off.” In a society that is now focused for hours on end on small electronic screens, the Soft Gaze Walk not only is highly beneficial, it’s highly needed.
On a personal note, one of the exercises I begin each of my Writing Into The Now workshops with is a hard focus/soft gaze exercise, where I begin by having participants focus intently on an object in the distance, then have them slowly soften their gaze—while still looking at the object—to include more and more of the world around them. We do three or four cycles of this. Participants find that it relaxes them and opens them up to greater receptivity. The Soft Gaze Walk can be done while wearing your prescription eyewear. Depending on the strength of your prescription and your level of reliance on your eyewear, you may want to experiment with removing your eyewear.
- Relaxes your eyes.
- Allows you to see, experience, and engage in your surroundings in a much broader way.
- Expands your vision to include the previously unseen.
- Helps you to relax, breathe more fully, and open yourself up both physically and mentally.
- Gives you “fresh eyes” and a new perspective when engaged in a project or process.
- Takes the hard edge off the world.
- Helps children (and adults) to let go of current obsessions or fixations.
- Helps reset and rest your eyes when engaged in computer/ screen work.
- Reduces stress.
- Often improves balance, and movement in general.
WHEN TO DO
- When you have been overly focused (mentally and visually) on a task.
- When you need a larger, clearer, or newer perspective on something, or what you may call “fresh eyes.”
- When feeling tense, constricted, and needing to relax and unwind.
- When working for extended periods on a computer. (If you can’t break away for a walk, look away from the screen and take a two- to three-minute soft gaze break. You will find that your breathing will naturally deepen as your field of vision opens.)
- When you wish to see, experience, and engage with more of your immediate surroundings.
- When you seek to expand your breath and breathing and calm your nervous system.
- When desiring to be open and omnidirectional in each moment.
The Soft Gaze Walk is highly effective for children who have become “obsessed” or overly focused on something, as it provides a way for them to open up (and often release) without even realizing they did so.
HOW TO DO
Pick a location. It could be your immediate neighborhood, it could be inside or outside your office building or school, or it could be in a park, forest, or other natural setting. Turn off your cellphone, switch it to airplane mode, or leave it behind. Perform your GBS Pre-Walk Check-In. As you continue to sense the space around you, begin to soften (relax) your eyes. While doing this, you may feel your face and jaw, along with other parts of your body, begin to relax and soften, coinciding with the softening of your gaze. Breathe, and allow this softening of your eyes to assist you in sensing the space around you. Now while standing still, grounded, tall, and aware of the space around you, begin to look around. You will notice that things may not be as crisp, and may even appear a bit fuzzy (or soft), as you soften your gaze. Focus on items and objects at various distances, but don’t “hard focus” on them. See them, but not to the exclusion of what else is around them. For example, if your soft gaze lands on a tree, see and focus on the trunk, but also the branches extending from the trunk. Once this feels comfortable to you, begin your walk. Walk as far or short a distance as you’d like. As you walk, look at familiar sights and objects in this softer, more relaxed manner. Allow yourself to be receptive to seeing and receiving visual information in this broader, softer way. Also allow yourself to be open to inspiration, greater clarity, and ease of movement.
For many of you, walking with a soft gaze may feel strange at first, as if you’re entering a different world. Just be with it. Don’t push, overthink, or overanalyze. Remember, with all these walks, it’s about “presence,” not perfection. Have fun with this process. Allow yourself to enjoy it. Let it restore you, and perhaps let you see beyond what is normally obvious to you. During your walk and upon completion, know that you are doing something good for yourself; namely, increasing your awareness and lived experience by relaxing—and trying less hard. Once again, think from rock to water. Only now, the softening takes place in your eyes, and works its way through the entirety of you. Just like your breath, may the soft gaze become a tool that serves you well.
TAKEAWAYS AND REFLECTIONS
What was your experience like while performing the Soft Gaze Walk? Did things, objects, or your environment seem or appear different to you? Did you appear different to you? Were you comfortable? Did it relax you? Did your eyes feel better? Can you see how this practice can serve you well throughout your day? In general, do you find yourself being more of a hard gazer, hard eyes type of person, or do you lean more toward soft eyes? From this day forth, know that you always have a choice of how you look at the world.