Our Inner GPS
“Joyce and I invite you to now take a risk. We invite you to close your eyes and find a partner in this group of people without the use of your eyes.”
After speaking these words in one of our workshops, before we continue leading the exercise, we can’t help noticing the varied reactions on people’s faces. Some smile happily in anticipation of doing something new and different. Others stare at us horrified. The rest show all the reactions in between.
Why do we sometimes do this exercise in our workshops? Many years ago at one of our first workshops, we met Robin in Tucson, Arizona. Robin was 100% blind, or “other-sighted” as she liked to call it. She “saw” by touching people (appropriately!), or by listening more deeply than people normally do. She once told Joyce that she could hear my smile by the subtle change in the quality of my voice.
Inspired by Robin’s way of seeing and her courage, we created our “Blind Exercise.” We instruct workshop participants to stand in a circle and be on their honor to keep their eyes completely shut. We ask them to not make any sounds, so as not to give away who they are in the slightest.
The whole purpose of the exercise is to practice listening to a sort of inner GPS, our inner guidance system, rather than resorting to the usual outer ways of interacting with others. If we would instead say, “Now look around the room and partner up with someone,” most people would look through a whole assortment of filters, all based upon appearances. Certain kinds of looks, the way they move, smile, stand, even their clothes would influence the decision. But cut out the eyes, and a whole other world opens up to be experienced. This is true when Joyce or I counsel individuals or couples over the phone. Some may criticize this modality because of the lack of visual cues, but what we lose in the visual we gain in our other senses: more acute hearing, feeling and intuition.
OK, I’m also a medical doctor. The optic nerve, sending signals from the eye to the brain, is one of the shortest nerves in the body. Reaction time is therefore extremely rapid. When we are in a dangerous situation, this fact helps us survive. But when appearances are not of prime importance, snap judgments can hinder us, like when we want to love rather than just survive. Hence our “Blind Experience.”
So with everyone wandering around the room with their eyes closed, how do they find a buddy? They walk very slowly with hands out in front of them. This way they can feel for other hands. How do you know this is the right person? You hold still a moment and listen inside. This can be a challenge in itself. “What if I take too much time?” No such thing! There is no rush. It sometimes takes time to really listen to this inner prompting.
“What if I get an inner ‘no’?” Simply let go of these hands and move on. “But I can’t do that! That would be rejecting that person!” Ah, that might be the case if your eyes were open. But in this situation, it is simply about listening within, listening for that inner yes or no. And sometimes that yes comes with hands that may feel somewhat uncomfortable. It’s not about finding the easiest hands to hold. It’s about finding the hands that will most help you grow.
“And what if I get that inner go-ahead?” Then squeeze the person’s hands as a signal that you are committing (not for life – just for this one exercise!). But things can get even more interesting. Just because you squeeze these hands, it doesn’t mean this will be your partner. He or she may get a “no” and let go of your hands to move on. Does this mean you failed? Heavens no! Might you feel rejected? Possibly. Every feeling has something to teach you. Pay attention to them all.
What about the other side? Someone is squeezing your hands, perhaps enthusiastically, obviously saying, “I really want you as a partner.” It’s nice to feel wanted, isn’t it? It’s tempting to squeeze back, but that would be listening outside rather than inside. If you get a “no,” just let go and move on.
Everything about this exercise is a training for life and conscious relationship: taking as much time as you need to listen inside for both the “yes” and the “no,” looking for growth rather than only comfort, feeling all your feelings.
It sometimes takes time, but eventually everyone is partnered up, having both squeezed one another’s hands. Then, still with their eyes closed and total silence in the room, we seat everyone facing their partner or partners. We instruct them to take turns sharing the biggest challenge in their lives. It’s so refreshing to not know the person you’re with – not their age, not even their sex. The sharing takes on a deeper more vulnerable quality. Once, in England, we watched a very proper-looking seventy-something gentleman pair up with a wildly-dressed twenty-something young woman. They had an extraordinary connection, which might never have happened had their eyes been open. In another workshop, a man paired up with his wife, but was convinced he was with another woman. He shared first. His wife listened with rapt attention as he vulnerably spoke about their problems, and especially his own pain and grief, things he had never had the courage to say to her. To say that he was surprised when it was her turn to speak would be an understatement. She revealed her own pain, which led them throughout the rest of the workshop to break through to a new love, the start of a new relationship together.
We end the exercise by having each person appreciate their partner or partners, creating even more sweetness and bonding. Then we ask everyone to open their eyes in silence and see with their eyes the beauty and strength they have been feeling in their hearts. We ask everyone to use their eyes as an instrument of love rather than judgment or separation. Does everyone want to open their eyes? Hardly. With eyes closed, there is a divine feeling of connection that most people don’t want to leave. Some have even asked to spend the rest of the workshop with closed eyes!
One woman was so touched by this experience that she did something unusual on a “blind” date. A friend set her up with a man she had never met. When they were arranging the date, she asked him to show up at her door and put a blindfold over his eyes. She did the same on the other side of the door before she opened it. She then took his hand, led him into her home, and together they spent the entire evening blindfolded. It was a remarkable evening, with the conversation going deeper and deeper. And yes, they are now married!
We encourage you to do your own blind experiment – with a good friend or loved one. Spend time together with your eyes closed, communicating, sensing, listening within. Pay careful attention, for you will learn much about your partner and yourself.