There is an ancient form of prayer called Benevolent Gazing. It’s a wordless, silent prayer done with the eyes. It is to look with love wherever we look—at the painted evening sunset, at the man who helps me carry my groceries to my car, at the face of the one in the courtroom on trial for murder, at the smile and greeting from the one who passes me on my morning walk, at the person in the car next to me who angerly races past me on the freeway.
Most importantly, benevolent gazing means to look with love into human faces, those we know well and those we may see but once in this life. What if I were to benevolently gaze at my own face in the mirror? What if I were to benevolently gaze at God and allow God to benevolently gaze back at me?
In this time of our lives, where we are experiencing a global pandemic, we have known much loss through illness and death and through differences in beliefs. We have also carried into this time, our own personal struggles and behaviors that for some has caused separation and division. Some have felt judgment and blame in the midst of anger. This is a time of trauma and communal grief. It is difficult to see and hear one another. What would it mean for our lives, for our family, for our world, if we were to look with love at every human face—the faces of those who love me and those who do not love me, of those who I have forgiven and those who have withheld forgiveness, who see and believe opposite what I see and believe, who have waited with me in the darkness, who have held me in my weakness, who betray me, who rejoice with me, who grieve with me.
I’m reminded of the words of Rumi,
Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.
At the first gate, ask yourself,
Is it true?
At the second, ask yourself,
Is it necessary?
At the third gate, ask,
Is it kind?
“We’re all going to the same place, and we’re all on a path. Sometimes our paths converge. Sometimes they separate, and we can hardly see each other, much less hear each other. But on good days, we’re walking on the same path, close together, and we’re walking each other home.” *
We might ask ourselves,
Who is walking me home at this time of my life?
Who am I walking home?
*Quotes from Ram Dass