We all long to be seen.
It is one of the deepest desires of the human heart. When we are seen, we are validated, affirmed. We feel to the core of our being that we are recognized at soul level.
In another’s face, we feel her or his heart meeting us. In Africa, certain forms of greeting mean “I see you.” And in Connemara, Ireland, a phrase used to describe admiration is, “The face of the people is toward you.”
This past year I have felt seen in various guises.
In my father, who, through clouded, cataract-laden eyes, greeted me with a smile every time I came into the house. In a dear friend who offered sanctuary, a space to heal and renew after days of caregiving. Another friend, who affirmed my writing and encouraged me to go forward.
Decades ago, when I was going through a rough time in life, I remember a spiritual director with whom I felt truly seen. He offered unconditional acceptance, presence, and generously allowed me to find my own way and my own soul.
Allowing ourselves to be seen, however, takes some courage.
I still struggle with this because it invites vulnerability. Perhaps this is why children and animals offer us the most authentic measure of being seen. They are not laden with expectations or past wounds, so in their faces we find the expressions of sacred innocence, of acceptance.
This Christmas, I leaned over into the crib of my four-month-old great niece, and in our first meeting our faces found each other in laughter and joy. And in my friend’s dog, who sees me — not only as someone who will play with her — but knows she can lick my face and hands in pure abandon.
This past year many lost the faces of those they loved. A family member or dear friend. A beloved pet. And while those physical countenances may be gone, the souls that embodied them live on.
Yes, we grieve. We cry. But on some level we know their spiritual faces are ever with us, seeing and loving us in new and other realms.
In this coming year, we will find more joys and sorrows, more losses and gains. How we approach the “face of the new year” will depend on the proportion of depth we bring to it.
I love the Irish writer John O’Donohue who speaks of the manner in which we view a landscape or a person for the first time. He advises us to take time, to be present to that moment, because we will never see that person or have that experience in the same way again.
Each day of this year will be much the same, moments that are fresh and untouched. How will we approach these precious seconds of time, what will we inscribe on them in those first meetings?
For myself, and for you all, I pray we may come to see ourselves with deeper love and gratitude for the holy beings we are. I pray we may recognize the common clay of our bodies as connected.
And instead of resolving to “do things” such as lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, or stop this or that — all worthy goals — perhaps we can learn how to simply “be,” and in that being-ness discover ourselves more authentic, vulnerable, compassionate in the moment.
Meister Eckhart, mystic and theologian, wrote that we should worry not so much about what we do, but rather about what we are. And what we are, who we are, is love, pure and simple.
So, my prayer for us all for 2018 is that we may see the face of this new year with new eyes.
May we ask ourselves at the end of each day, as O’Donohue writes, “What did I really see this day?”
May it be love.
(Wishing you all a blessed, joyous New Year, with gratitude for pausing here with me in these moments.)