By Vera Remes
Focus, focus, focus—or maybe not
When it comes to focus, inner awareness is essential.
As a follower of horse trainers Sally Swift, Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance, I am familiar with the principles of grounding, centering, breathing and “soft eyes.” Sally Swift describes the essentials of soft eyes in her book Centered Riding as “wide-open eyes and peripheral awareness, awareness of your entire field of vision and feeling sensations from within.”
Grounding, breathing and centering can relate to meditation and other metaphysical pursuits. I use those principles in Reiki, energy healing and my everyday life, but I never thought of using “soft eyes” in the same way. Now I have. Using soft eyes in life may be antithetical to the typical advice given for success—to focus, focus, focus on our goals. But seeing life through soft eyes may hold an unexpected benefit. I can’t focus my intention on any goal 100% of the time. What I think Sally Swift means is to step back to see the whole of a situation, ground yourself and open yourself up to receive the knowledge the universe has for you.
Soft eyes versus hard eyes—a demonstration
To experience the feeling of soft eyes, find an object to focus on somewhere near you, such as a book or a chair. Now, stare at that object with all of your concentration. Notice the muscles in your face as they become tense and your breathing becomes irregular and shallow. Next, instead of staring at the object, really look at it. Allow yourself to see the other things in the room while you continue to look directly at the object. As you open up your field of vision, the tension in your face decreases and your breathing returns. This is the difference between over-focusing on an object and looking at it. Intense staring is “hard eyes,” creating unwanted tension in the body. If you are riding a horse, no longer will your breathing, hip joints, legs and hands function with fluidity. A broader way of looking is through “soft eyes.” An opposite feeling embraces me when I ride with soft eyes. I am relaxed, enjoying the movement of the horse, feeling my muscles and joints loosen. So too, it will be in life.
Pop culture and inner awareness with soft eyes
Soft Eyes is the second episode of the fourth season of the HBO original series The Wire, which originally aired on September 17, 2006. The term arises a few times and in a subsequent episode but only explained once, when Bunk, a thoroughly competent, generally moral detective, takes Kima, a dedicated detective in the Baltimore Police Department, on her first homicide investigation.
“You know what you need at a crime scene?” Bunk asks. “Soft eyes…You got soft eyes, you can see the whole thing. You got hard eyes, you stare at the same tree, missing the forest.”
His concept of soft eyes means the ability to look deeper than what you first see, taking it all in at once. It’s a question of observing relationships, as well as objects.
Use soft eyes for personal growth and inner awareness
When I practiced law, I needed to focus to prepare for trial, a deposition. In that setting, my ability to focus helped me succeed. I ignored intuition, sometimes when I should not have. In my present situation, I have learned the benefits of going where my intuition takes me. While I still have goals, I can find my solutions in a variety of sources. Shamanic journeying lets my mind travel and receive knowledge from ascended masters and guides. It’s no different than the benefits of soft eyes. Having soft eyes is about being receptive to knowledge and advice from whatever source. In essence, it’s about inner awareness. I have to remember to stop to ground myself occasionally. Staying in that state for prolonged periods feels too good for me to leave voluntarily.
Give yourself permission to get sidetracked
One of the best lines ever written is: “Not all who wander are lost” coined by J.R.R. Tolkien. If you want true inner awareness, use your soft eyes and let yourself go.
You learn more about yourself and how to succeed in life when you work with horses. We can all agree that rewards are important. I learned to stop a session before the horse made a mistake. Another lesson I learned was to stop focusing on pursuing impossible goals. In other words, I learned to avoid tunnel vision. I also learned not to expect that a horse would “get it” during a session. And lastly, I learned to train for tomorrow. Train yourself to have soft eyes in all things. Consider the peripheral issues, other people’s feelings, the effects of your actions. Every time we get sidetracked we open new adventures and opportunities. Absorb everything that is going on in your life at once and let intuition inform any decisions you make. Enjoy the detours.
For more information on remaining open to all input in your life, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C., founder of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching and facilitating, has an article called Soft Eyes—Seeing True Reality, that offers some advice.
To learn the implication of using soft eyes in martial arts here is a link to a site discussing why soft eyes is a necessary skill for Aikido. In the column to the left on that page are 13 other links discussing the application of soft eyes to everything from yoga to Carlos Castaneda.