Being Seen

Sifting carefully through my intra-psychic landscape — that ever-shifting internal world between my ears — I have discovered in the past couple of years certain about myself, about the world and about other people that I was not consciously aware I held. These deeply held but false beliefs make me behave in certain ways to protect myself that are not particularly expansive, helpful or inspiring. One really sticky and interesting false belief is “I am invisible.”

Oh boy, it’s MUCH safer to not be seen, isn’t it? I won’t get hurt, won’t get pushed around, won’t be asked to do something I am not strong enough to do.

Yet, clearly I am NOT invisible!!


I read a great story in a Finnish children’s book (The Invisible Child, Tales from Moomin Valley by Tove Jansson) about a little girl who was literally invisible. The only thing you could see of her was the bow on the top of her head bobbing up and down as she came into the room. The kindly Moomin family took her in, and they paid real attention to her, even though they could only see the bow on the top of her head. As they asked her what she wanted and listened to her answers, she slowly began to come into view . . . first her head and finally her whole body appeared!

The great price a person pays for believing they are invisible is staying small. I feel such a great urgency and energy to create in my own way toward the unfolding of this mysterious evolutionary journey we’re on. But as long as I feel I need to remain invisible to be safe, you can bet I won’t step up and speak in my true voice, loudly, to a big crowd! I won’t develop or be able to give the world my unique gifts.

I have come to realize that when I am truly and deeply seen by another, I can feel myself for who I really am. I also feel a poignant bond and gratitude toward that “other.” Harvard zoologist and writer E.O. Wilson coined the term ‘biophilia’which he defines as our innate human affinity for other living organisms (including the other-than-human). Historian and early ecopsychologist Theodore Rosak said that when we feel this attuned affinity (we are literally vibrating in harmony), we feel a shared identity with the “other” . . . a shared identity which he calls love.

To awaken to our shared identity with each other and with nature is to SEE and to be seen. I am speaking of this awakening as seeing (and opening ourselves to being seen) with our whole being—with our hearts and souls as well as our eyes and all our senses.

Once a modern person (like me and perhaps like you) experiences this communion, they are changed forever!

Then we get to practice it every day, so that this way of walking in the world becomes embodied.

During my schooling at Naropa, we were given a simple practice. It was a practice about seeing and being seen by nature. Maybe because I had felt invisible all my life, this practice jolted me out of my skin.

I pass it now along to you:

Go outside. Find a place where you can be in nature; either wild nature or domestic nature.

You will be paying attention to nature in three different ways or from three different positions (in your mind). In each position, see how fully you can feel what’s going on in your internal world. Notice any immediate response in the body (before you start thinking about it.)How do you feel, what you sense at the intuitive level? Fully immerse yourself in each of the three different ways of paying attention, one at a time, and if you can, write down your experience at the very end to help anchor in any learning the practice revealed to you.

Attention Position #1: “I am a human being observing nature.

Fully play this role of being a human being (which should be pretty easy!) who is outside observing nature. Because this is our ‘normal’ state of attention, you may feel very normal. Fully feel it!! What are the qualities of this ‘normal’ state of attention?

Attention State #2 “I am a human being being observed by nature.

Now switch from seeing to being seen. Imagine nature looking at  you, being aware of you, watching you. Can you sense into what this position feels like? Fully play the role of a human being who is being observed by nature.

Attention State #3: “I am a human being observing and being observed by nature.

Now the observation is reciprocal. What happens inside of you? Anything?

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As usual, I'm keen on any feedback anyone might have who tries this practice. Stories of your experience are always a great gift to everyone!!