Looking into the eyes of others is a drain

Eye contact is a powerful and complicated practice. We know that eye contact can impair functions such as visual imagination but it turns out eye contact may also impair our ability to speak.

According to research by Shogo Kajimura and Michio Nomura, they found that participants were slower to generate complex verbs when looking into the eyes of someone on a screen. Their conclusions were not that eye contact impedes our ability to formulate verbs, but instead,

"They said the results are consistent with the idea that eye contact drains our more general cognitive resources – the kind that we need to draw on when some other task, such as speaking, becomes too difficult to be handled by domain-specific resources. That’s why the more complicated the story you’re telling (or excuse you’re making), the more likely you are to need to break off eye contact.
Looking away when we’re talking is something most of us do instinctively as adults, but this isn’t necessarily the case for children. Past research has shown that young children can benefit from being taught to avert their gaze when they’re thinking."

Scriptures speak about a variety of humans unable to look into the face of God for various reasons. This metaphor of our inability to look into the eyes of God , may very well speak to a biological limitation we all have. For reasons that I don't understand, looking into the eyes of another person drains a lot of cognitive energy, which may explain why many days of listening to people share their souls I am exhausted - I may be looking at the face of God and it overwhelms me.

Prayer Life is Dance Life

A song was shared to me the other day entitled "O Life Is Like A Sacred Circle". Here is the first verse and chorus:

Verse: I life is like a Sacred Circle when we walk the Good Red Road. We dance to pray. We pray to heal. We heal to live. We live to dance.

Chorus: We dance to pray. We pray to heal. We heal to live. We live to dance. I life is like a Sacred Circle when we walk the Good Red Road.

The person who shared this song with the group I was in then asked us to reflect on the lyric "we dance to pray" and what it could mean for each of us.

It was quickly pointed out that both dancing and praying are acts of vulnerability. That is, for many of us, dancing is not something we are trained in and as such we tend to shy away from. For as many people as I have heard say,  "I can't dance" I have heard that many people say "I can't pray." Dancing in public and praying in public each take a level of trust and vulnerability that our time does not encourage. 

It has also been my experience that there is a deep draw that dancing has on many of us. That is so many of us want to know how to dance. We want to be able to have the confidence and the moves, the rhythm and the smoothness of body to dance on the floor. The dance desire is also echoed in the prayer desire. That is many of us desire the words and speech, the poetry and prose to pray, and since we feel like we don't have those things - we don't pray. 

Prayer life is dance life. That is to say, the ones who I know have a vibrant prayer life are the same ones who are comfortable dancing. Through prayer, these individuals are accustom to being vulnerable and so the act of dancing is just another expression of the vulnerability they have practiced in prayer. 

Rev. John Thornburg, who was leading the discussion, said that the US is the only place and time that has a culture of "I can't dance". I would add that we may be the only place and time that has a culture of "I can't pray." 

I ask you to consider the mantra:

"We dance to pray. We pray to heal. We heal to live. We live to dance." 

How learning Spanish teaches me about prayer

For the past two weeks I have been kicking the tires on this little app called Duolingo

The gist of the site is that you can learn a language for free and as you become more proficient in that language you can actually work to translate the web into another language. 

Yes, you can help translate the entire interwebs. If your mind is not blown by this concept and learning model then I am unsure what would.  

Here is the thing, a co--worker of mine speaks Spanish and is excited to hear that I a trying to learn. She is encouraging and talks to me in Spanish. She asks me questions and asks me to speak to her in Spanish.

 She is so darn happy and excited that someone else is trying to learn her native language and taking an interest in her culture. She is excited that she has the opportunity to share what she knows and takes great joy out of helping me speak her native tongue.

I should be excited and encouraged by her joy and energy. I should feel safe to speak the 93 words of broken Spanish I can cobble together.

But all I feel is embarrassed.  

The insecure part of me convinces me that I should not speak Spanish unless I can speak it as a native speaker. I should not speak Spanish because I will make a mistake and muck it all up. I will look like a fool and an idiot in the company of other Spanish speakers. 

All of this made me think about when I encounter someone who is a beginner in prayer. That is to say, someone who may feel comfortable praying on their own but embarrassed to pray aloud. Who might feel that they should not or cannot pray aloud in the presence of others who might be more fluent in the language of prayer and so they do not practice the language. Who are surrounded by people telling them that it is okay if they make a mistake because everyone knows they are still learning, and yet still is embarrassed.

Perhaps it all boils down to becoming vulnerable when we are speaking a language that is new to us. When we speak the new language we put ourselves out there in a way that everyone can see our inadequacies, failures, struggles and ignorance. 

And so, how do you get someone to be confident and courageous enough to speak a new language in the presence of others? How do you make a space safe enough for all the insecurities we all carry can be put down and we can feel comfortable practicing our Spanish (or Prayer) language?