Sunday, May 17, 2009

Look Me in the Eye...

Noticing your own habits is difficult let alone even trying to break them. I noticed one of my own bad habits a few months ago and it is becoming almost irritatingly difficult to break. I have noticed that whenever I shake someone's hand I don't look them in the eye but at their hand. When I did notice this it bothered me to the point where I decided to make an extra effort to look people in the eye whenever I shake their hand. This isn't a terribly bad habit but I still find it uncomfortable. Some people may say that avoiding eye contact is a sign of dishonesty and low self-esteem. I don't consider myself a dishonest person and I don't feel like I have low self-esteem but I'm sure everyone has a pinch of low self-esteem. Bottomline: I feel uncomfortable NOT looking people in they eye, that is, whenever I notice it.

[Hilye of the Prophet Muhammad by Mohamed Zakariya]

It is a complete unconscious knee-jerk reaction that I am consciously trying to undo. This got me wondering as to what other knee-jerk reactions am I unaware of, and which of those may be putting off the wrong body language or even offending those around me.

The Hilyas of the Prophet are a description of the prophet Muhammad's spiritual, moral, and physical characteristics.The most popular of these texts for calligraphers like Mohamed Zakariya is one related by Ali ibn Abi Talib,

Transmitted from Ali [son-in-law of the Prophet], may God be pleased with him, who, when asked to describe the Prophet, peace be upon him, would say: He was not too tall nor too short. He was medium sized. His hair was not short and curly, nor was it lank, but in between. His face was not narrow, nor was it fully round, but there was a roundness to it. His skin was white. His eyes were black. He had long eyelashes. He was big-boned and had wide shoulders. He had no body hair except in the middle of his chest. He had thick hands and feet. When he walked, he walked inclined, as if descending a slope. When he looked at someone, he looked at them in full face.

Between his shoulders was the seal of prophecy, the sign that he was the last of the prophets. He was the most generous-hearted of men, the most truthful of them in speech, the most mild-tempered of them, and the noblest of them in lineage. Whoever saw him unexpectedly was in awe of him. And whoever associated with him familiarly, loved him. Anyone who would describe him would say, I never saw, before him or after him, the like of him. Peace be upon him.

Regardless of whether these are 100% accurate or not (which would be incredible if they were) it gives us a window into the life of Muhammad and how his followers remembered him. What caught my attention was that he was said to look someone full in the face. This is an interesting character trait and must have made an impression on those around him for them to notice and remember him for it. I mean, how many people do you know that are remembered for giving their full attention in conversation.

In today's world it is difficult to keep our attention on one thing at a time with cellphones, computers, TVs, work, bills, and children blaring for your undivided attention all at once. One of the most intriguing elements about religion in general is the common theme of focus. Buddhist probably take the cake for having the best methods on focusing one's mind and body (which I have yet to learn and try). But Muslims I also acknowledge for their ability to stop WHATEVER they're doing and pray five times a day (unless, of course, they're in a life or death situation). To mold your daily activities around God so that you can give your complete mental, physical, and spiritual attention is amazing. In fact, it is their mode and method of prayer that first drew me to their faith. The ability to focus and align mind, body, and spirit so that your full attention is given to a specific task is a practice I wish I had regardless of the method used. Perhaps one day soon I'll be more aware of my surroundings and pick up subtleties of my body I am not currently aware of.

So while I am struggling to correct my "bad habit", take a minute and think about how much of your undivided attention you give to that which is important to you. I know it may be difficult at first but I'm sure with your undivided attention you will enjoy your life that much more.

3 comments:

Don Rogers said...

Now you have me pondering myself as to that same habit. I've always been very shy with others an (educator for 34 years, go figure!). But, I believe that I may share that same habit with you. I plan on becoming fully aware if that's the case.

Paul Bahleda said...

I have always viewed an inability to look people in the eyes as a sign of uncertainty. Not dishonesty, the most accomplished liars can look you dead in the face and spout untruths (ask the alcoholic!) just uncertainty. Could be about their appearance, or the effect they are going to have or even the fact that they are intimidated by the surroundings or situation which could be justified not low self esteem. And what's your famous line Erruesso? I fully acknowledge I could be completely wrong!
When I was 19 I got a job as a waiter and an older gentlemen who had been doing it for decades gave me some great advice. He told me no matter how busy I was, behind, angry or preooccupied with things at home, I would make a lot of money if every time I approached a table of guests I behaved as if they were the only guests I had in the place. I took his advice and was very successful. I still approach people in this manner today.
One more thing: I admire your willingness to self-reflect even on something others may view as a minor point. Looking inward and adjusting has been the answer in my life. It all works from the inside out!

Be Blessed.

Eruesso said...

Thank you both for your comments and Paul for your words of wisdom. "Looking inward and adjusting" is a lesson I'm glad I learned early in life and not decades down the road (no offense Paul). I hope to continue refining while never losing the ability to look inward and make the adjustments needed.

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