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Shining Eyes

2 min

There's a moving talk by conductor and music educator Benjamin Zander where he says he measures success by how many "shining eyes" he sees around him.

Our eyes shine when we are alive with possibilities. Conversely they dim and glaze over when we feel trapped or deadened to our lives.

Check this with your experience. Is there not a direct correlation between vitality and a sense of possibility?

If we are physically ill, our sense of possibility usually diminishes.

And our beliefs about what is possible for us impact our well-being.

Is this pain in my neck another sign of the long, slow, inevitable decline towards the grave...or is it a limitation within an upward-trending expansion?

Imagine that everyone had a light in them that could be dimmed or brightened. Scan your world for the shiniest people you know. The people most alive. Scan your life history for moments when your own light was particularly bold.

In conversation with others, have you ever noticed someone suddenly spark as a result of a line of inquiry?

This is one of my favorite things to experience when meeting new people.

The other day I was walking with a friend and we came across a guy practicing his fly fishing technique in the park. My friend started asking him questions about what he was doing and he lit up teaching us the subtleties of fly fishing.

People will start sparkling if you ask them the right questions.

There are things that diminish and extinguish this light: drug abuse, tv binging, social alienation, a poor diet, mindless scrolling—and many other forms of numbing and escape.

As Thoreau wrote, "Let nothing come between you and the light".

Addiction generally comes between us and the light. It narrows possibility as we become fixated on the habit loop of the addictive cycle.

Beyond numbing behaviors, another major obstacle to shining eyes are fixed ideas about who we are and what is possible for us.

Think of the soulless gaze of the caged lion whose ferocity and majesty is hemmed in. Many of us feel we are caged by our circumstances (personal history, genetic inheritance, socio-economic status, etc.).

I'm reminded of the story of the elephant and the rope. The elephant is kept at bay by a thin rope that it could easily break away from.

This happens because the rope is tied to the elephant as a baby when it is too small to escape. After enough failed attempts to break free the elephant stops trying.

There are some boundaries which we shouldn't keep testing (gravity, hot stoves). Many other boundaries that curtail our aliveness are illusory, or based on outdated information about us or the world.

Like fears of social rejection, strong emotions, or our own power.

These are the ropes in this metaphor. As a young animal they were actually limiting. As a grown animal, we can move beyond them.

The more we stay on the edge of what is actually possible for us, the brighter our eyes shine.

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