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What's So Special About the Mona Lisa?

Would people line up to look into your eyes?

People looking at the Mona Lisa
People want to look and be looked at

6 million people line up outside the Musée du Louvre in Paris every year to see the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa. Well, they think that’s what they’re lining up for. But that’s not what really mesmerises them.

Forget her smile. It’s her soft, kind brown eyes that really hold you captive.

It’s eye contact you really crave and the Mona Lisa gives it to you. She’s looking right at you. Her gaze never wavers as she eyes you over the heads of other tourists jostling for a better view and taking selfies.

Smiles – enigmatic or otherwise – can be false. Eyes speak the truth.

The eyes are windows to the soul

Marina Abramović, a Serbian performance artist, held an unusual event at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010, titled The Artist Is Present. She sat silently in an armless chair for more than 700 hours, staring at people who sat in another chair opposite her.

Marina was amazed that the chair was never vacant. People queued for hours to have a moment – or an hour – with her. Looking back at the experience, Marina explained that although we have a lot of communication with others today through texts, emails and mobiles, it’s lingering eye contact that we crave.

Most people who sat opposite Marina silently wept, as did she.

In a videoclip about her performance she mentioned the ‘enormous need for humans to actually have contact . . . so alienated from each other . . . society makes us really distant . . .’

What happens when you really look at someone? What changes when you hold someone’s gaze for more than a few seconds? What unfolds if you hold it for longer – perhaps one minute, or ten?

When you engage in sustained eye contact, unacknowledged or unspoken thoughts and emotions can rise to the surface and spill out through the universal language of tears.

Looking through the windows of another person’s soul opens a two-way door - into that person and also into yourself. Self-knowing and other-knowing merge.

What you’ve experienced is reflected in the gaze of the other because, deep down, you are the same. The common human experience of suffering, loneliness, regret and fear don’t need words to be understood.

Eyes don’t just see. Eyes talk. They can accept, caress, love. Eyes can shut out another person, or absorb and absolve their soul.

Living with mindfulness

Slow down the windows of your soul. Let your eyes linger, like the Mona Lisa’s.

It can be the first step in a liberating experience for you and others you meet.

Would people line up to look into your eyes?

They do, every day.

Look back at them. Look deep.

Sustained eye contact is an eternal connection.

With love, Marlane

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