The First Gaze

I am just like you. My immediate response to most situations is with reactions of attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am better at calculating than contemplating.

Let’s admit that we all start there. The False Self seems to have the “first gaze” at almost everything.

The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads us to an implosion, a self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended,” can we immediately stand with and for the other, and in the present moment. It takes lots of practice.

On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” as Gerald May says, I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Often I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the False Self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on daily prayer, in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before we go to bed, too! Otherwise, I can assume that I am back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile “Richard self.”

May I see with eyes of compassion.

– Richard Rohr, adapted from “Contemplation and Compassion: The Second Gaze”


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  1. This is so good, Glen. Thanks for sending it to us. I sighed and thought, yes, this certainly is me too. The bit that stands out to me is, “It takes lots of practice.” I was struck that in reading this there was not a sense of discouragement, but a feeling of relief and adventure: “Oh, I see; my job is practice. My job is practice, not to arrive at perfect contemplative presence in the present moment. Whew! Alleluia!”

  2. Lovely. Dave and I read this as well this past week, and Soulstream’s daily prayers came to my mind as well. Our daily prayers….
    It makes a difference to me to take ownership of them….
    This calls me to more engagement….
    Daily engagement…
    Now where did I put that blue card…

    Thanks Glen….