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Eye-Gazing: Movement Encourages Strangers to Stare at Each Other

Holding eye contact is nerve-racking these days. Texting and social media shield most people from it. Many argue that these technological advancements have only made humans lonelier. But one woman thinks she has a solution for South Florida's longing for more meaningful relationships: “eye-gazing.” It's a social experiment of sorts were complete strangers stare into each others' eyes for minutes as a new way to connect.

“I believe we are all in some ways yearning and longing for these connections,” says Jolenny Piedra, the organizer of South Florida's emerging eye gazing scene. “Eye gazing has been one of the ways in which I joyfully connect my heart to the heart of another. To me, eye gazing is such a powerful practice that once engaged in it, it invites us to reconnect with the truth of who we truly are.”

Piedra has already hosted two events in Miami since October that attracted over 400 people. Both were hosted at Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach. On Saturday, she's bringing the eye gazing experiment further north to Fort Lauderdale for the Spirit Yoga Festival being held at the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Eye gazing is slated to begin at 10 p.m.

“Eye gazing continues to grow its reach,” Piedra says. “In a fast moving world of technology and so much to tend to, eye gazing is just the space you have been looking for as you are only asked to participate for one minute of eye contact and in exchange remember more about our human connections.”
Eye gazing is nothing new. It's been around for years. However, it picked up steam earlier this year when Liberators International, an organization promoting acts of kindness, welcomed stranger sto eye gaze in Australia. It quickly spread. In October it hosted “the world's biggest eye-gazing experiment” in cities across the world.

When Piedra heard about the event, she quickly registered South Florida. She had recently returned home after completing a master's degree in spiritual psychology in Santa Monica, California.She would eye gaze with other students in her classes as a bonding exercise.
On October 15, over 350 people gathered at Lincoln Road. Piedra was surprised by how many attended. Some people held hands, others smiled while they stared at each other. Some cried and few even hugged at the end. At another event a month later, close to 40 people braved the rain and eye gazed. (Some under even under umbrellas.)

According to Piedra, eye gazing is about being present. Bascailly, it means consciously putting down the smartphones to consciously stare at another person and have that person stare back. Piedra recommends trying it at least once. 

“I would share that it is natural to be nervous, perhaps some may also be skeptical at times,” Piedra says, “and that is because as a society, we are yet to make it a common practice to truly connect in this way with one another.”

Tickets for the Spirit Yoga Fair from $15-$35. They can be purchased online or at the door (if not sold out). 
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson

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