Squinting at the Sacred

December 6th, 2011

There are times when your inner vision is so dull you can barely make any shape out of it. At other times, your vision is blindingly clear, and you have to squint to shield its glare. In writing this series on vision, my intention is to inspire anyone who is ready to claim the full force of their vision and join together to blaze a trail of love and light in the world.

When you stare at light, you still see it when you look away. It colors all that you see. It’s the same when you focus on your inner light. When you look away, all you see is beauty and all you feel is love. If we all saw our light, hostility and division would instantly vanish. May love and light fill your mind, body and spirit, and may this light join with the light of millions of others to create a global laser show of healing.

What does it mean to see your light? What if you’ve tried but can’t see it? How can you see it more consistently? These are some of the questions I’m addressing in this series on vision. This is part two. The first piece looks at imagination and finding inner vision. The third piece looks at the lens you wear, and the fourth looks at di-vision and the size of your vision.

To start with, there’s more than one way to look. You can look with a soft gaze or a steely resolve. You can peer, peek, squint, stare, glance, or glimpse. All have their value, but I want to focus on what Lewis Carroll described as “looking at things with a sort of mental squint.”

Why are elephants always squinting? From straining to read the small print on peanut packages. (Pain is another reason to squint, such as after you hear a very cheesy joke) Reading the small print is one of the reasons we squint. There are others. An artist will step back from their canvas and squint to take in a new perspective on their work. A friend will squint with empathy while you tell them how you feel. You will squint to focus all your attention on someone speaking. Squinting is important.

George Castanza from Seinfeld was a proud squinter. As Jerry said with tongue firmly in cheek, “He can squint his way down to 20/30 vision.” George’s vision was so bad he ate an onion thinking it was an apple, but while squinting he could spot a dime on the floor. In one episode George lost his glasses, and using his famous squint, he was sure that he saw Jerry’s girlfriend with another man across the street. It turned out it was a police woman kissing her horse. Squinting is not foolproof. It leaves a lot to the imagination, which is a double edged gift. When used to expand your life, nurturing an imagination of what could be, it can enhance your vision.

Squinting is powerful and purposeful. Play with it. You will quickly realize the many effects of squinting. Make it part of your daily practice, to squint at your life and see it from a new perspective. (Read on for more about squinting and vision)

  1. Squinting defocuses your sight, such as when you look at a 3D image. It’s like you’re waiting for clarity, rather than forcing it. This is important in meditation, as it takes you out of your logical mind. Squinting leaves you receptive to whatever arises.
  2. Squinting eliminates some of the light rays entering your eyes, especially the blurred rays. Your eye lids block the blurred rays so that you can see less, but what you see is clearer. In effect, you see the forest for the trees. This is so important in regaining perspective and clarifying vision.
  3. Squinting is like an in built second opinion. You can see the same thing as if with a different set of eyes. Squinting is one stream in your sight’s kaleidoscope of perspectives.
  4. Squinting squeezes the eyelids together like a diaphragm, removing most of the color from what you see. Not that there’s anything wrong with color. On the contrary, but taking the color out of something, even momentarily, helps you to appreciate many more aspects and not take color for granted.
  5. Some artists say you should squint at the subject, but not at your painting. They say that squinting helps you to see different shapes relative to each other. Then you can paint with your eyes wide open, bringing together a broad vision of your subject. As Tyra Banks said to a baffled contestant on America’s NextTop Model, “You need to squint with your eyes open.”

Enough of technicalities. I am neither a scientist, a fashionista nor an artist. I’m the guy no one wants to team up with in Pictionary. People squint to avoid eye contact with me while choosing partners.

To the point of my article, mental squinting is important for vision. You can see your life from a broad perspective. You may feel lost in the details of your present experience, and a mental squint can help you regain your vision.  You can squint your way down to 20/20 inner vision. Stillness squints you back to clarity of purpose.

There’s another sort of squint. A squint is also the name for the hole on the inside wall of some churches that separates the people from the sacred parts. The squint gives the common people a small glimpse of the holy of holies, but not a complete view. Some churches also have a squint on the outside wall, so that lepers can look in without entering in.

This brings me to a vision that more and more people share these days; a vision to reclaim direct access to the sacred that resides within; a source of light that doesn’t need to be mediated by any church, priest or book. You don’t need to be protected from it, and it can’t be contained in a creed.The only squint you need is the stillness of your mental squint, to enjoy the diversity of life, to look with compassion and to take responsibility for your own perspective. The incredible break through for people, inside and outside of mainstream religion, is that you have direct and immediate access to the holy of holies within. You can “see” it any time. Squint if it’s blurry. Maybe soften your gaze. Peer within and you will see it. Peace Pilgrim said,

For light I go directly to the Source of light, not to any of the reflections.

The primary aspect of vision is to see within. This is a matter of self respect. It often includes squinting to block out the reminders of people and institutions that tried to hold you captive to self limiting beliefs. I find a lot of inspiration in Ani DiFranco’s brilliant song, “32 Flavors.”

squint your eyes and look closer
I’m not between you and your ambition
I am a poster girl with no poster
I am thirty-two flavors and then some
And I’m beyond your peripheral vision
So you might want to turn your head
Cause someday you might find you’re starving
and eating all of the words you said

Once you learn how to see clearly within, and squint through the pain and challenge of life, your vision becomes clear like a beacon, and your authentic life falls effortlessly into place.

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  1. [...] see the world for all it can be. This is the basis for the most exciting and authentic vision. The second part describes the vision of squinting at your own sacred source. The third part looks at the lens [...]

  2. Tamara says:

    Wow.  That’s one of the best bits of writing I’ve read lately … and I tell you that as an English teacher but mostly as a spiritual seeker. 

    From my heart,


  3. ian says:

    thanks Tamara- much appreciated

  4. Nanci says:

    LOVE! <3  Always, right on!  

  5. Heulwen Renshaw says:

    Amazing ‘insight’ to life & love!   Thanks Ian

  6. Love your writing. It speaks to my soul.

  7. ian says:

    thank you Joseph

  8. Amitabh says:

    Once you are spiritually mature to a certain degree….the very act of watching the watcher is simplified by squinting & immediately you are in a different realm,  you call it God, enlightenment, freedom, truth & you realise it was always there it is never not there & we are that  …our eyes are the goggles of the divine…& realise that body is a costume. Squinting is the easiest way there…where? Here there everywhere. Thank you for this wonderful post. NAMASTE.

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