The instructor told us to pair up and evaluate each other as we danced. My dance partner gave me one of the best advice I’ve ever received. She noticed that I had the tendency to look down as I danced. “Look up,” she said and it made a world of a difference.
The stage opened up. I had more awareness of the other dancers. My movements were more fluid. The different dance steps became one choreography. The choreography became a performance. I felt connected to the other dancers, the music, and the dance. I also danced better than I ever did.
Ever since then, I tell myself to look up, not just when I’m dancing, but throughout life. Whenever I look up, I find freedom.
Growing up, I was taught that eye contact was rude and impolite. Moving to the United States, the opposite was true. Eye contact was important, but the habit had already developed and it was very hard to break.
Walking down the street, I still catch myself looking down. My eyes know the pavement better than the store signs. I miss so much. My surroundings. The people around me. What the world is up to.
Most of us though have developed the looking down habit because of our phones. We know our apps better than what’s actually around us.
Just a few years ago, whenever I remember to look up – or just look ahead instead of looking at the ground – I’ve met the eyes of other people. I’ve exchanged passing smiles and hello’s. These days, more heads are looking down. Sometimes, I’m one of them.
If we remember to look up or look ahead instead of looking at the ground or our phones, we can experience the same freedom I felt when I looked up in dance.
The world will open up. We would be more aware of the people around us. We would see the man with a handlebar mustache and a Harley tshirt carrying a red and yellow bar chair. We would notice the father and daughter bonding over coffee. We would learn how different people interact with each other.
The fastest way to feel part of a community is to look up and notice our community. It’s as easy as putting away our devices and looking up. Looking around. Seeing. Noticing. Engaging.
There is freedom in looking up. Look up today.