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Stare Into A Stranger's Eyes For 60 Seconds At Fort Lauderdale's Spirit Yoga Fair, And See What Happens

Sixty seconds of silently staring into a stranger's eyes. That's all it takes to feel connected with those around you.

"There's this wall that gets to be taken away," said Jolenny Piedra, a Miami-based spiritual counselor, who has introduced the eye-gazing concept to South Florida. "There's no reading people for how they're dressed, or what college they went to, or what sexual orientation they might be." 

On Saturday, Nov. 21, Piedra will be leading a session at Fort Lauderdale's Spirit Yoga Fair hosted at the International Swimming Hall of Fame. And for anyone dubious or reluctant about the meditative exercise, Piedra says don't knock it till you've tried it.

"Only 40 seconds in, you feel so much love," she said, "or you feel seen, or accepted."

Piedra hosted Miami's first eye-gazing event on Oct. 15, the day of the "World's Biggest Eye Contact Experiment." The initiative was launched by Australian social artist Peter Sharp, whose video "Eye Contact With Strangers Experiment" went viral this past summer.

"I thought Miami would absolutely reject it," said Piedra, who holds a master's degree in spiritual psychology.

On the contrary, close to 400 people showed up to that first event. She noticed that, while a minute might be all it takes, most chose to sit there staring into each other's eyes for at least 15 minutes.

Two younger children, in fact—ages 7 and 11—sat there looking at each other the whole time.

"I went up to them and said, 'Do you guys want to eat? Want me to get you pizza?' They were like, 'No,'" she said. "I get teary talking about it. I really had no idea that this would touch people in the way that it has."

Piedra has since hosted one other event in Miami. Though it was rained out, 40 people still showed up and waited for her.

The Venezuela native said she thinks the experience has been easy for newcomers to get into because it's not a big commitment.

"When you tell somebody, 'You only have to explore it or engage for the first 60 seconds, they think, 'Wow, 60 seconds of my time is nothing,'" she said.

Since Saturday's eye-gazing session will be happening in a much different context from the others, Piedra, who is the founder of Sacred Soul Living, is excited to see what kind of reaction the evening experience will garner.

Whereas the two events prior were held in public, open spaces—where passersby could see what was going on and choose to join in—the audience at the festival will be a more select group already interested in spirituality.

The session's 10 p.m. start time, and the fact that participants will already have gone through a full day of meditative experiences, could intensify the exercise, she added.

"I think it's going to be very magical because of the time that it's going to be," she said. "People are a little more vulnerable perhaps, a little bit less resistant. … I think at nighttime, we sort of go into a different meditative space, a little bit more of a heart-opening space."

After Saturday's event, Piedra will return to Miami Beach and host another public eye-gazing sit-in for Art Basel. It will take place on Lincoln Road from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.

Ultimately, Piedra hopes that participants feel more inspired to connect with the people around them.

"I hope people walk away with the feeling of, like, 'Wow, I haven't really looked at my wife enough. … I'm not really connecting. I need to do this more,'" she said.

Spirit Yoga Fair

For more information about the Spirit Yoga Fair on Nov. 21, check out the Facebook event. To learn more about spiritual living in South Florida, visit sacredsoulliving.com.

(Photos courtesy Anna Barnat via Facebook and Erik Lieux Photography)

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