by Kathrine Snyder
For years, I lived in panic.
My religious life rotated around a few limited questions:
“Did I pray enough? Did I sin? Did I lust?”
My tunnel vision was only big enough for a few specific rules, regulations, and fears. Everything was black and white. I was either good, or I was bad. The more fearful I became, the more I constricted my focus on making sure I was always perfect.
I’m not the only one. If you have anxiety or OCD, you know that anxiety blocks out the beauty in life and focuses only on the terrifying parts. If you have a painful condition like PGAD, it consumes your whole focus. And if you’ve grown up in a controlling religion, you know there’s often no room for questions, for pondering, for taking in the big picture. You stop embracing the beauty of God and focus only on behavior:
Making sure you’re good enough.
Making sure you’re safe.
It’s natural to want to be safe. Narrowing your focus is a natural, knee-jerk reaction to threats. When you’re suddenly confronted with a scary situation—like a wasp flying around your head—you flinch and narrow your eyes. It’s natural to try to protect yourself.
But the Japanese Aikido Masters propose a different way of staying safe. Instead of narrowing your eyes, try opening them wider. Japanese Masters encourage athletes to use “soft eyes” that can take in a full range of vision, including possible threats. George Leonard says that soft, open eyes make "colors seem remarkably vivid.“
Rather than developing tunnel vision, you activate your peripheral vision. You soften your view and widen your perspective. You develop “wide-angle seeing.”
“Soft eyes” means you gently blur your vision. You stop straining your eyes. You stop forcing yourself to understand every nit-picking detail. You embrace uncertainty. (If you have OCD, this will sound familiar! Embracing uncertainty is the gold standard treatment for OCD!)
When you do, you’ll realize you’re finally able to see the big picture. You'll see you're more protected than you ever dreamed (2 Kings 6:16-17). Parker Palmer says, “Eyes wide with wonder, we no longer need to resist or run when taken by surprise. Now we can open ourselves to the great mystery.”
If you grew up in a closed-minded religious system full of anxiety and fear, opening your eyes is the first step. Soften your vision. Embrace the goodness of God and the hope that exists. Start to think in different categories. Be ready for new thoughts about God's mysterious kindness (Ephesians 1:9).
Are you ready to explore a new way of seeing?
Seeing what our Body Knows
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To learn more about OCD and faith, visit Justin K. Hughes' excellent blog series.
 Parker Palmer, https://kaikleinbard.tumblr.com/post/8598855418/aikido-soft-eyes#:~:text=%E2%80%9CIn%20the%20Japanese%20art%20of,filight%2Ffight%20response%20takes%20over.  https://kaikleinbard.tumblr.com/post/8598855418/aikido-soft-eyes#:~:text=%E2%80%9CIn%20the%20Japanese%20art%20of,filight%2Ffight%20response%20takes%20over.  Rod Windle , https://kaikleinbard.tumblr.com/post/8598855418/aikido-soft-eyes#:~:text=%E2%80%9CIn%20the%20Japanese%20art%20of,filight%2Ffight%20response%20takes%20over.