19/03/2014 08:55 GMT | Updated 18/05/2014 06:59 BST

The Compassionate Gaze

At the recent 'Being A Man' conference on the Southbank the mostly male audience were asked how many of them instantly made a sexually loaded assessment of any new woman they were introduced to. Well over half raised their hands. The unasked question was not addressed to the women in the audience, how many of them...I'm not sure we are really that different.

Despite how the press and media portray us, once this initial scan has been made, men remain capable of holding cohesive conversations with women, and during these the initial opinions can change. Men and women can still be friends whether there is a sexual frisson or not. We can look at each other with compassion, empathy, by doing so, we see beyond any masks or pretence. We don't do this often enough, we tend to remain superficial, and we need to be encouraged to take up such deepening behaviour.

With this in mind I am running a series of workshops in Bristol called 'The Compassionate Gaze' with Anna Bianchi. We are seeking to enable women and men to hold that initial gaze for a much longer time, and by doing so, see the person rather than the object. By doing so we are wanting to explore what unites and divides the genders, bear witness to our different experiences and to begin to heal fractures and release stories.

The subtle understanding of this simple process is that we only ever see ourselves when we look at others. They act as mirrors for us. In these circumstances they mirror our internal genders. Every man has an internal woman against whom he judges, just as women have an internal man against whom men are judged. These internalised archetypes reflect our personal histories, our ancestral roots and the culture in which we live. They tend to confuse, misjudge, have prejudice, and are almost constantly in conflict. 'Your inner man and inner woman have been at war, they are both wounded, tired, and in need of care. It is time to put down the sword that divides them...'

Maureen Murdoch

There is a desperate need for all of us to put down our swords, and by doing so become authentic, speak the truth, not remain superficial. In relationships we are often second guessing a lot of the time, trying to behave the way we think the other wants us to, this is very tiring, and leads to a loss of self. For me, this links into the Ubuntu concept of each of us having a 'name of the belly button'. The interior name we are born with which is the whole of us. By its' very nature this contains our greatness and goodness, as well as our shadow and prejudice. It is both, without suppression or trying to impress.

We believe by coming together in this way, we may be able to reconnect our internal genders as well as forge external links. We are seeking the opportunity for the two genders to have a genuine dialogue which is about our humanity and shared experiences, the totally of us. It would be good if you feel moved to join us. 'To live this dream of reconnection takes courage...and foolishness.' Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

For more information on the Compassionate Gaze, go to:

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