Day 14: Prepare for the Unexpected
That all makes sense, but how can you prepare for what you don't expect?
"When an army plans a war, the generals design a strategy. They consider every detail and prepare for every scenario. But when the war is actually fought, there are always unforeseen events and situations that will come into play. So generals retain flexibility and prepare a backup plan in order to adjust the strategy as the war unfolds." (Ohr Yisrael, Letter 19)
Whenever we plan to battle the yetzer hara regarding our eyes, we have to remember that this plan is only an approximation. When we go out in public, we have to expect the unexpected.
The Vilna Gaon would review the second chapter in Mesilat Yesharim, which talks about "watchfulness," thirteen times before going out into the street. We are not on that level; but his example is an indication of how careful we have to be when entering a visual danger zone.
The fact is that visual challenges are not really that unexpected. You can pretty much bet on the fact that somewhere along your route there will be individuals or images that are off limits. Once you leave the privacy of your home, you will be confronted by countless images. Since the intention of most of these images is to catch the eye, they are positioned at eye-level. Unrestrained, your eyes scan a wide area, dart up and down, back and forth, and react to everything they see. The more stimulating the image, the more your eyes will be attracted to it.
Your eye does not naturally lower its gaze below eye-level. You have to make a conscious effort to lower your gaze. This basic strategy is easy and attainable; and it doesn't mean staring at your shoes and bumping into street poles, or poking along looking strange!
With your eyes slightly lowered, just look straight in the direction you are walking. Your eyes will take in an area of about five to ten feet of your pathway. In the next chapter, you will learn how to train your eyes to do this. Although lowering your gaze is a highly effective strategy, it's not foolproof, so you will also need the other strategies outlined in the coming chapters.
Today: Make a conscious effort to keep your gaze below eye-level when you are in a public place.