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Meditating With Eyes Wide Open

@how mentioned this in passing on another thread the other day and I have been playing around with it recently.

I have always meditated eyes shut, but lately on occasions where I begin to doze, which is to say when I have dream thoughts starting up, I have been opening my eyes completely while continuing to focus on the breath. I find it helps. The key seems to be treating the view like I usually treat sound - no intentional focus (eyeglasses off helps) and no intentional naming. Of course the view needs to be essentially static, although slight movement of leaves in a gentle breeze has been ok.

I've tried opening my eyes a small amount as I have seen suggested, but more often than not they end up shut again.

I'd be interested to hear any suggestions and experience.

Earthninja

Comments

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    meditation is mostly what works for you. I have been taught to meditation with eyes open, but gently, not forced, and to focus on a point (lightly) and to draw the point closer to you if you are distracted by your peripheral vision. I meditation both eyes open and closed.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    I think @karasti also touched on this the other day. It can be difficult and uncomfortable having our eyes open when we are used to meditating with them closed.

    If you have tried walking meditation then think of it in the same terms minus the walking.

    Another way could be to have a mandala to focus on. One that doesn't symbolize anything in particular. After a while just imagine the mandala is there until even the mental image is no longer needed.

    With eyes closed it's easier to keep open awareness while focusing on nothing in particular but having them open is more challenging.

    For me anyways.
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    In our Dzogchen sangha we meditate with eyes wide open, the goal being to blink as little as possible, and breathing through our mouths.
    Not my favourite style, but well, when in Rome...

  • Some Zen centres use the staring at walls method which limit the visual distractions.


    Earthninja
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    While I am certain the benefits (suitably illustrated above, by the two photographs) are legion, I can't help thinking, or viewing such a method as a 'contrived' cut-off from everyday life... rather like the frog in the well, convinced his well was the entire universe; I believe he exploded on seeing the ocean...
    I'm sure it's far removed from being even close to that analogy, but it just gives me a feeling of artifice....

    pegembara
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited May 2015

    I think @how advice is outstanding.

    What is important is the 'natural' nature of sitting. It should be the simplest thing in the world. In theory and essence it is.

    In yoga nidra the eyes are closed and it is not uncommon to fall asleep. Yoga and lying down is very relaxing and calming.

    @Kenneth said:
    I have always meditated eyes shut, but lately on occasions where I begin to doze, which is to say when I have dream thoughts starting up, I have been opening my eyes completely while continuing to focus on the breath. I find it helps.

    Dozing, sloth and sleeping is not meditation. So one of the counters is to open the eyes. Another is a burst of mantra to oxygenate the brain. Or to change to walking meditation or a technique I used for a while - mindful green tea drinking. :)

    Attention not stiffness. Loose not lost. Calm not zzz ...

    At the moment my eyes are extremely open. In other words more like this

    which I learned from a goldfish ...

    pegembaraKennethZenni
  • @federica said:
    While I am certain the benefits (suitably illustrated above, by the two photographs) are legion, I can't help thinking, or viewing such a method as a 'contrived' cut-off from everyday life... rather like the frog in the well, convinced his well was the entire universe; I believe he exploded on seeing the ocean...
    I'm sure it's far removed from being even close to that analogy, but it just gives me a feeling of artifice....

    A more natural method... Just watch your thoughts, feelings. Anything at all without getting drawn in. All that arises passes away ........ They all come to cessation.

    “I remember when I was living as a monk in England and I would sometimes go visit Ajahn Sumedho in his room and on the wall he had a picture of an old man sitting inside his little brick cottage on a rainy day, and he was sitting just inside the window, looking out, and in his hand he held a cup of coffee. And I remember Ajahn Sumedho saying, for him this was the essence of meditation. It was really nothing more than just relaxing, and watching the happening of existence. Nothing needed to be explained. Nothing needed to be worked out. There’s just the event of existence presenting itself. Everything we are is simply presented. Whatever words come out, come out, but they’re not important; they’re simply the movement or the non-movement of whatever this happening is.”
    — Darryl Bailey

    lobsterJeffrey
  • @Kenneth said:> I'd be interested to hear any suggestions and experience.

    As with posture I would recommend trying out different approaches and settling on what works best for you. Vision is the primary sense, but with a static visual field I don't think it makes much difference at all whether you have your eyes open or shut.
    Personally I find the eyes half-open/closed approach uncomfortable and would choose between eyes shut and eyes wide open.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    Do most of you find one style that works best and stay with it?

    I find I use various methods depending on the moment.
    lobster
  • KennethKenneth Veteran

    Thanks to you all for your insight and suggestions! :)

    @how said:
    One part of the reasoning to meditate with ones eyes open is to learn how to meditate with all your sense organs operating as they usually do for most of your day. This meditating with your eyes open is to assist you with learning how to move the meditation from a static posture into all of the activity of daily life.

    Great point. I'd been looking at this as an expedient fix for drowsiness rather than a step forward into an expanded and more skillful practice.

    @ourself said:
    If you have tried walking meditation then think of it in the same terms minus the walking.

    I have played with walking a couple of times, but found it very difficult to maintain any kind of focus. I think your comment complements what @how wrote, though. If one can master meditation with eyes open in a static posture it should serve as a foundational skill for walking meditation, either in the traditional slow deliberate walk or I hope in a brisk aerobic walk. One step at a time, so to speak. ;)

    David
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @ourself said:
    Do most of you find one style that works best and stay with it?

    I find I use various methods depending on the moment.

    Yes, I do too... am comfortable with either, and can happily do both. In fact, i find opening my eyes and focusing on an object is a more effective way of calming the mind. If I find pointless, unconnected and unassociated thoughts trying to muscle their way in, I merely shift focus onto another object..... But eyes closed helps me pinpointedly concentrate on a mantra, or my breathing.....

    David
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    it just gives me a feeling of artifice....

    @federica -- Of course it's artifice. The whole shooting match is artifice, don't you think ... sitting down, crossing the legs, keeping still, focusing the mind, counting the breath, calling a disciplined attention to one (uhhh) artifice after another. For my own purposes, I sometimes try to recall that Buddhism is a lie from which each person is invited to extract the truth.

    I was trained in Zen to keep the eyes open. I didn't have an easy time of it at first. It was cozier when the eyes were closed. But I did what was instructed and, over time, came to appreciate not just the fact that it kept the dozing at bay but that there was something sensible about coping directly with this most credible sense. Who, in the end was "seeing?" In addition, I found a certain strength (I don't know how else to put it) in keeping the eyes open ... something along the lines of "This is a good tool, but no sensible person wanders around lugging a tool box."

    And once keeping the eyes open became more of a habit and less of a burden, it really didn't make any difference if the eyes were open or closed. But comfort was not the yardstick I chose to judge by. It was more the function that counted -- what clarity (if that's the right word) evolved.

    silverlobstermisecmisc1David
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @ourself said:
    Do most of you find one style that works best and stay with it?

    I find I use various methods depending on the moment.

    There is an important lesson in following a prescribed discipline that @genkaku mentions. There is also in a personal practice more flexibility BUT we have to ensure we have discipline in place first. We can be pliable but still determined. The force is with us, not forced ...

    I find an overall style, but may vary with usually the start and end (settling and finishing) ...

    howDavid
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    one funny thing happened to me with eyes open awhile back; maybe some here remember my questions at that time? I would start to notice my blinking of my eyes until it became a huge disturbance. Eventually it went away.

  • @ourself said:> Do most of you find one style that works best and stay with it?

    Personally I don't but that's because I'm easily bored. I think consistency of approach is the most productive.

    David
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited May 2015

    hi all,

    i have few questions regarding keeping eyes open as these days i am trying zazen with eyes open for the last few days and earlier i was trying anapanasati with eyes closed.

    i find keeping my eyes closed easier for me, but since zazen instructions say to have the eye at 45 degrees open, so i try to keep my eyes half-open with a gentle gaze. but this keeping eyes open has raised few questions for me.

    when i sit in morning with eyes half-open and room's tubelight off with a very dim light in room coming from sun through reflection from window, and i face the wall, then may be after few seconds, i think - either - the vision of wall starts blurring out even though i do not try to focus on any particular area of the wall - or - i zoned out meaning i noticed i was gently watching the wall's lower area where it meets the floor and trying to observe the breath and then i don't know when a thought came and i got entangled in the thought and after 5 minutes or may be more minutes, i realized that i was thinking thoughts rather than doing zazen and observing breath - Have you faced this thing of vision getting blurred out or zoning out issue? Why it happens? How to overcome it?

    Also should the vision be peripheral vision (if this is the correct term for seeing the full-range of whatever is coming in front of eyes) or focussed vision (if this is the correct term for seeing a particular object in front of us like a chair, a painting etc) if we try for gentle gazing in zazen?

    any ideas, please. thanks in advance.

    @Kenneth : sorry without your permission, i am asking my questions in your thread, but since the topic was same, so i thought of using your thread.

    Kenneth
  • @misecmisc1 said:> Also should the vision be peripheral vision (if this is the correct term for seeing the full-range of whatever is coming in front of eyes) or focussed vision (if this is the correct term for seeing a particular object in front of us like a chair, a painting etc) if we try for gentle gazing in zazen?

    Just rest your gaze and keep gently returning to the breath. Any of the sense bases can be distracting if your attention wanders.

  • howhow Veteran
    edited May 2015

    @misecmisc1

    Eye/ear/nose/tongue/body/mind.

    If your sight is blurring , in open eyed meditation, it is with intention.
    Resting your gaze (as SpinyNorman suggests) is simply allowing your eyes to take in the light no differently than
    your ears take in the sound vibrations or
    your nose takes in scent particles or
    your tongue contacts taste chemicals or
    your body detects feelings or
    your mind watches passing thoughts.

    If you direct your attention to any one specific sense gate, (like seeing) to the **exclusion **of the other sense gates, then you are participating in the same deliberate manipulation of the sense data that has made all of us subject to our own conditioned ignorance's.

    The job of your eyes in formal meditation is to simple see what is there,
    without searching for anything or blanking anything out.

    This means allowing them to perform their natural function of seeing whatever your gaze is resting upon.
    This is not so much of a thought dependent activity, than the physical allowing of your eyes to do their job free of our habituated mental fiddlings.

    You will find with practice, that if your vision goes blank, that it has only gone blank because something has directed your eye muscles to slightly overlap their sight field or to focus before or beyond whatever your eyes were resting upon. When you notice that happening, just directly return your eyes to their job of attending to seeing whatever they are naturally resting upon.

    It is the same with all of the other sense gates

    Our conditioning can initially make some of this feel like like we are trying to herd cats where as really all we are doing is allowing those cats to operate free of the leashes we keep trying to put on them.

    & finally.. a smile on your face for what you are doing , is not a bad way to go through a retreat..

    Kellymisecmisc1Kenneth
  • NeleNele Veteran

    I began meditating with eyes open (lids at halfmast, mouth slightly open) but blinking became very distracting. What I do now is start with eyes open, then when I'm suitably mindful, I close them and do away with the blinking distraction.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    When blinking is a distraction I almost close my eyes but don't. I look through my eye lashes. It may make things slightly out of focus but it keeps the eyes moist so blinking isn't necessary.

    At first it felt like I needed to blink but that's instinct. Once I ignored the instinct to blink I found I didn't need to.

    I notice blinking has become less noticeable as time goes on so I just have them about half open and when it gets blurry I just go with it.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Michael Caine deliberately trained himself to not blink. he maintains a quiet, long, persistent stare on the big screen can be more menacing than threatening dialogue....

  • @how said:> If you direct your attention to any one specific sense gate, (like seeing) to the **exclusion **of the other sense gates, then you are participating in the same deliberate manipulation of the sense data that has made all of us subject to our own conditioned ignorance's.

    But it does depend on the type of meditation one is doing. With some types of vipassana there is a deliberate focus on bodily sensation, and with samatha there is usually a focus on one object.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    I just let the eyes rest in a naturally open position. Not necessarily half closed or slightly closed and not necessarily open or wide open. Just whatever is most comfortable and natural. However my eyes come to rest, when I'm looking at an area on the floor about 3-4' in front of me, that's how I let them be. What I think is important with eyes is that you let them be in a position where you don't have to make any effort to keep them in that position. If you have to make some kind of effort to keep your eyes a certain way, that's going to distract you from the meditation object. If you are doing objectless meditation, it's also going to distract you and cause the meditation to stop being objectless because all your attention will go to your eyes. I think the best eye position is one that allows you to forget about what position your eyes are in while still keeping that position. However, if you are drowsy I don't think this would be good advice because the most natural and comfortable eye position when you are sleepy is closed! And if you are sleepy and you close your eyes, you're probably just going to fall asleep.

    misecmisc1
  • howhow Veteran
    edited May 2015

    @SpinyNorman
    But it does depend on the type of meditation one is doing. With some types of vipassana there is a deliberate focus on bodily sensation, and with samatha there is usually a focus on one object.

    Yes..My answer was only directed to the OP in this way because he specifically said he was going to be doing Zazen with his eyes open.

  • KennethKenneth Veteran

    After a few days of working with this for its own sake as opposed to it just being a drowsiness cure, I'm still finding it difficult to establish focus if I start the session eyes open. So I'm still starting eyes shut, then when I've settled down for a while I open my eyes. I'm assuming that like most skills, eyes closed meditation as the most direct example, it will get easier to start eyes open with time and practice. Fortunately, I'm not having any problems with blinking as a distraction as some have reported.

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