Experiencing saccade

Mark, modified 3 Months ago.

Experiencing saccade

Posts: 550 Join Date: 7/24/14 Recent Posts
It has been a while since posting here, and I have fond memories of this forum, it is sad to see the hacking issue. I came across a number of claims, in cognitive science, regarding the impossibility of experiencing eye ssaccades (they are controllable e.g. focusing on a target). I thought this would be the place to ask: does anyone know of reports about the visual experience of the saccade? Personally I have never had a visual eperience associated with the saccade - but I have not played around with the visual sense to the extent that many of you have! Thanks for any pointers.
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Tommy M, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 108 Join Date: 12/1/20 Recent Posts
If I'm understanding the term correctly, then saccades could be considered (dharma-wise) as being the habitual patterns/mechanisms unique to image-forming visual systems. They can be thought of as being evolutionary functions, rooted in threat-detection etc.

You can experience them with open-eyed concentration practices, such as fire kasinas or anything that involves continually 'sticking' attention to the object of focus for extended periods.

Once some stability of attention has been achieved, the practice moves to letting go of the habit of "looking for" something and simply leaving the eyes to do what the eyes were meant to do. As we progress, more and more orders of clinging are released and non-dual awareness arises where there are no distinctions between the sense doors any more. In practice, this doesn't mean that we stop seeing/sensing but the identification of a seer/one-who-senses dissolves, leaving, in the words of the Buddha, "in the seeing, only the seen; in the hearing, only what is heard.." and so forth. 

For an example of this in action, look at images of Tibetan yogis sitting with open eyes while abiding in the natural state.

As you practice in this way and maintain fixed attention on the object of focus, awareness is freed from the senses and they simply continue to do what the naturally do, i.e. the eyes continue to see, the ears continue to hear, etc etc in the absence of one-who-sees/hears/etc.

It gets a little hard to describe beyond this due to moving into non-conceptuality, but as awareness is gradually freed from the body and its sense doors, the visual field blurs somewhat and very small movements of the focusing/image-forming functions can be observed. Sometimes, depending on how strong our control-of-attention is, attention can pull back to and re-engage with the visual field when these distortions occur. The trick is to learn to continually release them into deep awareness and basically leave the bodymind (which is not "I") to do what it does naturally.

What you can notice are these very subtle fluctuations in focus, almost like expansions and contractions of something in the visual field itself. In actuality, these are the habitual patterns executing automatically, but we're not normally consciously aware of them. It's possible to become aware of them if we engage in mindfulness and start to watch how attention moves around, sticks to things and then focuses itself either more narrowly or more widely.

I'm not remotely qualified or knowledgable enough to talk about it on a scientific level, but from a yogic perspective it's a very interesting and worthwhile practice if you feel drawn to it.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Tommy M:
If I'm understanding the term correctly, then saccades could be considered (dharma-wise) as being the habitual patterns/mechanisms unique to image-forming visual systems. They can be thought of as being evolutionary functions, rooted in threat-detection etc.

You can experience them with open-eyed concentration practices, such as fire kasinas or anything that involves continually 'sticking' attention to the object of focus for extended periods.

Once some stability of attention has been achieved, the practice moves to letting go of the habit of "looking for" something and simply leaving the eyes to do what the eyes were meant to do. As we progress, more and more orders of clinging are released and non-dual awareness arises where there are no distinctions between the sense doors any more. In practice, this doesn't mean that we stop seeing/sensing but the identification of a seer/one-who-senses dissolves, leaving, in the words of the Buddha, "in the seeing, only the seen; in the hearing, only what is heard.." and so forth. 

For an example of this in action, look at images of Tibetan yogis sitting with open eyes while abiding in the natural state.

As you practice in this way and maintain fixed attention on the object of focus, awareness is freed from the senses and they simply continue to do what the naturally do, i.e. the eyes continue to see, the ears continue to hear, etc etc in the absence of one-who-sees/hears/etc.

It gets a little hard to describe beyond this due to moving into non-conceptuality, but as awareness is gradually freed from the body and its sense doors, the visual field blurs somewhat and very small movements of the focusing/image-forming functions can be observed. Sometimes, depending on how strong our control-of-attention is, attention can pull back to and re-engage with the visual field when these distortions occur. The trick is to learn to continually release them into deep awareness and basically leave the bodymind (which is not "I") to do what it does naturally.

What you can notice are these very subtle fluctuations in focus, almost like expansions and contractions of something in the visual field itself. In actuality, these are the habitual patterns executing automatically, but we're not normally consciously aware of them. It's possible to become aware of them if we engage in mindfulness and start to watch how attention moves around, sticks to things and then focuses itself either more narrowly or more widely.

I'm not remotely qualified or knowledgable enough to talk about it on a scientific level, but from a yogic perspective it's a very interesting and worthwhile practice if you feel drawn to it.
Thanks for this great post! This clarifies some of what has been bugging me lately, as to what happens to sensory experience when flipping over to non-dual awareness. I'm curious about what this freeing of awareness from the senses really is, but regardless, I have tasted how it feels. So I guess what I need to do is learn to release... them... What "them" are we talking about? The sense consciousnesses? I notice them sneaking out from my body and sense organs, but somehow they seem attached with a string that pulls them back. How do I do to let the awareness leave the mindbody? Are you saying that letting go of the impulses to check in with the senses is the way to go? If so, I'm doing the right kind of practice right now, and now I know exactly what to... not... look for. It's really very simple - which is not the same as easy. But it's possible! I do notice these things. It's those little things that are keeping awareness hostage? Wow. Of course!

This thread was exactly what I needed right now. Thankyou thankyou thankyou! 
Mark, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 550 Join Date: 7/24/14 Recent Posts
Hi D,

The link you posted is the definition I wanted. The link did not work for me, I will repeat it here for others: https://eyewiki.aao.org/Saccade 

As I recall the fovea is an area of the retina where we have detailed visual information, it is about 2deg of the visual field, the saccade is an unconcious (well, normally) scanning of the eye over the visual field to pick up details. We can control the saccade to some extent with attending to something particular but we are not normally aware of the continual motion of the eyes as they saccade.

I think the panoramic state you refer to might be closer to a ceassation of the saccading, which in itself is an interesting possibility. I was wondering whether we can become conscious of the very rapid movements. I guess it would be a terrible experience because the visual field would lose its stability. It might be like a badly filmed video captured while someone is running. 

Thanks for your interest.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Is it possible not be aware of them at all, while trying to keep your gaze steady? emoticon Normally wired people are weird... no offense. Weird is a compliment. 

I love getting into the panoramic state where it calms down. It is such a relief. 
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 3784 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Go to the mirror and look directly at your eyes, holding your gaze right there - watch them closely over a period of time. Do you see them move?
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I didn't say that I can see it. I can sense the movements. Can't you?
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 3784 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
I didn't say that I can see it. I can sense the movements. Can't you?

I can feel eye muscles moving. That's about it. I haven't spent a lot of time analyzing this particular phenomenon, so I bow to those who have. This is another of those curiosities we come across that validates the fact that most people don't really investigate how their senses and mind work. All those habits and assumptions, you know. It's also another of those places where science and practice intersect as there appear to be a lot of scientific studies on saccade, like 
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7678392/ (Lots of references to various studies behind that link, too.)
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Yes, it really seems like a lot of people do not investigate that. I just keep being surprised, but I guess most people don't really feel the need. I'm curious about that stuff, like really fascinated. It's also the case that in so many ways my mind and my senses function differently from the majority due to neurodivergent wiring, so I have had to figure out a lot of this stuff to work around the differences. If not I would have crashed and burned out even more times than I already have. 

I actually originally thought that it was some kind of personal quirk that made it impossible for me to fokus my gaze long enough on one point (I even sought medical care for it once, embarrassingly enough, with en eye specialist who had done research on latent squinting). Since then I have noticed that opticians tend to count on that happening if you talk about it while doing eye examinations, so apparently they know and it's a universal thing. Then many years later, after being really annoyed by this in meditation, I stumbled into having my eyes relax on their own thanks to vipassana jhanas. I was so relieved. I remember the satisfaction of having images just present themselves without having to do anything about it, and I started to play with it in daily life too. It hasn't been consistently available, but this thread reminded me of how to do it, technically. Most pointers I have received, including the ones I have come up with myself, rely on being able to just relax and unfocus the eye muscles in just the right way and tune into that spaciousness. That works well when it's accessible, but in those phases when I'm drawn into identifying with stuff, it's too abstract for me. At those times I have a hard time remembering or imagining the spaciousness and the relaxed feeling. Identifying the movements is so much easier. So instead of trying to shift into some other state, which I can't pinpoint when I need it the most, I can just let go of doing that annoying thing that I'm doing. I don't have any difficulties whatsoever to identify that. Now I do feel a bit stupid for forgetting that possibility, but that's probably just very human. 

So yes, we can practice to be conscious of these eye movements. Being conscious of them is annoying as f-ck, but apparently also very helpful.

I am working on a reply in my new thread inspired by this thread, by the way. I appreciate Tommy's post there very much. It was exactly what I needed. 
Mark, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 550 Join Date: 7/24/14 Recent Posts
Hi Chris, it does seem to get a lot of attention. It seems to be often used as an example of an experience that cannot become conscious - so I was very curious to ask the question here. I'm glad to see the topic was relevant. Thanks.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
It's a common assumption that you can't be conscious of being in dreamless sleep either, but you really can. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
And there is a pulsing to the focus and sometimes I see a little trembling of the retina just before the eye in the mirror is smeared out for the fraction of a second. 

So it's quite noticable as a phenomenon, even though the visuals are probably off for the main part of it.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
It has been bothering me that it is impossible to keep the gaze steady, unless you're in the panoramic state. I can't control getting into that, and it wasn't that long ago that I didn't even know that such a state existed. I just knew that for some very annoying reason it was just impossible for me to keep my gaze entirely steady. There would be those little micromovements that kept me from seeing clearly, and the separation hurt. The object was unreachable. I used to find that very painful. 
genaro, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Experiencing saccade

Posts: 43 Join Date: 11/23/19 Recent Posts
not sure if this is exactly what you mean, AFAICS saccades are all about scanning accross a view and stabilising the eyeballs long enough to get a usable image, which then gets morphed into a composite mental picture, and we don't normally notice this as we view the composite not the raw frames

from time to time i do notice (when i change my focus on the out-there, or switch from introspection to external) that there's a filling-in process or event where some part of my visual field goes from blank/blurred to detailed. (or sometimes i can see some new object appearing from nowhere, i have jumped in response!). it's a bit like a tiled image on a computer displaying slowly due to a slow internet connection, but it all happens very quickly. I expect this happens to most people but they just filter it out of awareness.

or maybe you mean experiencing visuals during the saccade? - you would not see much as there would only be a blur on the retina, it takes a finite time to kick that visual purple stuff and if the image is not stable then it will just be a washout??? (i guess, i'm not a retinal specialist)
i guess the brain could be trained to do this, but surely it would be like having gloop smeared accross your glasses, so why bother??  (the previous paragraph is a visual experience associatied with a saccade but not of one directly i guess).