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Physical Practices

An exercise for broadening the visual field

Hi there, I thought people might be interested in this simple exercise for broadening awareness.  It comes from my physical practice and is adapted from martial arts with a buddhist influence.  But it is simple enough to do while sitting at the computer !

1. Calm the mind, so that it is like a still pool of water.
2. Look to the front while defocussing the eyes, (from budo "look at your opponent as you would look at a distant mountain.")
3. WIthout focussing or moving the eyes, practice putting your attention on the periphery of the visual field.
4. Then hold up your left hand, with one finger raised, about 30 cm in front of your eyes (don't focus on it - keep looking at the mountain).
5. Move your finger counterclockwise in a curve towards your left ear. Track it visually, but don't move your eyes.
6. Find the point at which you lose sight of the finger. At that point, move it back and forth, raise and lower additional fingers. Work out the limit of your visual field versus by perceiving movement in the fingers or counting the number of fingers being held upright.
7. Repeat 4-6 with the right hand, clockwise to the right ear.  Remember, don't move or focus your eyes.
8. Repeat using both hands simultaneously. Find the limits of your preception - try to get to near-180 degree visual awareness.
9. Then drop your hands. Add hearing and body sense to deepen awareness and fill in the whole sensory field, including behind you.
10. Sit or walk around enjoying this 360 degree perception. If you have some residual focus, push it up through the crown of the head so that it doesn't solidify in front of you.

You should then have mind like a pool of water, eyes like the moon, no narrative thought, and an intuitive awareness of the total field of perception. You might even get into a very lite jhana. It that doesn't work, then practice it for five minutes a day.  Soon you will be able to summon up this broad perceptual state without using the finger exercises.

If you wear glasses, take them off while you learn. They make it harder to defocus and the frame may block peripheral vision.