Meditating with eyes open or closed

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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Texafornia
Forum: Practical Dharma

I live 2 hours from any large city, so pretty much everything I've learned about Zen and such is from books and podcasts. I've been practicing for years, but only been to Austin Zen Center once.

At the AZC, I was told to focus with eyes half closed and looking at the ground a few feet in front of me. That's ok, but I seem to get a better session while closing my eyes and listening to the world around me.

What are some opinions on this?
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi there,

This actually came up recently in a PM conversation I had with another member of the community. I personally feel that both have their strong points. A good analogy to this would be the benefits of walking meditation vs. sitting meditation. I am usually about 50/50 split when it comes to which I am doing.

There are some things that I just don't think you can attain with eyes open, such as early path Fruition or Nirodha Samapatti. Similarly, many states or stages can feel very different depending upon whether one has their eyes open or closed, which can make things confusing when trying to sort out what is what. Try just going with what feels "right" in the moment, possibly using the one makes your mind "react" the most. A mindset of gentle curiosity is good here.

One subtle thing that may be going on is that you may have a propensity toward investigation through certain sense doors vs others. In this case, you may have an easier time with sound rather than vision. Thus, if your eyes are open, they are probably the dominant field of attention and incidentally block out what you are naturally better at investigating (sounds). There are a lot of potential variables at play there, but hopefully this gives you a good idea of what I mean.

An important thing to recognize here is that these distinctions (open eye, closed eye; vision sense, hearing sense) are relatively arbitrary as far as "ultimate reality" is concerned, so just try to work with what seems to work best for you in each meditative session.

Trent
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: IanThreadgill

One small aside: if, as I have had sometimes, there is difficulty or tension involved with closing the eyes, a "mindfold" can be very useful.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
With eyes open, ideally you would be looking "through" the spot you choose, or using a "soft gaze."

Zazen form provides many opportunities for noticing: visual sensation with eyes partially open, amount of effort found in holding thumb tips together in cupped hands, holding attention just below belly button, counting breath, tongue tip touching back of front teeth, erect posture, solid seat, etc. I don't progress in my seat until I have grounded in these points of awareness, and I inevitably come back to them at some points.

All these points of form help to notice the quality of mind, the sticking points, the differentiation ... it provides lots of “unsticking" practice. It’s hard work. Zazen is normally a refreshing experience, but I wouldn’t describe it as relaxing.

Regarding the eyes open, when I’m grounded in the form of zazen, I notice that, while I can see light, and that movement in front of me would not go unnoticed, I am not “seeing”, nor am I distracted by visual sensation (it took lots of “unsticking practice” to get there). The direction of my gaze settles just above the the bottom of my top eyelid; I note the light coming in, but I'm not "looking at" it. When I’m even deeper into the practice, this business with the eyes is all there, and I could access it, but I don't. And, as it progresses from there, I encounter difficulty saying anything more coherent about it than simply a couple of vowels and soft consonants. :-)

When I want a different kind of experience, I turn to vipassana (compassionate being now, eyes closed), yoga (celebratory unification of mind and body, eyes mostly closed), or shamanic journeying (reveling in story, eyes mega closed).
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: ccasey

What helps you to concentrate more? If you feel better and more able to concentrate with eyes closed, do it.
Make sense?
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: JamesAlexander

I have found that keeping the eyes slightly open and a bit dazed helps in terms of resting in "bare attention". However, when it comes to concentration practice, with the breath as object, I seem to get more absorbed if I have my eyes closed.

In Norwegian we say: "Ja takk begge deler", meaning "I would like both please".
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
One little thing regarding first path stream entry attainment and Trent's comment, the three moments that lead to fruition can definitely happen eyes open, and once those moments have happened, the eyes will flutter closed on their own, so eyes open meditation works fine for getting stream entry. Really, it is not so much the objects as the quality of mindfulness, attention, inclusion, precision, breadth and investigation that we bring to them.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
actually i got both first path and second path with my eyes open and i dont even remember blinking with first path moment, though not to say it definitely didn't happen. while subsequent fruitions have involved blinking, yes, they sometimes came when i was going about my every day life - with eyes open until right before the cessation where they close like a reflex
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Meditating with eyes open or closed

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Dan & Tarin,

Awesome, good to know. [Edit] Now that I think about it, I've had some experiences that fit into that more so than I had thought before. I was writing them off as various other things because of the vary belief I demonstrated above. How...enlightening ;]. I had what must of been a ridiculous "tearing away" fruition while eating at a pizza buffet. I nearly went to a hospital due to the thought "holy hell, maybe I just had a stroke." Haha, friggin evil pizza.

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