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Thread: Meditation Question.

  1. #1

    Meditation Question.

    Really short simple question and kinda feel dumb asking it ops: , but...here it goes.

    The Soto-zen.net sez this:

    Keep your eyes slightly open. Cast them downward at about a 45-degree angle. Without focusing on any particular thing, let everything have its place in your field of vision. If your eyes are closed, you will easily drift into drowsiness or daydreaming.


    Soooooo.... Should I only "stare" at one fixed point w/o letting my eyes wander or can I let my eyes wander w/i that "45-degree angle" range? :| :?:

  2. #2
    Stephanie
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    Re: Meditation Question.

    I think you're alright as long as they don't fall out of your head :shock:

  3. #3

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I think you're alright as long as they don't fall out of your head :shock:
    :mrgreen:

  4. #4

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    Should I only "stare" at one fixed point w/o letting my eyes wander or can I let my eyes wander w/i that "45-degree angle" range? :| :?:
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    I think you're alright as long as they don't fall out of your head :shock:
    Hi Erik,

    First, Stephanie is quite correct. Of course, Dogen has described true Zazen as "gouging out the eyeballs of the Buddhas and Ancestors and sitting in Zazen with their eyeballs". [Shobogenzo Zammai Ozammai] . That's quite the image! Perfect for a Roky Erickson Video.

    Second, I say that our eyes are focused (meaning, not fuzzed over, or crossed, or "out of focus" in that way), but we are looking at everything and nothing. Yes, they will wander around sometimes, or rest on a single point sometimes. But we do not let the mind become tangled in a chain of thoughts by that.

    For example, if the mind rests on a spot of dirt on the wall, we do not then say to ourselves mentally "Ah, a spot. The shape of that spot looks a little like a dog. I like dogs. I had better go walk the dog. I will walk the dog to the store and buy dog food." Nor do we say, "The wall is dirty, I had better clean the wall. How did the wall get so dirty? I need to paint the wall.". The eyes and mind just rest on the spot without categorizing or getting drawn into thought ... without judging. They might see the spot, or the whole wall, or nothing at all.

    They may stay there for a time, or they might naturally wander. Like a butterfly among the treeleaves.

    Did that help?

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: Meditation Question.

    yes it really did help.... i sometimes notice that my eyes focus on something and i just relax them and let them be focused but at nothing in particular. but i guess it is still judging and trying to control.
    i see now i should just let go.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Meditation Question.

    As much as I try, I simply can't do this. I have amblyopia (also called "lazy eye". My right eye barely sees, as a result of its being out of alignment. But if I let my eyes relax too much, I start seeing double (well, a sort of ghost coming from the right eye). When I sit with my eyes open, if I relax, I see double, or to see not-double, I have to not-relax. Any ideas?

    Kirk

  7. #7

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    As much as I try, I simply can't do this. I have amblyopia (also called "lazy eye". My right eye barely sees, as a result of its being out of alignment. But if I let my eyes relax too much, I start seeing double (well, a sort of ghost coming from the right eye). When I sit with my eyes open, if I relax, I see double, or to see not-double, I have to not-relax. Any ideas?

    Kirk
    Hmmm. Interesting question.

    How about, in this case, you focus on one spot ... but don't think about it as "one spot" or "not one spot". Keep you eyes focused on the spot, but still see "everything and nothing". Would that help your condition? So, keep your eyes a little relaxed but not too much to start seeing double.

  8. #8
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Meditation Question.

    Yes, I've tried that, and, curiously, it works much better when I'm outdoors (such as sitting on pack benches). But I'm still aware of focusing on that spot no matter what I do.

    However, when I keep my eyes closed, I have no problems at all.

    It sucks to be physically screwed up sometimes...

    Kirk

  9. #9
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Meditation Question.

    I was just in the shower - a great place to think - and I realized that it might help to elaborate so Jundo can better understand my problem.

    Amblyopia occurs when your eyes are misaligned, and the brain favors the stronger eye to prevent you from seeing double. In my case, the misalignment is too small to operate; in any case, it's been that way since I was little. It was discovered when I was about 6.

    So, when I meditate with my eyes open, two things happen. The first is that my brain turns _on_ the bad eye. Normally, I only see peripherally from that eye; the rest is a "blind spot", which is just the brain turning off parts of the vision center to not process the center of what I see so I don't get double vision. But sometimes when sitting with my eyes open, that blind spot awakens, and I can see it; it is like a gray TV screen with static, and is disturbing. At other times, I see double, but just slightly; I'll see ghosts of images. Since I - believe it or not - don't have any bare walls in the area where I sit, I do have "things" that I see, even when trying to not see. So while I've often tried to sit eyes-open, I find that I can't really do it well; my vision is too distracting.

    I know we're not supposed to sit eyes-closed, but is it that bad if I do?

    Kirk

  10. #10

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I know we're not supposed to sit eyes-closed, but is it that bad if I do?
    I seen various video purporting to be Zen Buddhist meditation videos and most state that the main issue is you may fall asleep. :|

  11. #11
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Meditation Question.

    Yet I've _never_ fallen asleep when sitting...

    Kirk

  12. #12

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista

    They may stay there for a time, or they might naturally wander. Like a butterfly among the treeleaves.

    Did that help?
    I guess my concern arises from that the fact that up to now (in my Sloppy Zen™ way), I'll keep my eyes consciously set on one spot. Of course, this gives rise to two general thoughts at minute 5 of meditation :P :

    a) "OK....I am staring at this one spot.....Stop thinking that!"

    or

    b) "Oh-oh! My eyes and mind want to check out different spots to look at! Bring back eyes to focus! Bring back eyes to focus!"

    Unfortunately, this creates too much "mind chatter."

    But. Yes. Your advice does clarify a lot.

  13. #13

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Kirk i know it might sound like a pointless question but have you tried a treatment that is not surgical?

    usually it involves closing the good eye so the brain might learn to use the bad eye.

  14. #14
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Meditation Question.

    Yes, I've tried a number of things, including, recently, vision therapy. I saw a neuro-ophthalmologist who said that, given my age, it's impossible to do anything. Covering the good eye is what I did when I was six; even then it was too late.

    Kirk

  15. #15

    Re: Meditation Question.

    well i dont know what to tell you. my knowledge of ophthalmology goes only so far...

    i guess you should find what works for you and stick with it. maybe even sit with your eyes closed. i know we are supposed to sit with our eyes open but i think it is a trivial matter as long as you dont fall asleep and it doesnt impact your practice in anyway.

  16. #16

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Hi Kirk,

    Well, the issue is not only about falling asleep. It is also about not closing off the world (which, after all, is not apart from us), being open and aware. So, it is best to keep the eyes open.

    However, I have come across two Soto teachers recently who allow closed eyes sometimes for very experienced practitioners (I know "Big Mind" Genpo sometimes does. I am trying to recall the other. It truly is uncommon.). So, I will make a special (partial) exception in your case, given your condition.

    However However, I would like to ask you to mix the two, and do open your eyes sometimes (maybe half the time). My reason is the following statements:

    it is like a gray TV screen with static, and is disturbing. ... So while I've often tried to sit eyes-open, I find that I can't really do it well; my vision is too distracting.

    "Disturbing" "well" and "distracting" are mental judgments and reactions to the event. It maybe is no different from sitting with a bit of noise outside or a fly that is buzzing around. It depends on the degree, perhaps, of the disturbance. I want you to sit with your eyes open half of the time, and ask yourself (in a Zen, non-asking way) how much of your judgment of "disturbing/well/distracting" is but your mind reaching those conclusions.

    Then, try dropping all idea of "disturbing/well/distracting", and "just sit" with the static and fuzz.

    Let me know how that works after trying it a few times.

    Gassho, Jundo

  17. #17

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Cyber-Hojo-san said

    Second, I say that our eyes are focused (meaning, not fuzzed over, or crossed, or "out of focus" in that way), but we are looking at everything and nothing. Yes, they will wander around sometimes, or rest on a single point sometimes. But we do not let the mind become tangled in a chain of thoughts by that.
    I have a question: what is intrinsically wrong with having eyes out of focus? I think that is preferable to closing them in the same way that sitting seiza is preferable to sitting on a chair: none is optimal, but it is always better to do the best we can.

    Consider this: for hundreds of years, before eyeglasses became a thing for the commoners, thousands of practicioners sat (and lived) without the benefit of a "focused" sight. I bet you money that not all buddhas and patriarchs had 20/20 vision. You don't need focus, but a little bit of light will keep the reticular activating system in the brainstem going.

    I've sat with and without my glasses, with focus and unfocused vision, and I'm unable to tell the difference. Yes, the vision stays unfocused for a little while but that is exactly the same as having a numb leg: reversible and innocuous.

    What do you think about this?

    Gassho

  18. #18
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Let me know how that works after trying it a few times.
    OK. I'll try this for a while and see what happens.

    Kirk

  19. #19

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi Kirk,

    Well, the issue is not only about falling asleep. It is also about not closing off the world (which, after all, is not apart from us), being open and aware. So, it is best to keep the eyes open.
    For reference, this is one source where I got the answer reg. "closing the eyes" during meditation:

    How to Do Zazen from Soto-Zen.net

    Keep your eyes slightly open. Cast them downward at about a 45-degree angle. Without focusing on any particular thing, let everything have its place in your field of vision. If your eyes are closed, you will easily drift into drowsiness or daydreaming.

  20. #20

    Re: Meditation Question.

    To recapitulate, no problem then with letting eyes wander w/i the angle range? :| :?:

  21. #21

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alberto

    I have a question: what is intrinsically wrong with having eyes out of focus? I think that is preferable to closing them in the same way that sitting seiza is preferable to sitting on a chair: none is optimal, but it is always better to do the best we can.
    ...
    I've sat with and without my glasses, with focus and unfocused vision, and I'm unable to tell the difference. Yes, the vision stays unfocused for a little while but that is exactly the same as having a numb leg: reversible and innocuous.

    What do you think about this?

    Gassho
    Hi Alberto,

    No, nothing wrong with having one's glasses off (some folks sit with them perched on the nose, while some folks find glasses annoying. I sit both ways, glasses off or on). It is more a matter of not finding what is in our vision to be disturbing, and that is something apart from whether our eyes are focused or not, more a matter of our judgments and mental reactions. Focused is not ultimately better or worse than unfocused. Either way is fine.

    However, I have heard from folks who are so intent on not staring at anything that their vision crosses, they try not to blink and allow the eyes to go dry (or they let the eyes get all teary), they think it better that the eyes are out of focus than in focus, they get dizzy. That is not it. As with our breathing (which in Shikantaza practice, we allow to find its own natural rhythm without extremes), we let the eyes find their natural place and focus.

    Also, our philosophy of "in the world yet seeing through the world" means we should keep our eyes clear and focused as much as we can. We see everything and nothing, without judgment or categorization.

    Erik, yes, the eyes may wander within the angle range (by the way, 45 degrees is a suggestion too ... not a hard and fast rule. It is not that 44 degrees is delusion, but 45 degrees is enlightenment! :wink: )

    Does that help? Here is Nishijima Roshi's first teacher, "Homeless" Kodo:


  22. #22

    Re: Meditation Question.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Erik, yes, the eyes may wander within the angle range (by the way, 45 degrees is a suggestion too ... not a hard and fast rule. It is not the 44 degrees is delusion, but 45 degrees is enlightenment! :wink: )
    Thanks!

    I was going to hire these guys to measure my 45 degree angle:



    Thanks for all the help. It really has clarified my main question. Gassho.

  23. #23
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Meditation Question.

    Kirk,
    I may have a solution for you. What about an eye patch used just during zazen? This would seem to adhere to the spirit of keeping eyes open but still allow you to not be so distracted by the unusual vision issues. However, Jundo's point about needing to learn to not be bothered by your vision issues is a good one, so maybe you don't use the patch all the time, or maybe you occasionally switch the eye patch between your good and not so good eye. Just a thought.

    AL

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