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Thread: Zazen Vision

  1. #1
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Zazen Vision

    When I sit, my vision kind of glazes over. I try to avoid this, but it is the most relaxed and natural feeling position for my gaze.

    As I stare at the wall, should I fix my gaze at a certain point and not let it glaze over? Should I close my eyes? Should I continue to let them glaze over (feels best)?

  2. #2

    Re: Zazen Vision

    Hello Amelia,

    I usually let mine relax and drift out of focus. If I'm really tired, though, I'll keep them focused, just to have that tension in the body to keep me up.

    Metta,

    Perry

  3. #3
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Vision

    Thanks, Perry

  4. #4

    Re: Zazen Vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    When I sit, my vision kind of glazes over. I try to avoid this, but it is the most relaxed and natural feeling position for my gaze.

    As I stare at the wall, should I fix my gaze at a certain point and not let it glaze over? Should I close my eyes? Should I continue to let them glaze over (feels best)?
    Hi Amelia,

    As far as I recall and notice (because I do not really pay attention to this during Zazen), I do not particularly let my vision go out of focus or "glaze over". I am not focused on one particular point to "hold fixated on", but rather, my eyes are about half open staring forward with normal vision ... perhaps, at a series of points ... looking at what I might term "everything and nothing in particular". In other words, vision is pretty normal, but I am not staring and fixated upon looking at any thing in particular. I am rather "staring out into space".

    I hope that is a good description, as the hour is late here (and that is making my eyes glaze over!).

    Gassho, J

  5. #5
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Vision

    I let my eyes relax, when i sit. But I still see clearly,just not kind of strain.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    As far as I recall and notice (because I do not really pay attention to this during Zazen), I do not particularly let my vision go out of focus or "glaze over".
    Though I asked this question this morning, it formed last night when I sat. This morning, during my sit, as I once again started fretting over my eyes, I realized suddenly that I am just supposed to let the looking/ staring/ gazing/ glazing be the looking/ staring/ gazing/ glazing. Though I have sat many times by now, I have never been fixated on or worried about my gaze. It is probably a passing distraction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I am not focused on one particular point to "hold fixated on", but rather, my eyes are about half open staring forward with normal vision ... perhaps, at a series of points ... looking at what I might term "everything and nothing in particular". In other words, vision is pretty normal, but I am not staring and fixated upon looking at any thing in particular. I am rather "staring out into space".
    After a while of sitting, sometimes my vision can start to look kind of like your avatar: black and gray and grainy with dashes of color. I just sit with it, though, because I find it pleasurable and kind of like staring at one of those 3D drawings with the picture hidden inside. There is a slight warping of the environment, and movement. In those times, I really do feel like I am "staring into space."

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I hope that is a good description, as the hour is late here (and that is making my eyes glaze over!).
    Thank you, Jundo! ...I hope you are having a good sleep by now!

  7. #7

    Re: Zazen Vision

    I find that LISTENING to my surroundings helps me more than watching the blank wall - when I focus on the wall, I constantly change my vision point, if I don't, I find myself drifting off - and yes! I have fallen asleep a few times! Oh - the panic of waking up while falling over!! Imagine the sight - grasping at nothing to right yourself - the pandemonium! Ha!

    -Jim

  8. #8
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Vision

    Good question, Amelia. I have the same issue and, like Jim, it sometimes leads to my falling asleep. Fortunately, during those times I tend to fall forward, and my knees prevent me from doing a face plant. The advice here gives me something to work on..... though the fact that I have to sit at the end of my day doesn't really help things in the tired department.

    gassho,
    Chris

  9. #9

    Re: Zazen Vision

    I find that keeping the eyes downward-- not focused, mind you, but just in the lower 50% field of vision-- helps as far as drowsiness goes. When my eyes go higher than that, there is an easy tendency for my eyes to keep edging up higher and higher-- and with my eyes already mostly closed, I can get quite drowsy.

    As long as I am mindful to keep my eyes more downward (not far down, and not focused on any one thing) it seems to help me somewhat.

    () josh

  10. #10

    Re: Zazen Vision

    Well, I hope Taigu will jump in on this one ... when he is done with his fire ceremonies in the mountains.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia

    Though I asked this question this morning, it formed last night when I sat. This morning, during my sit, as I once again started fretting over my eyes, I realized suddenly that I am just supposed to let the looking/ staring/ gazing/ glazing be the looking/ staring/ gazing/ glazing. Though I have sat many times by now, I have never been fixated on or worried about my gaze. It is probably a passing distraction.
    Truly, this may be one of those issues that is only a "problem" when the mind attaches to it and makes it an issue. Something like asking "what should I do with the tip of my nose" during Zazen, and simply because you suddenly start thinking about something you had not given attention before ... the "tip of the nose" starts itching and bothering you. Forget about it ... and then "WHAT's THE PROBLEM"?

    Quick research of the opinions of several teachers I respect shows ... advice ALL OVER THE PLACE on this issue. I believe that it may be one of the small, side points of Zazen that can vary from teacher to teacher without much import on the heart of the practice. Thus, for example, Josho Phelan writes ...
    In Zen meditation, we sit with our eyes open. This means that your eyes should not be wide open and they should not be closed, but somewhere in between. You shouldn't be staring at anything your eyes should be relaxed. The eyes can be softly focused or out of focus or somewhere in between. Basically, your eyes should be opened enough to allow some light in. The gaze of the eyes should looking downward at about a 45 degree angle so your gaze comes to the floor about 2-3 feet in front of you.
    http://www.intrex.net/chzg/posture.htm
    Brad has a nice post on the subject, quoting Nishijima Roshi ...

    It wasn’t until a couple years ago when I first heard Nishijima mention that the eyes should remain focused during Zazen that I gave the matter any thought at all. But when I did think about it, I noticed that when my eyes were unfocused, my practice was also unfocused, my body position was subtly out of whack and things needed re-adjusting.

    During our three-day retreat at the beginning of this month and during our usual one-day monthly micro-retreat last Saturday, I watched it happen again and again and again. Whenever the eyes went out of focus, the practice itself began to drift. With the eyes unfocused, the mind wanders and the posture shifts. Refocusing the eyes helped bring everything back to where it needed to be.
    http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2006/09 ... front.html
    Nishijima Roshi also says ...

    Q. During Zazen, how do you focus your eyes?

    A. I look at something at the place where my eyes are focused.

    Q. Sometimes I find my eyes going out of focus.

    A. In Zazen, looking at something clearly is nice. If we lose focus, it means our mind is a

    little sleepy or thinking something.

    Q. So we should be able to see clearly?

    A Yes.
    On the other hand, the Zen Center of Los Angeles (Maezumi Roshi's Lineage) has this in its Zazen instructions ...

    Keep your eyes slightly open, looking downward in the direction of the floor a few feet in front of you. Let them drift out of focus. If facing a wall, look downward at about a 45-degree angle, and let your eyes drift out of focus.
    So, I would say ... FORGET ABOUT IT! Just let the eyes do their eye thing ... and if you don't notice what they are doing, and don't feel a particular "problem" about it ... then, "WHERE'S THE PROBLEM?"

    HOWEVER ...

    ... our practice is about not fleeing into "other worldly" states, and is rather sitting with this world "as it is, with whatever it". In other words, if "other worldly" states or unusual experiences come ... let them come, but we usually just sit with the fantastic, wondrous miracle which is this ordinary world. This so-called 'ordinary world' is "totally other worldly, anything-but-ordinary astounding" when seen clearly!

    For that reason ... do not flee or seek for unusual or "3-D" or colorful ways of seeing, strange optical effects, psychodelic visions or the like. I would tend to keep the eyes open, and rather focused and clear ... even if just staring at the bare wall.

    I hope that makes things clearer, and brings some focus to the question. 8)

    Gassho, J

  11. #11

    Re: Zazen Vision

    Thank you for this. My eyes get blurry sometimes after zazen. Initially it really really bothered me but tgen I just learned to let go. But once in a while my eyes get on my nerves. I know it sounds silly lol

  12. #12
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Zazen Vision

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ...Josho Phelan writes ...

    http://www.intrex.net/chzg/posture.htm

    It is common for one's legs to fall asleep during zazen, but they should wake up in five or six seconds after they are uncrossed. If they remain numb for more than a few seconds, you are probably putting too much pressure on a nerve in your leg, and sitting closer to the edge of the cushion may relieve the pressure.
    I had this problem last night! It was funny trying to walk back and forth to the kitchen with numb legs... then they tingled terribly!

    http://www.intrex.net/chzg/posture.htm

    Experiment and see how different heights affect the relationship of your lower back to your upper back.
    Another thing that has distracted me is the sense that no matter how straight I sit, this relationship in my back seems to feel like it is strained. It's not painful, but it feels like I'm holding tension somewhere.

    http://www.intrex.net/chzg/posture.htm

    For most of us, the back should be upright with a sense of lengthening and extending the spine through the back and neck up through the top of your head, and the top of the head should be parallel to the ceiling, or, if you like, parallel to the sky. Sometimes people find it helpful to imagine or visualize a string coming down from the ceiling that attaches to the top of the back of their head like a puppet, which allows their shoulders and back muscles to relax and hang down from their spine. The point isn't to get the back into a well-aligned position and then go on to forget about it.
    I feel like I am doing this, and I wonder if the tension in my lower back is just my back getting used to more prolonged zazen?

    http://www.intrex.net/chzg/posture.htm

    ...Dogen Zenji, said, "if one's body is straight, one's mind is easily straightened too. If one sits keeping one's body upright, one's mind does not become dull....One must be aware when one's mind runs around in distraction, or when one's body leans or sways, and allow body and mind to return to sitting upright." We can practice mindfulness of our posture, or back, both in zazen and in daily activity.
    This is the stuff I usually end up practicing most... I'm not, of course, in complete control... but it is something that I am remembering to come back to more often... In fact it kind of drives me crazy. I sometimes get annoyed at how often I have to adjust my posture--for example, right now-- and sometimes I just stop doing it out of some need for rebellion... but then, you know, I straighten up again...

    http://www.intrex.net/chzg/posture.htm

    ...hold your teeth together. You might notice both in zazen and in daily activity the connection between having your teeth apart and your inner dialogue or your chattering mind. When the teeth are held together, the mind tends to stop talking. Even when the lips are together, if the lower jaw is dropped, our mouth, that place of talking, can easily start to move and generate mind chatter. So try to notice throughout the day: are your teeth together or not and what is your mind doing?
    Great advice, but I've read opposing views on this... dropping tension wherever one can vs. maintaining a "middle way" tension to keep a relaxed focus.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    ...if "other worldly" states or unusual experiences come ... let them come, but we usually just sit with the fantastic, wondrous miracle which is this ordinary world.
    I read about a priest who would always say something along the lines of "go sit" whenever one of his students talked avidly of visions or miracles. "Just see it and move on. It's all the same to me..." Something like that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    For that reason ... do not flee or seek for unusual or "3-D" or colorful ways of seeing, strange optical effects, psychodelic visions or the like. I would tend to keep the eyes open, and rather focused and clear ... even if just staring at the bare wall.
    I don't often go for it. It only happens once every three or four times. When it happens I just kind of go with it if my posture does not need to be adjusted. After reading these articles, I might readjust my vision next time this happens.

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