Do you have your eyes open or closed when you meditate?
Do you have your eyes open or closed when you meditate?
My eyes are half open when I sit zazen. It's easier to be aware of the present moment. To be here. If our eyes are closed, it can be easier to slip away into the void of thoughts and images; IMO.
Normally in our tradition, we have our eyes open. Not fully opened, but sort of relaxed, half opened. I used to have my eyes open as well, but paradoxically I got very, very sleepy, so I had to close them. Now I have a problem that I constantly get a feeling that I'm levitating. So it's either eyes opened = falling asleep, or eyes closed = levitating. I don't know which one is worse .Originally Posted by Ola Nelsson
I started eyes-closed. I have recently begun experimenting with eyes-relaxed-open. Oftentimes, I forget to try the latter.
I find that I am more easily entertained by my thoughts when my eyes are closed.
I started with my eyes closed too. But started sitting with eyes open after I got some better instruction in Zazen. I suspect that my first experiences of what I called 'samadhi' was just me getting drowsy and dozing off...
It is far easier to stay focused and attentive with the eyes open and at least I am less prone to hallucinate. I'm embarrased to admit that I miss some of those experiences... ops:
For beginners open eyes are always recommended for a reason.
On the other hand, we are told to let a short breath be short and a long breath be long. Shouldn't we also let the open eyes be open and the closed eyes closed? :wink:
I have a hard time with the half-closed eyes. Stuck in that halfway state, my eyelids feel heavier and heavier like they want to close and allow me to doze off (a feeling I don't get at all when my eyes are closed). So I will tend to go through all the variations during a sit: Closed, half-closed, and wide open. I honestly don't think about it much, and just let my eyes do what they seem to want to naturally do.
I have taken to sitting in front of a plain white wall. This helps avoid the natural tendency to focus on an object, but it leaves my back to the camera in the sitting hall which sometimes I worry is a little rude. I know the white wall is traditional in Soto Zen, but I would be curious as to what others do. Staring out into the room? At the floor? Facing an altar?
When I began meditating years back I'd sit in a dark room and focus on the flickering of a candle. Very relaxing, but not very Zazen at all.
Hello Pontus,Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
As I recall, the Rev. Trevor on thebigoldoaktree.blogspot.com posted, some time ago, an article from a venerable old monk (possibly the Rev. Suzuki), saying that it was acceptable for veteran sitters (meaning those who had been sitting for 50+ years) to close their eyes. For the rest of us, eyes open!
I have no eyes when I sit...but am all eyes at the same time.
Haha, just kidding, just a futile attempt at being zen-nie. :twisted:
Honestly though I go with the flow. I normally try to have them partly open but don't force it one way or another.
One thing I can say for sure, they are definitely closed when I fall asleep. :shock:
I keep my eyes open looking downward about 2 - 3 feet in front of me. I think Dogen said something that we don't close our eyes because we do not want to exclude teh outside world... Outside and Inside are all the same. Something like that; and I may be mis-stating it. But I definitely find it easier to get lost in thought when my eyes are closed.
Oh my God! see a doctor!Originally Posted by shards
NOT funny.Originally Posted by shards
How can we trust you now?Originally Posted by shards
How can you trust yourself even?Originally Posted by shards
This is too much fun. Maybe I should lose my password.
But Shards did have the best answer.
Keep your eyes open during zazen. Otherwise you might miss enlightenment. 8)
Keep your eyes closed during sleep. Otherwise you might miss the dream.
Eyes shoukd be kept open during sitting. Just open, slighly. Not fixing. Not focused. This is what we call the gaze on the distant mountains. As we see without watching, we perceive everything, invite everything. You may sometimes close your eyes when you are a well seasoned sitter but then, you have to practice like Kannon and pay attention to what you hear, that will help you to keep your balance and not fall asleep.
Sitting towards a wall, eyes half open,
still, i can dream pretty well of what I did
and will do. Eyes fully open, feels like
waking up, but I go back to half open
soon as I feel a bit more awake
ps.: my mind found a thousand things on that wall,
bugs and ants, buddha, naked woman (I'm a man ...),
a jumpinkg monk, a ugly face which turned out to
be the most characterfull I've ever dreamt of...
I mostly sit with my eyes closed, because thatīs how Iīve got used to doing since I began to practice. I donīt get carried away that much by thoughts or images etc or sleepy. And for me through both experience and logic itīs more likely that I get more distracted when sitting with eyes open.
Have you seen a musician or a sportsman just a moment before performance closing their eyes for a moment to regain some inner focus, some musicians even prefer keeping their eyes closed through most of the act. Why is that? Probably to keep less obstructions from being there to cause distractions. So I donīt see why one would get more distracted when having oneīs eyes closed, one is clearly having less to focus on, and the other way around when having eyes open there is more "things" to distract you. Thatīs what I experience when sitting, I feel my body sitting, some emotions, sounds playing, thoughts and images passing, and thatīs that, not so much to grab you. Adding sight could easily shake that up, having more to keep track of.
On the other hand, sometimes I do sit with eyes open and Iīm working on that, cause it takes some getting used to. And I trust my teachers when they recommend having open eyes. Understanding that one is not to keep out the "outside" world, but then again we donīt look around when we sit, so why not just close them. Itīs more comfortable at least for me, a bit puzzled by it.
Another thing, Iīve heard from somewhere that one is to keep eyes open so that the light will keep one from falling asleep, but Iīve never experienced it as having such an effect.
Thank you Janne H, it is very important to keep your eyes open as much as possible. It sounds like a paradox, but with closed eyes there is much more to deal with for you give more power to feelings and inner images. Eyes softly and gently open balance naturally the so called outside and inside until the very frontier fades away.
Thank you for your trust and practice.
Originally Posted by TaiguIf I sit with eyes open I am much more likely to get sleepy or feel like I am going to fall over, find an imperfection in the wall that grabs my attention, or get totally lost in thoughts (sometimes overwhelming) that leave me anywhere but the present moment. When my eyes are closed I do not see images or shapes of any kind, only black. And in many ways the "blackness" is uncomfortable for me since I do not like to be in a pitch black room, always looking for some marker to gauge where I am. When I close my eyes thoughts drift in and out, but I don't tend to feel so bombarded with stiumli as I do with eyes open.Originally Posted by Taigu
Given these things, would you still recommend I sit with eyes open?
Yes Dosho, I would still recommand you sit with eyes open. You mention a problem of balance, did you have your eyes checked? But, unless, there is nothing wrong on a physical level, eyes should remain open. Soften your gaze, don't fix and experiment. A lot of our pratcice is to experiment.
Taigu,Originally Posted by Taigu
I've had my eyes checked every other year and glasses prescribed since I was 3 (astigmatism), but that time is soon so I will mention it to the doctor. Eyes open is very difficult for me, but I am sure there are many reasons beyond my discomfort to practice in such a manner. Thank you sensei.
When I started sitting with my eyes open, it took me about a month of daily sitting to get more or less used to it. I still close my eyes when doing the Insta-Zazen(TM) in a crowded place, but on the Zafu, I now prefer to keep my eyes open. As Taigu Sensei says, there's more to deal with with the eyes closed (even in my limited experience) and I still miss those powerful images and feelings I got back then. Which means losing them was a good idea!
While sitting this morning I began to focus on the Buddha's feet in front of me. Realizing this I 'glossed over' my gaze and made it somehow more hazy, whereby the weight of the universe pressed down on my lids and forced them shut. Still awake (although admittedly teetering on the brink of dozing off, as 5am is meant for sleeping), I began to hear my wife's voice on her conference call, my daughter coughing upstairs in her bed, birds outside, the coffee pot hissing, cars outside heading to work and a clock upstairs. So in the end, I suppose it seems that either way, open or shut, my mind finds focal points. Not fighting them either way seems to be the best way to calm the waters of my mind.
The waters of my mind gives meaning to " go with the flow"
Many years ago I was taught that if you close your eyes it is like setting up the minds projection screen ready for all the lovely daydreams and wanderings of the mind. Open, only reality can get in.
How true this may be I do not know, I do know that if I try to meditate with eyes shut, I fall asleep ops:
That's why I asked Taigu about it since I tend to daydream and doze off only when my eyes are open!Originally Posted by Onshin
Im an Eyes relaxed and slightly open kind of guy. An interesting thing Brad Warner mentioned when asked about the focus of the eyes during Zazen was how he would put a pencil dot on the wall and stare at it. This helps me also, because If i don't i find that a 30 minute sitting of unfixed gaze can lead to bLuRRy vision for a while after.
Thanks for the question.
Well, as I say when this subject comes up, I personally am not staring fixedly at a "point" or a dot ... nor am I staring so unfocused that my eyes go blurry. I describe it as "staring at everything and nothing in particular". My eyes take in the room quiet naturally, but I do not latch onto anything particular I am seeing. "Staring wide eyed into space" may be a good description. Maybe it just wander from point to point to point quite naturally.Originally Posted by JRBrisson
I do not see particular harm in staring at a fixed dot the whole time, except that it is a little unnatural.
Totally with Jundo on that one. Fixing the gaze? I explained here and there, over and over again, having this gaze on the distant mountains which is the way the martial guys use their eyes.
I sit with what I assumed was the universal Zazen 'half-lidded' eyes. Very occasionally when I have a distracting tic in my eyes (I get them from time to time - usually quite rarely), then I may sit close-lidded - or I may not.
I'm actually shocked at how many people admit to sitting zazen with closed eyes.
I get minor visual hallucinations when I do that, so I avoid it.Originally Posted by Jundo
Instead I just try to relax the gaze and then leave the eyes to themselves, not paying any attention to what they are doing. Sometimes I don't succeed in releasing the grasp (letting go of the control over the eyes) and then it helps to literally visualize the distant mountains Taigu Sensei are talking about, to give the eyes a feeling for what they are supposed to be doing instead of drawing attention to themselves by constantly focusing and defocusing! :evil: :lol:
And sure, after I have spent 30 minutes with unfocused eyes, sometimes they get into the habit of doing that after sitting too. If I try to read a book immediately after Zazen I may have to refocus a few times! :wink: I wonder if Zazen with unfocused eyes helps with nearsightedness? :shock: :? :?:
It's funny you mention that...I sit with unfocused eyes and things are quite blurry for me for about 5 minutes after getting up if I've been sitting for 20 minutes or more.Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
Interesting!Originally Posted by disastermouse
Blurry like you lose focus on what you are looking at? Blurry even if you force your eyes to focus? Blurry when you look at something far away? Blurry when you look at nearby items? Do your eyes feel tired, dry or anything like that?
I can't easily read for awhile. I've tried sitting with glasses and without - it doesn't make a difference. It only lasts a few minutes.Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
But if you'd look out the window it would look less blurry? And during those minutes it doesn't help if you really try to focus on the text? I wonder if this has something to do with the muscles in the eyes that are involved in focusing, if it's dry corneas because of less blinking or if it's a phenomena of the brain, like I sometimes see colors more vividly, patterns more clearly, depth more prominently etc after sitting.Originally Posted by disastermouse
I don't blink much when I sit (I blink a lot otherwise) - I think it's just dryness - I have a hard time with contacts because of dryness.Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
Yes, I would guess so too. Thanks for the patience with my questions.Originally Posted by disastermouse
Why are you shocked?Originally Posted by disastermouse
Before every Karate lesson the whole class does Mokuso(meditation). It is instructed to be done eyes closed with focus on the breath. So i must also admit that i sometimes do meditation eyes closed
I too come from years and years of martial arts and Mokuso is always a closed eyes activity. When I started practicing Buddhism I started with closed eyes, but my Master back then told me to open them only if I was falling asleep.Originally Posted by JRBrisson
However, with all this pointers, tomorrow morning will be an eyes open meditation. :wink:
When I sit zazen, I occasionally experience an involuntary eye twitching, usually during the "inner and outer" hallucinations. It's as if my eyes are trying to find a place to focus. Does anyone else get this? It can be quite distracting.
Sounds perfectly normal to me! If your attention is drawn to your eyes, it's OK. There's nothing wrong with that. It's not as if you were doing something terribly important that you were distracted from.
When you just sit with what is, without a specific focus, the search light of the mind will jump from here to there. Usually that settles down spontaneously, so there's no need to do something special about it. But if you get trapped in a circle of thoughts and emotions regarding your eyes and what to do with them, just stop that, let go and return to just sitting.
In a spring outside time, flowers bloom on a withered tree;
you ride a jade elephant backwards, chasing the winged dragon-deer;
now as you hide far beyond innumerable peaks--
the white moon, a cool breeze, the dawn of a fortunate day
I do as I feel lead, I do open, 1/2, or closed. I don't have a preference...
We sit Zen with half closed eyes for a very good reason, wide open you run the risk to be pulled outside or over tense, closed you may become dreamy. You write: 'I do as I feel lead' , this is not our practice. We do follow a precise form.
Eyes open, always, but never forced. Never fixed. Relaxed, yet alert. I have found that if I fix my gaze on a point my eyes tend to get tired, which of course, rapidly ruins my zazen.
Neika / Ian Adams
寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
火 Ka - Fire
Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen
Don't focus on a particular point. Rather let your eyes gently rest in space, not focusing, just embracing everything and yet nothing.
I guess it's not about our preferences, it's about giving our self over to the practice ... eyes and all.
Just my understanding.
Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.
"Here the way unfolds."
Not focusing is not a matter of preference or choice, closed eyes is not an option but here, we have on the forum, some people who think they know what is best.
NOW once and for good, as we sit, we don't close nour eyes or focus on any particular point. Doing so, dear bunch of relunctant students, you cultivate in a dynamic way the very first lines of the Shin Jin Mei ( dig it yourself, if you have any interest in this path!!!) , you open your gaze as Kannon and Jizo are opening their arms and mind to all ( Kannon and Jizo are nobody but yourself), and, your eye balls are doing the very end of the heart sutra is proclaiming and your opinions about practice are of no importance at all. I know, this is not cool, this is not fair and looking very mean, but the general impression in this forum is that the teachers and elders, namely the priests, are busy repeating the same directions to guys only interested in their own opinions.
If you had ears to listen to what I am really saying, you would find that this is the kindest answer ever!
Last edited by Taigu; 12-02-2012 at 09:53 AM.
Taigu, with his mean Bodhidharma glare ...
Bodhidharma kept his eyes open too, so much the legend goes that his eyelids fell off (or he cut them off!!)!
However, we keep our eyes open about 1/3 or 1/2. I did hear one Soto Teacher from Japan once say that he closed his eyes sometimes, but said he recommended that only after many many years of Practice and once in awhile. Even then, it is not a common opinion to close the eyes, nor to hold them fully open. The Middle Way. Here is a good example, the eyes of Kodo Sawaki Roshi ...
Last edited by Jundo; 12-02-2012 at 10:01 AM.
ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE
Nor carried away,
Neither dwelling inside nor outside,
That gaze is SHOBOGENZO
Treasury of the true Dharma eye
Thank you for this living shobogenzo sitting in the rags and flesh of Kodo.