Within the Yoga tradition, it is usual to close the eyes during relaxation and meditation to eliminate one of the senses and facilitate a deeper focus inward. According to Yoga Journal, in this article, traditionally, “the object of our meditation, our authentic Self, is somewhere “inside” us. Accompanying this belief is the idea that the “outside” world, with itsdistracting hustle and bustle, is an obstacle to meditation” which is why the eyes are closed. However this is a less well known practice of eyes open or gazing practices which combine the inner self with the outside world and benefit not only the eyes but help to relieve depression, insomnia allergy, anxiety, postural problems, poor concentration and memory.
Za-Zen Tradition – eyes open
In Za-Zen meditation, it more usual to keep the eyes open (facing a wall) in order that the mindfulness we create through our practice continues in everyday life (we don’t walk around with our eyes shut). The other reasoning behind this is that they eyes shut scenario tends to bring on sleep as we all well know!!!! Eyes are not completely wide open, half or more of the eyelid is down over the eyes – often Buddhist images are betrayed with the eyes in this position.
Traditionally, you sit facing a wall so that the mind is not too stimulated. The mind eventually stops processing what it sees (even though you are still seeing it). There is no story going on about the view, although speaking from experience, you won’t believe how much the mind initially becomes fascinated by a tiny bit of wall! It isn’t the same thing as a trance though.
Stuff happens in the “here and now” during our relaxation and meditation elements of Move and Inspire Me practice and we want to be fully aware of all of it. The smell of the pub grub downstairs, the traffic and bird noises outside the window etc. Minute by minute, without adding any other kind of description or story to it. Whether eyes open or closed, we need to take in all of this information but without adding to it.
The key thing in all of this though is letting go of random thoughts. Let go of getting caught up in your stories. Especially the ones in which we are a victim of ourselves or other people’s so called “bad” behaviour (and we are the hero / heroin in these stories). The only outcome of this behaviour is building up the ego which never ends well… We are not trying not to think. So we are not “emptying the mind”, rather, noticing the thoughts and not getting caught up in them.
Trāṭaka (Sanskrit “to look, or to gaze”) is a Yogic method of meditation that involves staring at a single point such as a small object, black dot or candle flame in order to help still the mind. A candle is most often used as it remains in the vision even after the eyes are closed. During the process, the meditator learns to control of the ciliary (blink) reflex which enhances the ability to concentrate to increase recall and bring the mind in a state of awareness, attention and focus.
According to the ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ (the ancient Yogic text) ‘Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway creating these problems. It should carefully be kept secret like a golden casket.”
The eyes are moving constantly during every day activities – a bit like the mind is always darting about and moving from thing to thing. Learning how to control these darting movements has the effect of calming the mind to the point where the Alpha Waves are increased. Don’t worry that they eyes will begin to water, unless you wear contact lenses, this is good for they eye.