Meditating with eyes half open

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Meditating with eyes half open

Postby sangyey » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:03 am

My Lama taught me to meditate with my eyes half open but I am having a really difficult time with it and have been trying since August. Does anybody have any thoughts on this?

Thank you.

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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby Individual » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:18 am

It would help if you told us the specific problem.

Also, if your sect forbids you from circumventing the advice given to you by your Lama, it may be unwise for us to interfere.

I am curious why someone with a Lama would ask people on the internet for advice rather than asking the Lama for clarification and help. Are you unwilling to approach him or is he unapproachable?
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby sangyey » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:25 am

No, I could definitely ask him. Just wanted to get some others opinions. The other day I did some research and HH Dalai Lama suggested that when you sit facing a wall the visual distractions lessen so I tried this and I noticed that my mind turned inward which helped a lot. I think before I was allowing my gaze to go too far out.

Would that be true that you generally have to focus more inward?
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Oct 17, 2010 4:29 am

I have meditated for years with my eyes open. In the school of my study it is the prefered method and others are discouraged. Eyes wide open and straight ahead.Though with certain practices one may look slightly downward. In ancient Tibet novice monks in training would occasionally have a red dust placed upon their lower eye lids. If the eyes closed it was evidenced pretty surely.

Looking inward or ouiward..no teacher am I certainly just a uneducated layperson. My experience is that over time the meditation pursued is the same as if one had eyes closed. It seems not to matter.
I do all my visualizations in the same manner.

My idea is this...if I cannot maintain a meditational view in this realm with minor distractions such as eyes open or even noises....what hope I after death to maintain focus.
That would be most unsettleing seemingly. So I prepare for all eventualities with meditation. Eventually meditational state will have to approximate the mental state of any activity.
Though I am a poor meditator with no accomplishment....this is easy to get used to in my opinion.

No offense, but a month and a half is really not all that long a period of time in this thing.
If a new meditator(perhaps one is not)...I'm a little surprised there is not a object of focus.

Perhaps your teacher has great expectations for you. No object to my opinion is more difficult. To a wall or out into expanse seems about the same to me. Some hold a expanse is inclined to generate a more productive meditation. There are many many techniques that can be employed for differing reasons..

Four feet out or so to my dim recollection is one standard for focus. Things can be done with the breath and different nostrils to effect certain calmings. There is a specific procedure for this. A series of sorts to be employed. Many things... innumberable. Agitated... darken a environment or internal object of focus. Sleepy lighten the same. Light in weight object...likewise dispatches slumber. Heavy dark object...dispatches agitation.
Visualize a dark light extending downward....removes likewise agitation. A light light extending upward...removes likewise slumber.
Specific visualizations can be employed to reinforce certain concepts.
You can go anywhere and anyplace with this thing.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby Will » Sun Oct 17, 2010 5:31 am

"Half-open" is not needed. Just gaze downward at a roughly 45 degree angle with the lids not fully closed. Make sure that there is nothing moving in the field of view. Do not bother focusing on whatever is there, just let fuzziness rule, so there is nothing too attractive to follow or look at.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Sun Oct 17, 2010 11:34 am

sangyey wrote:No, I could definitely ask him. Just wanted to get some others opinions. The other day I did some research and HH Dalai Lama suggested that when you sit facing a wall the visual distractions lessen so I tried this and I noticed that my mind turned inward which helped a lot. I think before I was allowing my gaze to go too far out.

Would that be true that you generally have to focus more inward?


It depends on what kind of meditation one is doing, and whether one is a beginniner, has some experience, or is very proficient. For beginners, there are definitely helpful tips in terms of how to rest the eyes, how far out to let one's gaze, etc. There are tips for what to do when the mind is too chaotic and the body too restless, or when one is too dull and/or sleepy. You should simply talk with your lama or teacher and explain what's going on when you implement his instructions and get his advice on what to do.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby catmoon » Sun Oct 17, 2010 7:26 pm

Will's advice posted above will get you there. What he didn't mention was not to force it. That leads to various forms of fluttering and twitching. If you just sit as Will recommends, and don't TRY, just do whatever is relaxed, you will find the half-open thing occurring by itself after, oh, say a month or two of practice.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby Individual » Sun Oct 17, 2010 8:33 pm

sangyey wrote:No, I could definitely ask him. Just wanted to get some others opinions. The other day I did some research and HH Dalai Lama suggested that when you sit facing a wall the visual distractions lessen so I tried this and I noticed that my mind turned inward which helped a lot. I think before I was allowing my gaze to go too far out.

Would that be true that you generally have to focus more inward?

That helps, but I still have to ask: What specifically is the problem? Visual distractions? If so, what kind?

When you are sitting down to meditate, what expectations do you have that are not being met?

A few examples:
-Are you engaging in day-dreaming, focusing on how objects appear blurry?
-Are you disappointed by not achieving supernatural psychic states?
-Are you disappointed because you still have difficulty focusing?
-When your eyes are half open, do they start to feel heavy, where you feel like falling asleep?

You don't have to answer all those questions above. They're just examples of common problems. Just observe the meditation when it happens and let us know what exactly is the problem.

Will wrote:"Half-open" is not needed. Just gaze downward at a roughly 45 degree angle with the lids not fully closed. Make sure that there is nothing moving in the field of view. Do not bother focusing on whatever is there, just let fuzziness rule, so there is nothing too attractive to follow or look at.

Actually, nothing is necessary, because it is an activity of the mind. Certain physical activities merely act as a support.

It might be OK to let things be fuzzy, but I think I've noticed how and why the fuzziness occurs (if it's of any help to anybody):

The eyes generate a coherent image by taking a series of very quick snapshots which are then processed. They twitch just a little bit in order to create a unified image. Your eyes are actually twitching all the time, even right now. When you forcefully keep your eyes still, your eyes are confused because they are looking for a series of slightly different images from which to create a unified image, but instead they keep receiving the same image. The mind doesn't expect this, so if your eyes don't start involuntary twitching, it will overlay the same image slightly off-center, making things appear blurry. Relaxing your eyes also can relax the muscles which focus the lens of the eye, resulting in blurry vision, even going slightly cross-eyed. And blinking at a slower than normal pace can make things appear more bright or ethereal, because the receptors at the back of the eye aren't used to such continuous stimulation.

Just like a "relaxed posture," means a slight stiffness in the spine and stomach, to have a proper upright posture (not hunching forward or backwards lazily), a relaxed eye doesn't necessarily mean letting everything go blurry. You can keep your eyes focused, without consciously having to worry about it.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby sangyey » Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:57 am

Hi everyone,

Thanks for taking the time out to post to my question/concern. Tonight I tried keeping my gaze at a 45 degree angle and I think that it helped a lot by acting as a sort of a reference point for my mind even though I wasn't trying to keep it at exactly at that angle but the general direction of it really helped to focus my mind. I was better able to keep single-pointed concentration on the object and one thing that I noticed was that instead of trying to focus my mind on the breath inside my body it was more like I was keeping it in the front space of my mind. Would anyone consider that a good thing for meditation?

As for the circumstances around the meditation it is true that due to having a lot of time on my hands being a part time student and working part time I have been putting a tremendous amount of time and energy into practice,i.e., study, reflection, and meditation. Sometimes I even do like 3 or 4 25-30 min sessions a day but I think I have decided I just want to meditate once a day thinking more long term and what it would be like with a busy full time work schedule.

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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Oct 18, 2010 5:30 pm

Particuloar to my school of study it is advised to have several very short sessions rather than longer ones especially one longer as substitution, as a beginer meditator(I don't know if one is or not really).

The idea being longer meditations if one is not experienced, tend to lead one into a dream like state of no thought as opposed to a no thought state of consideration. The first produces a happy feeling but tends to lead to a loss of cognitive function. The indicator of that is evidenced by one becoming forgetful and unable to focus. If that presents it is helpful to look to the meditation. To my personal experience people doing the meditations in that fashion rarely notice the carry over nor that they are becoming forgetful. So once engaged it is very hard to drop, especially since it produces a dreamy likeable state.

Say three 10 minute sessions at the very begining level as opposed to one 30 minute session.
I don't know your practice nor specific school....but that is advised in my school of study.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby sangyey » Mon Oct 18, 2010 6:08 pm

Rinpoche advised that as well but I was just trying to consolidate the practice into 1 30 minute practice after I complete the seven-limb prayer to Lama Tsonghkahpa ( which was given by a different teacher when I first started and have pretty much been keeping up with for 3 years). I am really curious as to the shorter sessions as you described. Maybe I will give it a go.

To answer the question whether I am new at meditation, I would say - 'well, sort of.' I started practicing meditation about 8 years ago even before Dharma which led me to a state of peace I never thought possible but after I experienced that I stopped when I went to College and there I actually came down with schizophrenia ( I am okay now and functioning pretty normally) which led to a major obstruction practicing the meditation due , possibly, to the anti psychotic medication that I was on. I am doing very well now and am on a low dose but I still have faced other obstructions to the practice. Since the end of July though I have been able to keep up a consistent practice.

I am very curious to the many short sessions though. Maybe I will give it a try tonight.

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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:01 pm

Well on a personal note....I also meditated at a very early age with no formal instruction and got away from it. As a homeless child (at those times on occasion) I was picked up by a person who exposed me to a buddhist faith that specialized in mantra. So I eventually engaged the two. And that led to other things of the spiritual.

One must work through in any physical sense a physical disability with proper medications and such and their continuance but meditation mantra a spiritual path, to my observation can really enhance the effectiveness of such treatments.

Check with you teacher certainly that in any matter is first and foremost.
!0 maybe 20 minutes may be more appropriate at firstly formally engageing a meditational practice is my observation. Many sessions of short duration rather then one longer session.

Personally this enhanced my feeling of quietude as well, as it reinforced meditational ways of looking at things as a more common event. It was not one part of my day but more like it was all of my day...that meditational way of being. That was a side effect for me. Leading me to eventually become much calmer and less exciteable in a daily sense I think more than could be effected by just one long practice session. But I haven't heard of that effect from others. So it is personal, a personal observation.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Tue Oct 19, 2010 6:17 am

ronnewmexico wrote:!0 maybe 20 minutes may be more appropriate at firstly formally engageing a meditational practice is my observation. Many sessions of short duration rather then one longer session.

Personally this enhanced my feeling of quietude as well, as it reinforced meditational ways of looking at things as a more common event. It was not one part of my day but more like it was all of my day...that meditational way of being. That was a side effect for me. Leading me to eventually become much calmer and less exciteable in a daily sense I think more than could be effected by just one long practice session. But I haven't heard of that effect from others. So it is personal, a personal observation.


This all fits with my experience too. And the traditions I practice each advise beginning in this way, with several short sessions a day, and gradually increasing over time. It's also advised in the beginning to try to end the sessions while still feeling enthusiastic about one's meditation, rather than once one has grown tired of meditating, so one will feel enthusiastic about the next session. That may not be an issue for you, but I figured I'd mention it in case it might be helpful for any newcomers reading this.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby sangyey » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:37 pm

The many short sessions are definitely helping. I notice that there is a lot less agitation and that I am better able to concentrate. I do have a question though. When I was doing longer sessions I would generate Bodhicitta before the session and do a dedication afterwards but since I am doing short sessions I'm not sure how I would do that?
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Thu Oct 21, 2010 2:16 am

sangyey wrote:The many short sessions are definitely helping. I notice that there is a lot less agitation and that I am better able to concentrate. I do have a question though. When I was doing longer sessions I would generate Bodhicitta before the session and do a dedication afterwards but since I am doing short sessions I'm not sure how I would do that?


You do it the same way. Each session is its own, so one should take refuge and generate bodhicitta and dedicate the merit afterwards every time. Just out of curiosity, how much time are you spacing the sessions apart by?
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby sangyey » Thu Oct 21, 2010 2:58 am

Between 3-5 minutes
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Thu Oct 21, 2010 9:42 am

sangyey wrote:Between 3-5 minutes


Hmm, I'd never thought of doing it that way. I think generally one starts out doing meditation sessions of 10 minutes or so and spaces several of those out over the course of a day, hence my suggestion to include refuge, bodhicitta, and dedication of merit for each session. But hey, as long as doing it the way you're doing it continues working for you, I can't think of any reason offhand not to do it that way. It's all about whatever works for you and keeping from getting burnt out. Anyway, since you're only spacing the meditations apart by a few minutes, I imagine you're probably doing some sort of contemplation or prayers or something during that 3 - 5 minutes? If so, then it's still all one session because you're just alternating between meditating and doing other practices, so you wouldn't need to re-do the refuge, etc each time you go back to meditating in that session. Hopefully the way I said that makes sense lol. Anyhow, best wishes for your progress.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby sangyey » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:06 pm

Thank you. I've been meaning to ask if generating Bodhicitta is sufficient to do with a prayer or if you need to generate the mental qualities in your mind?
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Fri Oct 22, 2010 6:24 am

sangyey wrote:Thank you. I've been meaning to ask if generating Bodhicitta is sufficient to do with a prayer or if you need to generate the mental qualities in your mind?


The most important is what you give rise to in your own mind. The benefit to reciting a traditional prayer is that they're pithy distillations of both conventional and absolute bodhicitta, and that they were composed by a realized mind and that many masters and excellent practitioners past and present have relied upon the different prayers to aid in their cultivation of their own bodhicitta. So one is exposed to the blessings and power of being in that very good company. As for training in the bodhicitta, there are extensive teachings and methods, but in the Tibetan traditions, the general practice is to really try to be mindful of and feel the meaning of the bodhicitta prayers or verses while we're reciting them, and then following that with a contemplation of the four immeasurables. Then we briefly rest in the natural state or the view of great emptiness - absolute bodhicitta. We remember that neither we, nor others, nor the act of generating bodhicitta is intrinsically, ultimately existing, everything has the nature of emptiness, and then we briefly rest in that view without clinging to, following, or trying to alter whatever thoughts and experiences may arise. We just let them arise as they will and dissolve back into emptiness as they naturally always do. That's the basic way to approach the training in bodhicitta during a formal session. There are many elaborations of bodhicitta practices one can also learn, sometimes including simple but powerful visualizations and contemplations such as tonglen, but I think the above is the essential practice. Of course, the more one wishes to do, the better. Or if you're pressed for time, simply giving rise to the wish to attain buddhahood to help all beings do the same, and determining to do whatever practice you're planning on doing out of that motivation, and while trying to remember the view of emptiness throughout, that is enough.
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Re: Meditating with eyes half open

Postby sangyey » Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:35 pm

Thank you for that Pema Rigdzin. I am very happy that I posted this post and got help from the members. It has really helped my practice so far.
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