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Excerpt from "Eyes Wide Open: Buddhist Instructions on Merging Body and Vision"

Chapter 3: Through the Looking Glass

by Will Johnson


at all times we must work to keep it polished and not let any dust collect 

When we first sit down to meditate, we’re often instructed to close our eyes, to shut out the world outside ourselves over which we so incessantly obsess, and focus instead on the world inside ourselves, which we so often overlook. So we shut our eyes . . . and the world inside starts to appear in the form of sensations and energies in the body and thoughts and images in the mind. When we close our eyes, the distractions of the world temporarily disappear and it’s easier to perceive our thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears, our sensations. 

But the pendulum of awareness was never meant to stay stuck in its focus on the interior world any more than on the exterior world of visual objects. Once we become more conversant with our inner bodily world, we can then reopen our eyes and view the world outside the body in a way that embraces both, dissolving the dualistic bias that separates inner from outer. 

With eyes open, you run the risk of getting so drawn out into the world you look out at that you forget yourself. With eyes closed, you run the risk of implosion, of becoming so drawn into your interior world that you bring compressed tension into the cranium. Establishing a mind that functions like a mirror allows you to partake of both worlds simultaneously--the inner ground of awareness merges with the outer world you look on just as the surface of a mirror merges with the reflections of whatever’s placed before it. 

Each of the exercises in this chapter presents a different strategy for dissolving distorting layers of accumulated thought residue and keeping the mirror of the mind as clear as possible. As you explore them, remember to pay equal and simultaneous attention to both worlds. 

Meditations for Merging Body and Vision 

Calibrating the Lens 

The instruction to keep it polished and not let any dust collect is addressed as much to the body as the mind. Body is the foundational ground of the mirror, so you always want to tend to it first. 

As much as possible . . . 

Keep the body shining and sparkling through remembering to open to feeling presence. Do your best not to let any unnecessary tension distort the clear shimmer of the body or any dust accumulate on the clear mirror of the mind through becoming lost in thought forms. Keep cleaning off the residues of tension that have accumulated through remembering to let go and relax. 

Tensions in the body serve to numb the body’s sensations, effectively putting it to sleep and creating the kinds of mirrors that you find in amusement parks whose warps and irregularities create distortions in their reflections. Tension anywhere in the body eventually spreads, robbing the body of its relaxation and seeding the mind with unbidden thought. 

The first and most important step in calibrating this lens is just to let yourself feel. Every little part. All at once. When you can relax into feeling everything all at once, vision opens naturally. 

The fundamental practice is simply this: let yourself feel, and then let yourself see. 

Eyes of the Head, Heart, and Belly 

Seeing solely with the eyes of your head brings tension into the cranium and reinforces your perception of separation between your inner and outer worlds. 

When you start relaxing the tensions in your physical eyes, the two centers from which you look come together as a more unified presence coalescing somewhere in back of your physical eyes. When you relax so deeply that the place from which you see moves from the surface of your physical eyes into the back of your neck, down into the middle of your upper torso, you start seeing through the eyes of the heart. 

Unbidden thought starts turning itself off, and it’s easier to feel more unified in yourself and your relationship with the world you look out on. 

If you keep relaxing the eyes and the body even more, you can feel your locus of vision drop down even further, deep into your belly. When your belly becomes the place from which you see, you enter into greater dissolve, where you and the world you look out on feel even more conjoined. 

So . . . put yourself in your eyes. Let yourself be the person who sees from your eyes and is out of touch with the feeling presence behind your eyes. Become the person who solely sees with and through the eyes of your head. Who do you become and what kind of world do you see? 

Next, move your awareness back and down, behind your eyes. Let yourself see from the feeling presence in the back of your neck and upper back. Let the awakened feeling presence in this part of your body become the center from which you see. See how the tensions in the eyes relax as you do this. See how your perspective on the world you look out on starts to shift as you feel more empathically related to the visual field. Awaken the feeling presence in the middle of your chest, and integrate that feeling presence with your seeing. Who do you become when you start centering yourself in the eyes of the heart? 

Then drop down and relax even further. Let your completely relaxed belly and lower back become the pupil of your eye and center of your vision. Grounding yourself in the feeling presence in the belly, seeing from its felt center, lets you dissolve right into and through visual field, and thought vanishes. 

Seeing through the eyes of the head keeps you fixated on the outer world. Seeing through the eyes of the heart keeps you and the world you look out on in more equitable balance. Seeing through the eyes of the belly keeps you probing depths of soul and the great ground of being.

Author Will Johnson offers meditation exercises to create a mind like a mirror, cleansing it of obscuring layers of worry and emotion to see things as they are. Through this new kind of seeing, divisions between your inner and outer world drop away. By cleansing the mirror of the mind, we awaken into our true, essential nature.

Eyes Wide Open by Will Johnson © 2016 Inner Traditions. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International.  www.InnerTraditions.com

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