Visual Field Meditation (aka Witness-Gaze Meditation)
Here’s a very powerful type of meditation that I recommend for people who already have some practice with eyes-closed breathing-meditation.
1. Sit outside in a comfortable spot, in a comfortable position, with spine straight and tall. If possible, sit so that you are facing directly toward an object that you can keep as the “center” of your visual field. A tree is usually a good object (preferably more than 50 feet away).
2. After positioning yourself so that you are facing directly toward the object, sit for a few minutes in eyes-closed meditation. Sit in awareness of all six of your senses:
- Touch: feel the sensations of your entire body as you sit
- Taste: be aware of the experience of your tongue (the taste of the inside of your mouth)
- Smell: be aware of the experience of your nostrils (the smell that you experience in the present moment)
- Hearing: be aware of the experience of your eardrums (the sounds of existence in the present moment)
- Vision: be aware of the experience of your eyeballs (the orange light permeating your eyelids)
- Thought: be aware of the experience of your nervous system (the thoughts and emotions that arise in your brain and nervous system)
Make sure your senses are awake enough so that you can remain continuously aware of the inflation and deflation of your torso as you breathe. Keep your awareness centered in the breathing, as you remain aware of everything else around it in your sphere of consciousness.
3. After meditating in this way for a few minutes, remaining in the awareness of the six senses, remaining aware of the body, the breathing, etc… move the center of your consciousness from the breathing to the orange light on the inside of the eyelids. Keeping the eyes still and relaxed, just observe the visual field with the eyes closed.
4. Sloooowwwwwwllllllyyyyyyy let your eyelids drift open, while keeping your eyeballs relaxed and centered. You should be able to observe what happens as the rims of the eyelids sweep upward through the visual field, and the orange light of the closed-eye experience is replaced with the vibrant colors of the open-eye experience. REMAIN ABSORBED IN ALL SIX SENSES AS THIS IS HAPPENING… don’t get distracted by the sudden change in experience.
5. Keeping the eyes still and centered, remaining aware of the entire body and all six of its senses, allow yourself to be aware of the open-eye visual field. Don’t look for anything… let it all come to you, like the sounds come to your ears without you having to reach out for them. Keep the pre-determined object (tree, whatever) at the center of your visual field, but be aware of everything, from the left corner of your left eye to the right corner of your right eye. Sit, relax, and allow the light to soak into your eyes. Make sure you keep your eyes as still as your body. Centered, relaxed, and motionless. Not staring, not looking, just SEEING.
6. Sit in this eyes-open meditation, with full awareness of all six senses, keeping the visual field centered on your pre-determined object/tree. You may find that your eyes move away from the center when something happens within the visual field. A bright red bird flies by… the eyes automatically move to track it. A person walks by between you and the tree. Your eyes move to see who it is / what she’s wearing / why she stopped / if she’s looking at you. These are deeply ingrained reaction to visual stimuli. It’s OK. It happens. This is the point of the meditation. Just notice what it was that distracted your eyes, that moved them away from the center… and simply allow them to return to the center, and become re-absorbed in the visual field, with all six senses awakened.
The point of this type of meditation is to notice those things that distract your eyes. These things tend to be reflections of the things that distract your mind as well, when your eyes are closed. For me, in eyes-closed meditation, the thoughts that distract my mind tend to be about people (as opposed to squirrels, for example). Similarly, in eyes-open meditation, I find my eyes move more often to track a person walking across my field of vision, while my eyes are rarely distracted by squirrels.
As with all types of meditation, enjoy it 🙂 Relax! Experience existence with a smile, leisurely, lightly, not seriously. This exercise is about awareness, not perfection.
Good luck! Enjoy! Let me know how it goes 🙂
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Meditation Magazine.