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Mindful : October 2016
I see some people meditating with their eyes open and some with their eyes closed. Does it make a difference? This is a terrific question, because the difference between eyes open medita- tion and eyes closed medita- tion is huge! One is signifi- cantly darker than the other. I imagine you can figure out which is which. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one! There are traditions in which people are encouraged to meditate with the eyes open, holding a soft, generally unfocused gaze that provides a certain steadiness and calm they don’t experience with eyes closed. For many who have difficult histories of mistreatment or trauma, having the eyes closed can create too much anxiety and fear to tolerate, in which case I would strongly advise trying the eyes open approach. If you do decide to practice with your eyes open, make sure you’re not doing it just so you can look around. Are you really wanting to check out the cute guy across the room in your meditation group? Anyway, if you do practice with eyes open, you’ll need to be prepared to be mindful of visual distractions, and learn to cultivate a soft, loose gaze. I get sleepy a lot when I meditate. Is it OK to take a nap for a while? Or should I do something else when I’m nodding off? Of course you get sleepy, you work 65 hours a week, answer emails at midnight, change diapers at the crack of dawn and commute an hour each way through horrific, post-apocalyptic traffic. I’d be tired too. As a matter of fact, I’m feeling a little sleepy just reading your question! But sometimes what we notice when we slow down, tune in, and let our attention rest gently on our bodies, is that, lo and behold, this old bag of bones is...wait for it...tired! So here’s the crucial point: Upon making this discov- ery, do you think you could stay present for the unfold- ing of it in your body, mind, and heart long enough to let yourself really feel what it’s like to be tired? How do you actually know you are tired? Can you notice sensations in your body? Could you actually befriend tired long enough to know it directly and unequivocally? Because that in itself is mindfulness practice, and that could lead to a bit of discernment about what you really need in that moment. It might be a warm, juicy, yummy nap! Or it might just be a rising and receding wave that you could surf with awareness and stay present as you meditate, letting tired be the actual object of your attention. Let this be a fully mindful decision, and then you can’t go wrong. ● October 2016 mindful 45