I went diving once in the deep sea about twelve kilometres off the coast of Pondicherry. When our motorboat reached the spot where we were supposed to dive, the weather was very choppy and the boat was madly rocking, I couldn’t even stand holding tightly, had to sit and hold tightly to keep from falling. I was almost in panic because I don’t even know swimming!! Somehow several minutes later, I found myself deep underneath the water and it was perfectly STILL!! The utter beauty of slowly swimming amazingly colourful fishes, the fear vanished and a meditative calm state of mind came about to be. Both exists simultaneously, the chaos, clutter and restlessness at the surface and the perfect stillness underneath. In the ocean as well as within us in the mind. Meditation is just like deep sea diving, you can do both with open eyes or closed eyes!!
The deep still peaceful meditative state of mind is our Awareness and it always exists underneath or you can call it just up above us. It is a state of mind and I refer to this as our Awareness mind. When you are in this state of mind, you can be aware of everything happening in the moment in the same instant. Everything happening in the moment includes all the body sensations happening all over the body (pain, itch, tingling, burning…), the breath as it arises, all the sense perceptions of the surrounding (sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sense of touch), the thought as it arises and the emotion as it arises. Everything is perceived in an instant as it occurs. The aware mind is like the sun, whose light shines in all directions and only light exists. This is our being state. This is the here and now.
In the beginning when we are born, there was only the Awareness mind. Our regular state of mind is the rational, logical, cognitive mind that is referred to as our Ego state. This state comes about when we choose to engage with a specific area of awareness. Engage includes study, understand, concentrate, analyse, judge, discriminate, focus, conclude, decide, plan, project, etc. I refer to this as our thinking mind. This mind is like a pen light torch that can sharply focus on one area of awareness and when this light is on, except that specific area, all the other areas are in darkness – darkness means unawareness or unconsciousness. This mind is what is our life all about. This mind does not know how to switch itself off and take rest because its light is only focussed on the outside – outside means all that is not in the here and now – the future, the past or some other place than where the physical body is present. We end up getting trapped in this mind and that leads to a state of restlessness and dis-ease.
The Eyesight is the strongest of all sense perceptions. It is closely connected to the thinking mind. Even when we are sleeping, when we dream – dream is the process of thinking during sleep – our eyes move correspondingly and it is known as the REM state (rapid eye movement state = dreaming state). When we are deeply engaged in our thinking mind, it is impossible to step out of it and into the awareness mind due to the habitual tendencies. One of the most effective ways to step out of the thinking mind and take rest is to fix the eyesight on a specific stationary point (or place or object or blank wall or floor) and continue to gaze at that place without movement.
This continued gazing as you begin to expand the awareness to start being aware of other arising happenings in the body such as breath and body sensations, helps to keep the mind from running away to its stuck place of thinking. You are looking at one point but you are not concentrating, not focussing, not paying pointed attention or not studying that place, just holding your gaze upon it and doing nothing specific. You are using the eyesight to tie the mind to that spot while your awareness can expand and cover all the other things that are happening in the here and now. Once the awareness mind is fully awake and you are able to be aware of all that is happening in the physical world around you and within your body simultaneously, you can safely close your eyes and allow the thinking mind to wander again. This time your awareness light is on and you are aware that thoughts are arising and you do not engage with those thoughts, just being aware of the thoughts that are arising.
You get the opportunity to dive deep within and experience the stillness and peace that already exists there. From that place of awareness you gain a perspective of your life in a deeper and wider sense. This enables you to come back into your thinking mind, fully rested and energised.
The key to keeping the eyes open during meditation is to keep it fixed on a single point without movement and hold it in a diffused gaze. Diffused gaze is when you keep your eyes partially open to look but not to see. I recommend that you begin the meditation practice with open eyes and later on allow your eyes to remain open or close once your awareness mind is fully awake in the here and now. After all, at that point the thinking mind is no longer active and just the being state of awareness exists, it does not matter whether the eyes are open or closed.
In case of meditators who do not possess eyesight, sense perception that leads or supports the mind to be distracted the most can be used to help it come back and be tethered. So you can use a white noise background for sound tethering. You can keep a steel plate or tray under your feet and hold the touch sense of that steel under your feet. You can use tapping with your fingers on a specific place on your body. You can use aromatherapy and hold that single sense of smell in your awareness. All of these would work as well as holding the eyes focussed and it would be better still when you can use several of these together.
Learn to meditate eyes closed or open with Selvan.