For many of us, meditation is done with our eyes closed. Yet, when we're outside in nature, and just in our life, our eyes are open. Meditation teacher, Mark Coleman, author of Awake in the Wild, shares a wonderful practice, which I have outlined below, to help cultivate a sense of presence and awareness that you can take with you anywhere, whether sitting at your desk, sitting in a room, or gazing over a vast landscape of sky, ocean, mountains.
1. Sit comfortably and tune in to the sounds around you
Lowering your gaze and closing your eyes, begin by finding a comfortable posture. Sit with a sense of ease, relaxation, feeling that connection with of your body with the ground. Take a few mindful breaths, and be aware of the soundscape that's all around you.
2. Open your eyes softly, slowly, gently
Direct your soft gaze down, maybe four or five feet in front of you. Cultivate a sense of receiving through the eyes without judgement, while keeping a wide-angle view, so you're seeing peripherally and everything in between. Feel the sense of you body sitting; note the sensations and sounds of your breath. Become aware of what it is you're seeing: color, light, shape, form.
3. Shift from the lowered-gaze position to looking straight ahead
Notice how that changes your experience. The more we lift the eyes, the more energizing the practice. Sense your body sitting, note your breathing, observe without judgment what it is you're seeing. Then shift your gaze again, so you're looking upward at the sky, at the canopy, at the ceiling, the stars. Again, notice how that changes the energy, your attention.
4. Let your gaze rest wherever is most comfortable...
Which is often just below the horizon: looking straight ahead, but a little down. As we lower the gaze, it relaxes the eyes, it relaxes the nervous system; it supports little more concentration.
5. Allow yourself to rest your eyes
If you find in this practice that your eyes are getting tired, or you're getting distracted by the visual field, then take a moment to close your eyes. Feel your breath. Sense your body, wherever your body is touching the ground.
6. In your own time, open your eyes again to a soft gaze
Relaxed. Seeing and aware of seeing. As you do this, be aware of how the visual field affects you, touches you—the light, the color, the forms—how it can support staying really connected and tethered to the present moment. As you begin to transition back into your day, just notice the impact or the influence of this practice.