We’ve had lots of new people to our new meditation course, so we’ve spent some time reviewing the instructions about posture and key points to remember when watching the breath, and already we’ve had lots of really pertinent questions. One person who has had previous experience of meditation commented that it’s difficult to learn to keep the eyes open as many types of meditation have eyes closed. Whilst this does take some time to get used to, it’s a really important point in Tibetan buddhist meditation practice. There are several reasons for this, the simplest being that it’s not so easy to fall asleep (!), but also that we’re not shutting out anything and we’re aiming to be able to bring this state of non-distraction to any activity, not just while we’re sitting on a cushion.
It’s also a challenge at the beginning to get a soft gaze. Not staring, not concentrating too much on a spot on the floor, but not spacing out either, finding a balance that is focussed and relaxed. With practice, this becomes natural, and you can use the same relaxed focus for other daily tasks and situations. 25% mindful, 25% aware of being mindful, and 50% remaining aware of whatever rises. Try applying this technique to any activity, washing dishes (or loading the dishwasher), brushing your teeth, and slowly work up to more challenging situations. Start gently and never give yourself a hard time – it’s a process, not an end game.