Eyes hurt during meditation

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Ted Lemon 7 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    Hi there,

    This is a really fundamental issue I’m having but I don’t know what to do with my eyes when I have them closed for meditation! If I try to forget about them and leave them in one place they start to hurt and I have to ‘look’ somewhere else. I’m trying to ignore this and keep my focus on my med object but it is very distracting. This ‘looking around’ means that I can’t keep my attention where I want to – the ‘images’ I see disappear which feels like I’m constantly begging pulled back from absorption.

    I hope this makes sense!

    Many thanks in advance!


    Ted Lemon

    One thing you might want to think about is that “ignoring” is not the right thing to do. What you want is to just not be distracted. It’s fine to be aware of your eyes—you just ideally want your attention on the breath and your eyes in awareness. Ignoring them, particularly at the early stages, is a pretty artificial solution.

    What is likely happening is that your eyes are looking at your nose, where you are trying to put your attention, and crossing your eyes is making them hurt. So until you break this habit, you’re going to have to allow the eyes to distract you from time to time: when you notice, hopefully in awareness, that the eyes are pointing at the breath, deliberately release that (don’t demand that it go; just release it). If you keep doing this, after a while the eyes will stop automatically looking at the breath; you may still occasionally have to make corrections, but it should become less and less of a problem over time.

    Try not to be frustrated about this. There are lots of habits you have to learn and unlearn on the way to shamata; this is one. You’re going to have to do it, so doing it is not wasting time, and is not a distraction from the practice, even though it’s a distraction in a technical sense.

    While we’re on this topic, I’d like to point out that you said that you are trying to ignore this and keep your attention on the object. That’s not actually what you are supposed to be doing. What you are trying to do is train your attention to automatically stay where you intend for it to stay. You are not trying to learn how to keep it there: you are learning how to intend for it to go there, and then for it to go there because you intended for that to happen. At the end of the process, this will happen with no effort. At this point in the process, there may be some effort involved, but the more you can stop thinking that you are putting your attention on the object, and the more you can instead think that you intend for the attention to be on the object, and then just see what happens, the more you are moving in the direction of developing the right habit.

    There is a kind of a razor’s edge to balance on here. In the early stages, there is definitely some effort involved in doing the practice. But anytime it starts to feel stressful, that’s an indication that you may be putting too much emphasis on doing, and not enough emphasis on intending and noticing.

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