The Stillness of Your Gaze!
So we begin our classes this week. I’m looking forward to seeing you.
We’ll be working with our eyes and tongue as we shift our weight in this series. I have noticed how much my eyes dance around as I move through life. They are swimming in a sea of sensory reaction. It’s an interesting thing to pay attention to when meditating.
Notice how much movement there is in this person’s eye. Not only in the surrounding structures but also in the eyeball itself. They’re tiny movements but they’re non-stop. It’s useful to close your eyes and pay attention to what your eyes are doing as you sit there. If you sit there long enough to be still you may notice that your eyes and tongue are responding to your thoughts and feelings. I would suggest that most of our thoughts and feelings and the consequent reactive behaviours are unconscious.
When we are calm and focussed there is stillness in movement and gaze. It is a quality of being receptive to what we are focussed on. Most of the time a lack of stillness is not a problem.
I've worked with an Olympic fencer and for him involuntary eye movements were critical. An opponents wandering eye was an opportunity for surprise. I’m learning to read music and am finding that tracking my eye movements from one stave to the next, in real time, is not so easy. Eye wobble makes it all the more difficult.
You can see how much your eyes dance around by looking at the black cross in the centre of this square. If you can keep your focus on the cross the blue bolts will disappear. How long can you sustain that? You may find that some dots disappear and others do not. The ones that don’t disappear indicate the direction that your eyes wobble.
I was alerted to the importance of being able to stabilise our gaze by elite surf coach Mike Frampton - http://surfmastery.com
I have found that working on this has enhanced my ability to read music.
One of the reasons it’s useful to work with calming the eyes and the tongue is that they are involved with so many functions in life. Slow, unforced movements of the eyes or tongue, in harmony with your breath, can lead to a deep state of calm.
The tongue is connected to your facial muscles and the rest of your gut by the Vagus nerve. Feelings about our world and ourselves are processed through our entire visceral system. One of the main reasons stress is sometimes hard to manage is that visceral reactions are for the most part unconscious. It needs to be managed indirectly. Calming the tongue is one way to do this.
If you try to keep the eight muscles of the tongue still you’ll see how much it moves about. It’s extremely sensitive and highly reactive. When we eat, the tongue releases enzymes that trigger the release of other enzymes further along the gastro intestinal tract. It’s a gatekeeper.
In a similar way, the internal dialogue of our 'narrating self' prepares us to absorb our experiences in life. If our internal dialogue is language based it means our tongue is moving. Next time you’re stressed observe your tongue! Are you welcoming experiences into your body or are you remaining closed?
Being centred is always related to context. Krishnamurti, the marvellous Indian philosopher and author famously said. “The only difference between you and me is that I don’t mind what happens.” He’s not going to get stressed. Whatever happens he will just deal with it as it arises.
That’s all very nice, but then again, he didn’t have children. Many leaders of the wisdom traditions were able to have peace of mind as a singular focus. It's not so simple for householders.
Elite performers and sportspeople are also capable of being tremendously centred. Whatever comes up in their performance or game is dealt with as it arises. This level of mastery comes about through talent and training. However, this singular focus can often mean the responsibilities and challenges of their personal lives are neglected and this can lead to a great deal of suffering.
This man is extremely centred. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1S5hg6x4uuo
Notice the stillness of his gaze and the length and width through his whole head, neck and torso as he moves. Stillness brings great ease of movement.
So we’ll explore these themes this term. The simplicity of moving your eyes or tongue in a peaceful manner can give you an experience of the absorption a highly trained athlete or performer enjoys. It’s a lovely feeling.
The more familiar those feelings become the more possibility there is to adapt them to other areas of life. It’s an endless journey and I hope that this terms classes will make it a lovely ride.
See you on Thursday!
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