"A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer."
~ Jane Austen
Have been exploring, in a public qigong class that I teach, two very different ways of using our eyes, of engaging the sense of vision:
The first -- which for most is simply an exaggeration of our default setting -- is to use the eyes kind of like a hand, to reach out and grab, and in some way possess, what is being seen. There's an outward, active, and often rather aggressive energy behind this kind of seeing, which includes -- as its (often unseen) foundation -- constituting my "self" as separate from the "object" of my vision. Within this separation, then, the act of seeing becomes a negotiation of a relationship between distinct entities.
As I engage in this kind of outward-reaching seeing, there's almost always a feeling of constriction around and within my eyes, and in the skin and muscles of my forehead -- corresponding to the constriction imposed upon my "object" of seeing (which, at the very least, includes giving it a name, assigning specific meaning) -- and a constriction of Self-as-Tao into a seemingly separate bodymind entity called "Elizabeth."
So we practice this for a couple of minutes, noticing how that feels -- and then, closing our eyes, and with an exhalation, let go of or at least soften around that habit-pattern, so that we can continue the exploration with a very different way of seeing ...
In this second way, we allow the eyes to remain soft and receptive, with a sense of relaxing them back and wide into their sockets. Then, as we allow our gaze to include the same "object" as the one we looked at in part one of the exercise, instead of using our eyes to reach out and grab it, define it, possess it -- we somehow allow the light from that object to flow into our eyes, as though inviting and receiving a guest into our home. We welcome whatever it is that the object wishes, in that moment, to reveal -- as though hearing what our friend has been up to, recently -- without preconceptions, not knowing what the next word might be.
There's a kind of wonder and mystery at the heart of this second way of using our eyes, this second way of seeing -- as well as deep and natural intimacy, as we somehow bypass the separation into "me" and "the object" -- and instead re-member, together, our inherent not-two-ness, right below the playfully tranparant veil of "appearances dancing as two." In this sense there is no "relationship" per se -- which requires two entities to then "relate" -- but rather just pure experiencing. The tension, conflict, constriction and friction inherent in the first way of seeing, is replaced by a deep stillness, a natural ease, and infinite tenderness.
This shift from the first way to the second way of seeing, I have noticed, creates a shift in the energy, the atmosphere of the room, more pronounced than any other practice I've yet to encounter. It's such a small change -- in the sense of being more-or-less invisible to someone who might be watching "from the outside" -- and yet the effects of such a shift are (at least potentially) vast and profound. It is turning the light around, in a way that does not exclude, but rather includes, so-called "others." It offers a way of walking through the world as though we were walking through a flower-garden, in perpetual appreciation and delight -- how wonderful!