…I would suggest that the eyes are open in zazen for their influence in resetting the vestibular sense and providing a continuity in the sense of location, yet in zazen the proprioceptive sense must be allowed to influence the sense of location almost as though the eyes are closed. It’s a trick, a lot like falling asleep with your eyes open.
I had success a few years back in describing the practice of falling asleep as a focus on the location of awareness in space, with special attention to the freedom of that location to move- I say success because someone on the East Coast who was having trouble falling asleep picked up on what I had to say and discovered he could use it to get back to sleep (when he woke up at 4am).
Thinking over what I wrote in “The Eyes Are Open in Zazen” (my post of Feb. 4th), I conclude that the freedom to move of the location of awareness in space is more readily experienced with the eyes closed. Checking Wikipedia under “proprioception”, I find the following description:
The proprioceptive sense can be sharpened through study of many disciplines. Examples are the Feldenkrais method and the Alexander Technique. …Standing on a wobble board or balance board is often used to retrain or increase proprioception abilities, particularly as physical therapy for ankle or knee injuries. Slacklining is another method to increase proprioception. Standing on one leg (stork standing) and various other body-position challenges are also used in such disciplines as Yoga, Wing Chun and T’ai chi. Several studies have shown that the efficacy of these types of training is increased by closing the eyes, because the eyes give invaluable feedback to establishing the moment-to-moment information of balance.
The gentleman who utilized what I described as “the practice of waking up and falling asleep” was also able to experience the same sense of the location of awareness in the daytime with his eyes open (after weeks of experiencing it falling asleep). He reported that the experience was accompanied by a feeling of great peace.