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Cover for Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open

Buddhist Instructions on Merging Body and Vision

Will Johnson


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Meditation practices to awaken the body and create a mind like a mirror, to literally see things as they are

• Draws on the story of the monk Shenxiu to create a meditation practice for profound relaxation, inclusion and connection to the world around us, and realization of our essential nature

• Explains how our attitudes, beliefs, and bodily tensions distort our perceptions and lead to our sense of separation from the world outside our bodies

• Details techniques of vision, such as sky gazing, eye gazing, and mirror gazing, that lead to an ecstatic mindfulness

Right behind your eyes, you are there. You can feel yourself there, looking. So intimate is your connection with your looking that when you say, “I’m looking,” you’re implying that how you look and what you see are a direct reflection of who you are in this moment. Your attitudes and beliefs reflect what you see, and the way you live in your body can color your perceptions as well.

This splitting in two of experience--an inside-the-body world and an outside-the-body world--creates in many of us a sense of isolation and loneliness, a feeling of disconnection from the larger world at which we look. But the visual field is equally capable of reflecting a sense of connection and inclusion, an invitation to merge with the larger universe rather than confirming how irrevocably separated we are.

Drawing on the story of the seventh-century Chinese monk Shenxiu, Will Johnson offers meditation exercises to create a mind like a mirror, cleansing it of obscuring layers of worry and emotion to literally see things as they are, not just how we perceive them to be. He explains how to awaken your body to the sensations we learn to ignore when we lose ourselves in thought and tense ourselves in ways that stifle the body’s vibrancy. He offers meditative techniques to silence the projections of the mind and enter into a condition of ecstatic mindfulness. He details gazing practices, such as sky gazing, eye gazing, and mirror gazing, to cleanse our vision and remove whatever is distorting our perceptions.

Through this new kind of seeing, divisions between your inner and outer world start to drop away. You begin to experience an intimate connectivity to the world you look out onto. By cleansing the mirror of the mind, we can come out of the dreams of who we think we are and awaken into our true, essential nature.

Praise For Eyes Wide Open: Buddhist Instructions on Merging Body and Vision

“Will Johnson is one of the foremost masters of embodied spirituality of his generation. To read Eyes Wide Open is to rediscover your own body and senses as the foundation for enlightenment.”
— Lama Willa Miller, author of Everyday Dharma: Seven Weeks to Finding the Buddha in You

“By situating the body (or soma) right at the center of sitting meditation practice, Will Johnson helps initiate a quiet, slow revolution. . . . Such a contribution to meditation instruction is transformative in numerous respects. This book, like previous books by the author, is a landmark text in the contemporary literature of homecoming.”
— James Martin, cofounder of Mindful Somatics Institute

“With his delightful stories and exploration of the many wisdom traditions, Will Johnson continues to impress upon us the importance of the embodied experience. If we are to gain any traction on the spiritual path or to address that ‘nagging inkling’ that something just isn’t right in our lives, this little gem of a book can guide us. Johnson offers many simple techniques to do this, honing in on vision as the vehicle for our exploration. The daily experience of ‘looking’ has been imbued with the power of transformation with one quick read! Will Johnson continues to be at the forefront of body-based dharmic practice and its confluence with somatic psychology.”
— Jackie Ashley, MA, BC-DMT, LPC, adjunct faculty at Naropa University

Inner Traditions, 9781594770005, 98pp.

Publication Date: April 11, 2016

About the Author

Will Johnson is the founder and director of the Institute for Embodiment Training, which combines Western somatic psychotherapy with Eastern meditation practices. He is the author of several books, including Breathing through the Whole Body, The Posture of Meditation, and The Spiritual Practices of Rumi. He lives in British Columbia.