Do you ever close your eyes in a yoga class? If you have a meditation practice, do you keep your eyes closed or do you fix your gaze on something - a flame, a picture, an altar?
I used to think that closing my eyes in yoga was the best way to go inward, to go deeper. I think sometimes that's true, and maybe it's true for some people. Lately, though, as I've been struggling a little bit to connect with my practice (as I touched on in Reconnecting) I notice that when I close my eyes, I'm much more likely to start thinking about the classes that I have to teach, what I'm doing later, wedding planning or stressing, and any number of things under the sun besides what I'm actually doing at that present moment.
It seems to make sense, this idea closing your eyes is a gateway to connecting more deeply with yourself, but if you have no focus to begin with, then closing your eyes just takes you away from the room, the other people, your teacher, and your own body. Although it can look and feel awesome to go through a sun salutation with eyes closed, and it's tempting in the latter part of the class - in a juicy twist, say - to close your eyes and get your relaxation on early, it can take away from the richness of your present experience.
Interestingly enough, the book I'll be starting this week, The Joy of Living, recommends meditating with eyes open to prevent the monkey mind from getting too far away from you. It's harder to play a mind-movie of what you think dinner will be like if your gaze is locked on something physically present in front of you. I kind of brushed over that the first time I read it, thinking that was a piece of advice that wasn't of particular use to me, but now I'm intrigued by the idea.
If nothing else, it's an interesting experiment for me to embark on moving forward. With my eyes wide open in asana practice (at least until final relaxation!) and perhaps in my seated meditation, will it be easier to keep my thoughts from getting the better of me? We'll have to see. What do you think? What serves you best in your practices?