Practices From the Inside Out: Living With Our Eyes Open

Practices From the Inside Out: Living With Our Eyes Open September 7, 2019

Are Our Eyes Open?

We each open our eyes at least once each day.

Sometimes it takes time, and things come into focus gradually. If we start moving before our eyes are really open we bump into things, which encourages us to pay closer attention.

There are days when we open our eyes immediately. One moment we are asleep and the next we are wide awake. Even if we would like to, we are not going back to sleep. Our eyes are staying open.

Sometimes we close our eyes intentionally. There may be something we do not want to see. Our eyes might be tired and need to spend a moment or two in darkness. There could be something irritating our eyes which keeps us from seeing well. No matter what it is, we eventually open our eyes again.

Some people say our eyes are the windows of our soul.

I have also heard it is not actually our eyes which see. They are lenses which collect images and it is our brain and our soul which interpret those images into what we see.

There is a difference between collecting images and seeing. I lived for a long time simply collecting images. Gradually, my eyes came into focus and I began to see. I still open my eyes each day. Bumping into things encourages me to pay attention.

There are moments of dramatic clarity. One moment I am asleep and the next moment my eyes open.

We each open our eyes at least once every day. Are we seeing, or are we merely collecting images? What have we bumped into recently which encourages us to pay attention?

How can we tell whether our eyes are open?

What have we seen lately?

Can we practice living with our eyes open?

Living With Our Eyes Open

One of the first things I do when I open my eyes each day is find my glasses. I have worn glasses since I was in second grade, about the time we were learning how to write. One of the reasons it is so difficult to read my handwriting is I could not really see the board.

I did not realize I needed glasses until I got my first pair.

Now it is obvious as soon as I open my eyes each day I need help seeing well. Even in the dark I know I am not seeing even with my eyes open.

Some of us recognize we are not seeing the way we would like to see when it comes to spiritual life. We could easily ignore the challenges and just live with how we see. Or we could defend how we see now and refuse to recognize we could change.

We may be nearsighted, focused on the specific details right in front of us. Others of us may be farsighted, lost in the big picture and unable to see the particular steps to get there.

It is unlikely we will find corrective lenses which can change how we see spiritual life when we put them on. We will need to practice going beyond collecting images and living with our eyes open.

Many of us choose contemplative practices to help us learn to live with out eyes open. We look for opportunities to pay attention in each particular moment.

Life is more than simply collecting images and impulses as they run across our eyes. We practice taking time and noticing how spiritual life is at work in us and around us.

Each of us has the opportunity to choose how we will live and what we will see.

Practice Living With Our Eyes Open

The first thing to remember as we practice living with our eyes open is closing our eyes is not the enemy. It is not a failure or a frustration when we close our eyes. We are not struggling to keep our eyes open at all costs. Each of us closes our eyes at least once a day.

Our contemplative practice helps us pay attention and see in new ways.Whether we are listening or reading or looking we are giving ourselves opportunities to see.

We want our practice to fit who we are but also help us grow into who we can become.

Sometimes when I talk with someone about spiritual life we take a walk together. Talking falls away as we pay attention to our walking. Our eyes open to the clouds in the sky and the distant mountains. We hear the sounds of traffic in the street and overhead. The aroma of the coffee shops and the florist we pass catches our attention.

We practice a form of walking reflection, opening our awareness to the city around us.

Our steps are headed toward living with our eyes open.

Living With Our Eyes Open Every Day

It is not like we flip a switch to go from living with our eyes closed to living with our eyes open.

We follow contemplative practices because they help us learn and grow into new ways of living. Paying attention, living with our eyes open, is more than a set of skills for us to master. We practice to remember what it is like to live in new ways.

Part of our practice is spending time each day with our eyes open. Some days are more challenging than others. As we practice we build an appreciation of what living with our eyes open is like.

The experience of living with our eyes open is more rewarding than collecting images.

We are able to see spiritual life putting all those random images into context.

Each day becomes a significant part of a larger story, a step toward something new.

Spiritual life is at work helping us see what happens between the time we open our eyes and we close them again.

How will we grow toward living with our eyes open today?

What differences will living with our eyes open make for us this week?

[Image by Sheep purple]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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