Whenever we pray, think of God, undertake an internal healing procedure, make love, kiss someone, or meditate, we automatically close our eyes. It is a common Vedic saying that the soul resides in the heart and all the feelings are felt at the level of heart.

Most learning procedures in meditation involves sitting in an erect, straight posture,  closing the eyes, withdrawing from the world and concentrating on the object of concentration. Yoga Sutra of Patanjali describes pratihara (withdrawal of senses) as one of the seven limbs of yoga, Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratihara, dharma, dhyana and Samadhi.

After pranayama, one needs to withdraw from the world and the senses and then start dhyana on the object of concentration. The process of pratihara becomes easy and is initiated with the closing of the eyes.

The inward journey starts with the detachment of the body from the external world and in yogic language, it is called Kayotsarga.

In the initiation of hypnosis also, a person is asked to lie down, look at the roof and withdraw from the world. He is then asked to gently roll the eyeball up until he goes into a trans. Upward rolling of the eyeballs has the same physiological significance as that of closing the eyes.

When we close our eyes, there is a suppression of sympathetic nervous system and activation of parasympathetic nervous system. During this period, blood pressure and pulse reduces and skin resistance goes up. A person goes into a progressive phase of internal and muscular relaxation.

The inward journey is a journey towards restful alertness where the body is restful yet the consciousness is alert. The intention is to relax the body and then the attention is focused on the object of concentration. Most visualization and meditation techniques involve closing of the eyes.

By detaching from the external stimuli, one suppresses the activities of the five senses and shifts ones awareness from disturbed to undisturbed state of consciousness. The inner journey helps in producing a state of ritam bhara pragya where the inner vibrations of the body become in symphony with the vibrations of the nature.

People who visit Vaishno Devi by traveling long distances on foot enter the cave and as soon as they see the darshan of Maa Vaishno Devi they close their eyes. This is natural and instant. Because Maa Vaishno Devi is not felt in the murti but her presence is felt in the heart and that presence can only be felt by closing the eyes.

Most yogic techniques like shavasana, yoga nidra, body-mind relaxation, progressive muscular relaxation, hypnosis involves closing the eyes in the very first step. Daytime nap is also incomplete without closing the eyes. Shok sabha and 2 minutes maun sabha are also practiced with the eyes closed. When we think of someone or try to remember something, the body automatically closes the eyes and one starts exploring the hidden memories. For recalling anything one must withdraw from the external world through its five senses.

Only advanced yogis or rishis acquire the power where with eyes opened they are in a state of ritambhara pragya. These yogic powers are acquired by practicing advanced sutra meditation for hours, days and years.  Lord Shiva has been shown in a meditative pose sitting on Kailash Parvat with the eyes semi opened. But for ordinary persons like us where the aim is to be in that phase only for 20 min. twice a day, the best is to close our eyes as the first step towards the process of meditation.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are my own).

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