Meditation is becoming more and more prevalent in mainstream health & wellness. I and many others believe that in the not-so-distant future, meditation will become as standard a recommendation for a healthy life as exercise has ( whether people actually do either of these things is a whole other topic.)
When most people think of meditation, they think about sitting in a relaxed position, usually seated upright, with their eyes closed. This is by far the most common form of meditation.
For good reason. We are predominantly visual creatures. And in our visual world, everything is constantly trying to grab our attention. Whether that be billboards, our phones, the television, or our furry friend; the amount of visual stimulation we are exposed to is incomprehensible.
I myself, predominantly practice different meditations and techniques with my eyes closed for this reason.
However, most people don’t realize that there are quite a few ways to meditate with your eyes open. I actually heard about this technique over 5 years ago, listening to a sports psychologist/hypnotherapist(Vinny Shoreman.) I immediately started using it, and it quickly became, and still is, a major part of my meditation practice.
The Hakalau Meditation
This is a technique that originates from the ancient Hawaiian Kahunas, who can be compared to the sage’s in the east(India & China) or shamans in North and South Native American culture. Kahuna literally means “sorcerer, wizard, priest.”
This technique, called ‘Hakalau,’ is often described as part of the ‘Huna System’ or a western label given to the mystical & spiritual practice of the Hawaiian mystics. Non-coincidentally, many of the techniques of the Kahunas share similarities with the practices and philosophies we see in Yoga.
This technique as I mentioned, is an open-eye meditation technique. Where closing our eyes during traditional meditation removes our sense of vision to achieve higher states of relaxation, awareness, and consciousness; Open eye meditation techniques intentionally use the structure of our vision to achieve these same states.
How to perform Hakalau Meditation:
- Either sitting or standing rest your gaze comfortably on something in your field of vision or on a wall. Your gaze should rise slightly upwards so that you are looking almost through the space between your eyebrows.
- With your gaze fixated on a particular spot, begin to release attachment to thoughts and feelings, deepening the focus on the spot. You can do this by relaxing the other muscles of your face, and slowing down your breath.
- As you maintain focus on the single spot you will notice that your vision begins to expand outwards to the edges of your gaze, or your peripherals.
- Still maintaining focus on the central spot, begin to shift more attention to your peripheral vision. Slowly expanding outward from the center point until you are no longer focusing on any one thing, but everything in your visual awareness simultaneously.
- Maintain this state and observe the sensations and feelings you experience in your mind and body.
This was often considered part of a walking meditation of the Kahunas. Being an open-eye meditation, they were able to maintain this state while functioning and moving about without walking off of cliffs or into stop signs.
you may have even done it accidentally as a child or randomly while zoning out. If you haven’t experienced this before formally or intentionally, take a moment, put down the phone, tablet or laptop and give it a go. See how long you can maintain this for and observe, or even write down what you experience.
• • • Meditation break • • •
Pretty interesting, huh?
As we focus so intently on one single thing, our awareness begins to expand. In a closed-eye meditation, we may experience this same expansion of awareness as we make our breath the central focal point of our attention. It’s the exact same thing.
I love the Hakalau Meditation because you can tangibly and in real-time see your awareness expand.
We tend to focus so intently on that one single spot in our lives, whether it be our relationships, our job, or our own issues, that we forget that there’s more beyond it. That even if something is holding our focus, especially something challenging and painful, that we can expand into the peripheries of our experience.
We can begin to see that what we focus on is not all there is. This understanding is part of the path towards self-knowledge. Towards expanded awareness. Towards the enlightenment that the shamans, sages, and kahunas around the world continue to teach us about.