An Australian aboriginal elder, Uncle Max Harrison, says that it is the mouth that gets us in trouble and the eyes and ears that heal. They heal the breach in connectedness that the mouth can make, and they heal by learning, recollecting that which words have severed us from and put at a distance.
Meditation rests the mouth but it also veils the eyes. I sometimes think this is to allow us to finally begin to discover our ears, those strange fleshy flowers that open directly from awareness, never closed to pollination by the universe. But also the world of touch, taste, smell begin to open—the weight of our legs and the steady return gesture of the floor, the sensation of the air on our face, the wetness and taste of our mouth, the flutter of pulse in our fingertips, the shifting wave-forms of the breath, the streams of energy branching into the darkness of the body.
Looking, of course, is delicious. I have seldom tired of what comes in through the eyes—most particularly when the act of looking is wide, wanting nothing. But who doesn’t weary of the burdensome anxiety that hovers in that naming, comparing, distinguishing, measuring, judging, grasping and wanting that can be insatiably conducted by the mind through the agency of the eyes? Veiling the eyes is a gesture of rest from that, and of respect for things. To soften the focus and half lower the eyelids is to withdraw for a time from trying to put ourselves in the place of everything.
Jacques Lusseyrans went blind at the age of seven and discovered the true lights of the world. He notes: “All of us, whether we are blind or not, are terribly greedy. We want things only for ourselves. Even without realizing it, we want the universe to be like us and give us all the room in it.” He is surely describing the unbridled hegemonic ambition of the self that the eyes so readily come to serve. He adds: “But a blind child learns very quickly that this cannot be. He has to learn it, for every time that he forgets that he is not alone in the world he strikes against an object, hurts himself and is called to order. But each time he remembers he is rewarded, for everything comes his way.”
But each time he remembers he is rewarded, for everything comes his way.
With eyes rested and half veiled by the eyelids, and with focus softened to meet the edgeless nature of the breath, another sight opens—a more whole and healing sight, that lets things join us in a gesture of unknowing respect. We are called to another, deeper order. Unknowing is respect; respect is, literally, looking again, that stance of preparedness. And it lets everything come our way. A less intellectualizing, more open curiosity and wonder arise in that semidarkness. Eyes veiled, we can settle more into patient waiting and listening and watching. And in that humble stance, time takes on a roundness—the shape of the seasons, the shape of the Earth, the true shape of one breath-mind of awareness.
Unknowing is a vivid and lucid darkness: we begin to discover the shapes of sounds as they grow more nameless and beyond explanation; we are each shape that passes through us, and each shape is indescribable and overlapped by all the other shapes in the world, which become light and dark and color and texture and gratitude—an eloquence beyond words that softly tears our soul. (We can only cry and laugh.)
And the darkness deepens, finally, if only we can keep on walking to embrace all that it contains and all that it seems bereft of, into an ultimate blindness that heals all difference, frees all beings, dissolves all boundaries, forgives all sins, and sees—at least for that unrestricted, timeless moment—forever. It is called insight, that blinding vision. It is the surest, clearest eye in the universe, and can even speak through the mouth (though every single thing already speaks its complete clarity). Its opening is the dawn of a fortunate day. Even on an unclear day, it sees forever.