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Eyes Wide Shut



It’s not often a person of my age (a substantial number and always climbing no matter how hard I try to stop it) can still have moments of wonder over something simple. But that happened to me this morning. You might find what I’m about to share with you obvious, especially if you’ve ever done yoga, meditation or any sort of mindfulness work. I guess I knew it too. It just took until now to appreciate it for what it is. Here goes.


Just before I sat down to write this, I was thinking about closing my eyes. Not like, “Man, I’m so tired, I need to close my eyes and nap for a few minutes.” No, it was more like, “Hmm, closing my eyes is interesting, and I feel so much different than when my eyes are open.”


Have I already lost you? No offense if I have; this seems like it could get weird, but I’ll do my best to keep that from happening. (At worst, this piece will likely just die a slow death and we can all get on with our days.)


However, if you’ve decided to hang in there with me on the slim chance that this piece will get better, let’s continue and see what happens.


I was up early this morning, like “I’m a farmer” early. Or “I’m just getting home from last night’s trip to the bars” early. Or maybe, “I’m on-call and usually nothing happens but this time, somebody needed me at, like 3:11 a.m., and so now I’m driving into work” early.


In other words, I was up WAY before dawn because today I have, as my mom would say, “Places to go, people to see and things to do.” And to get to those places, see those people and do those things, I had to get an early – a really early – start.


After performing a few routine morning tasks (ones I won’t bore you with and which you can probably figure out on your own because we all have many of the same routine morning tasks), I sat and took a moment to think about what I had to do before heading out to tackle my day. At first, my eyes were open. Then, I closed them. And that felt different … really different.


Now, the fact that things feel different when one’s eyes are closed vs. open may be obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me, likely because I’m not very good at paying attention to most things so I’ve never given it much thought until this morning.


After a few moments sitting with my eyes closed and enjoying how it felt, I wondered how much of our lives we spend in this state. Thanks to some rough estimates, a 90-second Google search and some dirty math, I discovered I’ll spend about 10 percent of my waking life blinking. You will too, unless you have a condition that prevents it.


Then, if you figure sleep will comprise another 30 percent of my life, that means I’ll spend 40 percent of my life with my eyes closed, and that’s without even trying.


40 percent … without even trying.


Now calculate all the time people (but not me since closing my eyes for anything other than the aforementioned blinking is undesirable because, well, I like to have my eyes open because if and when I don’t -- like when I’m sleeping -- I’m afraid I might miss something) intentionally close their eyes for things like yoga, meditation or just ‘cuz, and that’s a LOT of time. (Note: “A lot” is not a scientific term, yet one I find descriptive and beneficial as a blanket phrase when I don’t want to spend time researching specifics, which is a LOT of the time.)


Again, I may be losing – or have already lost – you. That’s OK. I have that effect on others, and I’ve come to peace with it. Just please don’t let the door slam on your way out.


Now, after all that research (and by “all that,” I mean three minutes tops), I’m now impressed by two things. First, I’m floored by how much our eyes are closed in any given day, and two, the whole “Wow, I feel so much different when I intentionally close my eyes for a few minutes.”


It’s cool to close your eyes, even – or maybe especially – when you’re not trying to get to sleep. I see things when my eyes are closed that I don’t when they’re open. Not just things from my imagination that pop up in the darkness, but even things that are going on between my eyelids (the garage doors of the eyes) and the iris, cornea, lens, retina and all that other cool, complicated stuff that makes up our eyes.


Again, if you’re a yogi (not the bear, the other kind), you meditate or do relaxation exercises, you’re probably wondering how this idiot (me) just now stumbled upon this whole phenomenon. Well, I didn’t really. I guess I knew it all along, but just like we know eating right and exercising keeps us healthier, and not putting our hands on a hot stove keeps us from burning our hands, sometimes we need to discover and appreciate things on our own schedule; when we’re ready.


Maybe it’s taken all these years for me to be mature or patient or open-minded enough to appreciate the positive effects that sitting or lying quietly with one’s eye closed can have on the physical, mental and emotional aspects of our lives.


Now, since I’ve only done this a few times, I’ve only thought about it once (this morning), and my research is far from complete (i.e., a grand total of three minutes), the jury’s still out on what it will all mean for me moving forward.


But I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged by the way I felt after I opened my eyes again this morning. And I’m more encouraged that even at my age, maybe I’m still open to learning and trying things that will create a better situation for me, and maybe for others too because maybe in some small way, this new activity will make me a better human.


OK, I have to go. Remember, I have places to be, people to see and things to do. But at some point during the day, I hope to get a few moments to just sit with my eyes closed.


I wonder if I need a mantra.


© 2023 David R. Haznaw

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