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When I first started meditating, the body scan phase confused me. For a long time, I imagined the shape of a body in front of me in the distance, and scanned down through it. More recently I’ve realised that you get much more out of it by scanning through the feeling of my own body “in place” — but I still sometimes get muddled about which perspective I am “seeing” or “experiencing” parts of the body from.

I’ve had the same challenge with the visualisation of the white pinprick at the solar plexus. Sometimes I wonder whether I should be looking “down” from my eyes, through my neck and into my chest… or if my “eyes” should themselves move to the chest … or… something else?

At the moment I am practicing with the visualisation of the red pearl / red lotus at the throat chakra, as recommended in the book Dream Yoga by Andrew Holocek. The same puzzle keeps coming up! Where should this shape be relative to my mind’s eye? What angle relative to my spine in three dimensions should it be in, where should the “camera” of my mind be in relation to it, and what should the resulting image actually look like? How should the feelings of my body relate spatially to this shape?

Here’s another example, a simple description of a visualisation from this blog entry that puzzles me:

Picture the energy of your root chakra as a ball of ruby light centered on the base of your spine. With each breath, see this ball becoming larger.

In this example, should I be “seeing” my body in front of me, like watching a mirror, so that I can look at the base of my spine? Or should I be feeling the base of “my” spine where I know it to be? In which case, “where” is the “ruby light”? My eyes can’t see the base of my spine when they are looking roughly ahead with eyelids closed.

I feel very confused, especially as I have managed to feel very “in” the breath and body at this point in my practice, but visualisation always humbles me. I’d welcome any guidance about this, including simple steps and theoretical underpinnings. Am I somehow too attached to the position and perspective of the eyes in my head and, if so, how would you loosen that and what replaces it? Is this a known challenge of body visualisation? Nobody seems to talk about “where” in experience a visualisation should emerge. It’s a bit disheartening.

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This is more like a general comment than an on-point answer... You know why you're having this problem?

Because visualization is a kind of fabrication. You're creating the experience, assembling it from the elements (signs) available in your memory.

As you fabricate the seen you're trying to fabricate the seer and are struggling at that. Which is kind of ironic, because you have the very duality of subject/object right in front of your eyes and yet are looking for something more mundane than this immaculate insight.

Imagine if you succeeded at fabricating a nicely localized seer (aka the point of view) of these experiences. Now, think about that which is seeing the seer. From what perspective is it looking at it?

It's like that fictional story, a captive-born bird was told it needed to exercise its wings for something called "flight" it had never known, and it was complaining that the exercises were getting difficult due to the lift created by the strengthening wings. It seems to me you are having the same problem, my friend.

If I were you, I would reevaluate my practice and see if maybe I need to turn the page in my meditation handbook and practice the next thing.

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  • Ah, I was just about to head down a similar road myself, then I saw your answer!
    – Max
    Aug 16 at 20:24
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    … something about what you said made my mind just do a backflip. I have some more meditating to do. Aug 17 at 0:19
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It's possible to move the attention eye (inner eye) around and through the body without moving the eyes, and if you get good at it, maybe you can read the print on a newspaper several yojanas away.

Also, what you seem to perceive as trouble trying to conceptualize a body - in which your confusion centres around location, distance and space - could actually be used positively. Maybe some formless practices might prove fruitful like the arupa ayatanas starting with the investigation of space, how space occurs in conjunction with form and how you seem to move through space - which all lead to the exposure of your inner-world version of space, which is to say lacking. This can be investigated even off the cushion.

Moreover, Dzogchen and his pointing-out instructions might be useful and maybe ponder this Zen koan which points to the intangible essence of who we are:

Show me your Original Face, the face you had before your parents were born.

To focus on the main contention of your question: it is extremely practical to find some kind of body awareness during meditation and since you have an attachment to the eyes, then the facial region is where you should try to expand your attention. It shouldn't feel strenuous, but since the mind has been clinching for so long, relaxing the attention might feel unfamiliar and even uncomfortable, thus evoking confusion. That's probably what you're trying to work through at the moment.

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    Thank you very much for your thoughts. So many avenues to explore! I’ll gladly look into these and welcome the opportunity to transform a tension - I never considered working on abstract concepts in the world inside a practice, except perhaps compassion. I’ve been looking for a koan to work with recently too :) Aug 17 at 0:02
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    To your last paragraph point, I guess you mean this as guidance during the visualisation practice, but this also sounds like something that could be worked on towards the breath and other objects. Aug 17 at 0:09
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    After reading Andrei answer I really appreciate yours as complementary signposting to figure out what I am maybe touching on but not grasping. Aug 17 at 0:29
  • I realize I didn't comment on visualization techniques. It has never interested me. Better to be with whatever is right there - that is real.
    – Max
    Aug 17 at 17:47
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There are meditations which do not involve any kind of visualizations at all, and I would encourage you to try those for a change. For example, look for Vipassana meditation, which fabricates nothing, and asks you to do absolutely nothing, but just to notice what is there.

You have probably heard of it even if you are not already aware of the name - it's the classic "close your eyes and watch your breath" meditation, at its core.

If you wish to scan your body, then let your attention or awareness move from the breath onto the other body parts. Especially if a body part requires your attention, for example due to pain, itching, tension and so on, just be very aware of it and really "allow" and sense the sensation, no matter if it's positive or negative. Do not try to suppress anything. If you wish to move on, gently move your attention somewhere else (can also be sounds or other senses if there are any), and if you find nothing of interest, go back to the breath.

If you ware not sure what it means to be "aware" of something, one hint is to simply tell yourself what you are aware of - for example, in your mind, "speak" to yourself "breathing breathing breathing" or "itching itching" or "tense stomach tense stomach" or "hearing car hearing car" or whatever it is.

The only special thing about the breath is that it is always there, so it's an easy anchor point.

Fun side fact: Aphantasia is the inability to voluntarily create mental images in one's mind. I have that. If I close my eyes, I can not make any image or object appear in my mind. It does not matter if it's an apple or an "energy ball" or whatever meditation object you want to use; it just does not happen. I do not know if this is related to your meditation problem, just wanted to bring it up.

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Sometimes I wonder whether I should be looking “down” from my eyes, through my neck and into my chest… or if my “eyes” should themselves move to the chest … or… something else?

Your physical eyes should almost always never move. The visualization should occur in your mind's eye only. Unfortunately, it's a very common problem that the physical eye tends to wander where your mind's eye is, this is just due to habit and conditioning. The more you practice, the more it will subside. You could also do short sessions of anapanasati/breath meditation or other practices where the object is not visual, just to train your mind not to use your eyes and focus on some sensation-based object instead.

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