Cultivating a Sense of Presence and Awareness

Meditation is often done eyes closed. Soft-gaze meditation can broaden our visual field and encourage an open, receptive quality of attention.

For many of us, meditation is often done eyes closed. And yet when we’re outside in nature, and also just in our life, our eyes are open. And it’s really important to learn how to stay present when our eyes are open. 

So I’m going to be teaching a practice that’s a beautiful way to cultivate a sense of presence and awareness in nature—with the eyes open—that you can apply anywhere, from sitting at your desk, sitting in a room, to looking at a vast landscape of sky, ocean, mountains. I call it a soft-gaze meditation. 

When the eyes are open in meditation, we’re not looking like we might, for example, look at a leaf, or a phone screen. We’re not studying and analyzing what we’re looking at. Instead, it’s a very soft, relaxed, receptive, open gaze.

Practicing a Mindful Soft Gaze

This practice of mindful seeing, soft gaze, we’re receiving through the eyes in the same way we receive through the ears when listening. When we listen, we don’t do listening. Listening happens by our simply being open and aware of sounds. The same is true with this seeing practice. We’re not doing seeing; we’re not looking as though…


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About the author

Mark Coleman

Mark Coleman is a Dharma teacher at Spirit Rock and has taught Insight Meditation retreats since 1997 worldwide. Mark is passionate about integrating meditation and nature and leads wilderness retreats through his organization Awake in the Wild and runs annual Nature Meditation teacher trainings. Cofounder of the Mindfulness Training Institute, Mark coeads year-long mindfulness teacher trainings in Europe and the US. He is author of Awake in the Wild: Mindfulness in Nature as a Path of Self-Discovery and Make Peace With Your Mind and his recent book From Suffering to Peace. He lives in Sausalito, Marin and likes nothing more than hiking, biking, and kayaking in the outdoors. Find out more at