Using sight in meditation

sight - Clear forest in glasses on the background of blurred forest

Using sight in meditation

For humans, the visual field, sight, is our most powerful sense. This makes sight very stimulating, which is why in sitting meditation, you might be instructed to close your eyes or keep them cast downward.

In most mindful movement, we keep our eyes open so we can see where we’re going. We may use any aspect of things we see as an object of meditation, including color, shape, tone, and motion.


I love to choose a color and notice it during my workout. Outdoors, I often choose green because it is so plentiful and easy to spot. In winter, I choose gray for the same reason. I set out on my trek, dog at my side, and allow the color to enter my field of vision. A more free-floating awareness works  best with vision movement meditation because I don’t know what I’ll see ahead of time. Since it’s usually green, I can change to a more focused awareness when I see a large green patch such as a big tree or lawn. In winter, I can home in on a snow-covered lawn. But since I am moving, I don’t keep my attention on that same spot for my entire workout.

When green catches my eye, I allow it to fill my vision, noting any shapes and textures within the green, perhaps the leaves or branches of a vine. If I think, “Oh, that’s green” or “Oh, there are branches,” I let that drop. Instead, I allow the color to fill my vision, entering that sense gate of my eyes. Because I am moving, that green will pass. If I see no green for a few moments, I sense that space, the absence of green, and calmly wait for green to appear again.

I might also note different shades, the vast variety of green where I live, including pale green, bright spring green, olive green, and dark—nearly black—green. I allow my mind to float over these things, not holding any of them, but simply letting them enter my visual field.


Tonight, on our walk, I chose to notice motion in my visual field. I watched for anything moving. It was an open-awareness practice. Opening my heart and mind to whatever might come allowed me to practice equanimity. What did I see? Leaves moving in the wind. A car driving past on a side street. Then, the space of nothing moving after the car passed out of view (i.e., an experience of “gone”). A black and white cat flicking its tail at the pupperina. The pupperina’s copper ears perking as the cat flicked its tail. Then, nothing. Stillness. It was 9 p.m. and dark. Next, I caught the intermittent flashes of the lighted Noxgear vest my dog Scarlet wears after dark, followed by the flashing of my own 360 Tracer vest. For three and a half miles, I let my awareness shift to whatever movement caught my eye.

When nothing moved, I noticed spaciousness. And then, movement again. I was not thinking about the movements I saw. I did not judge them. I noticed pleasant or unpleasant body sensations or thoughts if those arose, but I let the visual sensation of movement enter through my eyes. I allowed any other sensations or thoughts to arise and pass away.

When I became lost in thought—about what I might do tomorrow or even how I might write about tonight’s experience—I remembered I had chosen this walk as a meditation. I gently brought my mind back to noticing movement.

Motion in Motion

I like to notice the motion that happens because I am moving. Here in central Ohio, it often gets icy, and I won’t run outdoors. We moved the furniture (and my writing archive boxes) away from the basement walls to create a tiny oval “track.” When I run there, I choose a color as my object of meditation. Recently, I chose orange. As I trotted around, I noticed the orange salt lamp, the dark rust of my mother’s old chairs (the only ones the pupperina hasn’t eaten), and an orange and black pin-on tail from a collection of costume items I use in the writing classes I teach.

After a mile, when I changed directions from clockwise to counterclockwise, I saw the orange exercise ball and then the orange on the side of the box  my laptop came in. Each of these things appeared in my visual field, and then as I continued, they passed away.

When memories or judgments arose, I acknowledged those, then dropped them and returned my mind to the chosen color. If my mind wandered too much as I noticed experiences of my chosen object of meditation, I labeled them: “orange,” “orange,” “orange.”


Regardless of whether you do your chosen movement form indoors or outdoors, if you have a normal range of vision, you will see color. Before you  begin your next workout, choose a color as your object of meditation. Make it one you enjoy—no need to torture yourself.

Begin your session and, as you move, stay awake to where you see the color you selected. As it appears in your visual field, notice that. As it passes, notice that. Also notice any emotional states or preferences that arise as you see the color appear and disappear from your field of vision. If your thoughts intrude, when you see the color, label it.

I have included more than twenty “Your Turn” exercises in the book Make Every Move a Meditation.

This excerpt is from Make Every Move a Meditation by Nita Sweeney which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.