(5.35) I should never look around
Out of distraction or for no purpose,
But always, with a resolute mind,
Be mindful of my gaze.
(5.36) From time to time, to relax my gaze,
I should look around without distraction;
And if someone appears in my field of vision,
I should acknowledge them and greet them.
(5.37) To avoid dangers or accidents on the path,
I should occasionally look in all directions,
And prevent my mind from becoming distracted
By relying upon conscientiousness.
(5.38) I should practise in the same way
Whenever I go or return.
Understanding the need to behave like this,
I should apply this practice in all situations.
We are the opposite of this, we look around everywhere. Why? Why do we look around? What is there going to be of interest or meaning for us? We need to ask. The main reason is because our mind is going out to objects of attachment or distraction. We think there are interesting things out there that we need to engage our mind with.
This advice seems so superficial, but it is not. If we behave like this it will help us to become more gathered, more restrained, more contained. We really will be binding our mind. If we remain mindful of our gaze, no doubt we will become a lot more centered, focused. If we are mindful of our gaze it is less likely we will develop delusions. Walking in such a way can be very meditative, if we want it to be. It can help with our concentration. The goal here is to have every moment of our day be part of our bodhisattva training.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the much revered Vietnamese monk, has written and taught extensively on the practice of being mindful while walking. When you think about it, we spend much of our day walking about. Most of that time, our mind is just wandering from one object of delusion to another without any benefit, and indeed much harm. If instead, we quite simply become mindful of our gaze, preventing it from wandering around to one thing after another, we will transform much of our day into an opportunity to train our mind.
This does not mean we need to start walking around like a robot afraid to look at anything. Outwardly, we should remain completely natural, but internally we are practicing mindfulness keeping control of our gaze. We should of course look out for cars as we cross the street and smile and greet as normal the people we pass while walking, but internally we are always in control. We simply remain intent on where we are going and single-pointedly head to our next destination. What matters most is not out outward appearance and behavior, but rather what we are doing with our mind, namely preventing it from “going out” to various objects of attachment and aversion. Generally speaking, we keep our eyes on the ground where we are walking and head to our destination without being weird or socially awkward about it.
Once we gain some control over our mind and gaze as we walk about, we can then begin extending this practice to while we are driving, while we are in our home walking around, when we are getting ready in the morning, even when we are attending meetings. We choose what we want to fix our gaze and attention on, and then we remain mindful to not become distracted by other things. If we train throughout the day in this form of mindfulness, there is no doubt that the strength and power of our mindfulness and concentration will greatly improve during our meditation sessions.