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Physical Facts of Meditation: Hands, Eyes & Breathing
Posted In: Meditation And Spirituality  9/7/09
By: Yona Williams

Using the hands and eyes during meditative sessions is an important part of centering oneself and attaining desirable levels of spirituality. In this article, you will learn a couple of hand gestures mostly associated with Buddhist meditation, as well as using the eyes to focus on goals.


During a meditation session, hand and finger gestures (also known as mudras) may come into play. Sometimes, there is a religious connection to certain movements of the hands, while others see hand gestures as a way to tap into different levels of consciousness. A typical Buddhist hand-position is accomplished by resting the right hand on top of the left (much like the Buddha's begging bowl) and making sure that the thumbs touch. Gestures of the hand also play a role in spiritual rituals associated with Indian religions, such as Taoism and Dharma. A sampling of common Buddhist mudras is found below:

Abhaya Mudra: Also known as the 'mudra of no-fear,' this hand gesture symbolizes protection, peace, and warding off fears. Generally, it is performed by raising the right hand to shoulder height with the arm bent and the palm facing outward. Fingers should be in the upright position and joined. The left hand should hang down while the practitioner is in a standing position.

Varada Mudra:  If you're looking for a mudra that represents an offering, charity, giving, compassion, and sincerity, consider the Varada mudra (also referred to as the 'favorable mudra'). The left hand is almost always used, as a symbol of devotion to human salvation. However, a crooked arm with the palm slightly turned up or the arm facing downward with the palm showing fingers upright or slightly bent is common approaches to the position. When performing the Varada mudra, keep in mind that it is most commonly paired with another mudra that dominates the right hand – like the Abhaya mudra.

Karana Mudra: Driving away demons and dispelling the blockage that allows sickness and negative thoughts to fester, the Karana mudra is achieved by raising the index and the little finger, while folding the rest of the fingers.

The Eyes and Breathing – Focusing Techniques

Many people close their eyes while performing their meditative positions. However, not all practitioners keep their eyes fully closed. Zen sects typically follow a half-closed/half-open approach, where they slightly look downward. Others keep their eyes fully open. The positioning of the eyes often helps people achieve a desirable level of quiet, as well as centers an individual so that they can deeply breath, hum or chant once they have reached their meditative state.

Focusing on objects with the eyes or breathing techniques is a common way to lower your heart rate and efficiently meditate. In Chinese qigong practice, 'navel gazing' is a common practice, which is also found within Eastern Orthodoxy circles. In various Indic practices, Orthodox Christians, and Sufism additionally embrace techniques that focus on the breathing.


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