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Sungazing is the practice of gazing into the sun for the purpose of improving one's level of health. Results are thought to take a variety of forms, including increased energy levels and improved eyesight. Some people even believe an individual can receive nourishment from the sun. The mechanism by which sungazing works is unknown, although it is thought to affect the pineal gland. Safety is a major concern when practicing sungazing for health, as some forms of sungazing involve looking directly into the sun, which can seriously and permanently damage a person's eyesight.
The practice of sungazing is found in India, Thailand, and Indonesia. Precise methodology depends on the tradition, but this practice usually involves staring at the sun without any eye protection for several minutes. Being barefoot or standing in a particular way may be involved as well. In some cases, intense staring for more than half an hour can be part of the practice. Western traditions of sungazing include the Bates method, which advocates exposure to sunlight to improve eyesight.
Many proponents of this practice believe in certain special qualities of the human visual organ. These include special access to the brain, sometimes explaining the benefits of staring at the sun by claiming that the eyes access the brain directly. Energy from the sun is also often thought to be a special kind of energy in this tradition. Different sungazers have different explanations for why this practice is beneficial.
Benefits of sungazing are quite diverse, but many traditions claim that this practice will increase energy levels or provide a reduction in pain. Clear thinking and other mental benefits are also often included, as is special spiritual access to specific ideas and concepts. Depending on the tradition, improved eyesight is sometimes thought to be a possible result of looking into the sun, but this is clearly and evidently false given what is known about the human eye. Most people believe that this practice is helpful for people who experience seasonal depression as well as general low energy.
Alternatives to looking directly at the sun include looking at white clouds, looking at tungsten bulbs, and simply exposing one's self to sunlight. These methods are all effective at relieving symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, much like direct exposure to sunlight. They do not, however, have all the same effects as sungazing. In the eyes of practitioners, the energy thought to relate to this practice is unique to directly staring into the sun.