Do You Have to Close Your Eyes to Meditate?

June 8, 2024

The stereotypical image of meditation involves a person sitting cross-legged with eyes closed. This is the most common way to meditate and is likely how you have been taught. It’s also the best way to get started as it cuts out external distractions and stimuli. However, it is possible to meditate with your eyes open and some people prefer this.

In fact, in some highly respected meditation traditions it is the preferred method. In these practices, the gaze is often unfocused and soft and you are allowed to let your mind wander. The intention is to notice when the mind wanders and bring it back to focus on the breathing, body, emotions or whatever else is present.

Some people find that meditating with the eyes open can give rise to experiences unique to meditating with your eyes open, such as dreamy qualities that could be misleading and cause you to divide the experience between “meditation” life and everything else (good or bad). However, it is possible to train yourself not to fall into this trap by simply being mindful of when your attention wanders and bringing it back to the breath or body.

Another option is to close the eyes only slightly, or not at all and use a simple, repeating word as the focal point. This is called a mantra and can be as simple as the ancient Christian prayer word maranatha, which is four equal syllables. The idea is to simply focus on reciting the word, silently and slowly, while tuning into the physical sensations of the body and the thoughts and emotions that are arising.


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