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Can I Meditate With My Eyes Open?
Should You Do Open-Eye Meditation?

Our article on the goal of meditation provides a more comprehensive discussion about the “goal” of meditation in traditional yoga, including its spiritual and “worldly” benefits.

Eyes Open or Closed? Does it Matter if You Meditate with Open Eyes? Can/Should You Meditate with Your Eyes Open?

Meditating With Open Eyes: the Significance/Insignificance of Meditating With Your Eyes Open (for Focused-Attention & Mindfulness Meditation)

Can I meditate with my eyes open?

Of course you can meditate with open eyes.

 

Different meditation traditions/lineages have their own rules around meditation. However, understanding the purpose of meditation will allow you to answer many of these types of questions (about the details of meditation practice) yourself.

 

Meditation is just about becoming aware of the ways in which your awareness is always already pre-occupied. This means remaining receptive to what is always already happening. Therefore, “meditating” in different situations will allow you to see how your awareness is automatically and habitually pre-occupied in different situations.

 

However, maintaining a receptiveness to what is happening in inner/outer life is better achieved once you are capable of focusing your attention. This is why, when we begin meditation, we often aim to cultivate the capacity for focused attention by controlling as many variables as possible (i.e., limiting as many possible distractions as possible). As such, we typically:

  1. Adopt a physical position that we can maintain for some time (such as sitting, not standing because of muscle fatigue, and not lying down in case we are prone to falling asleep), and ensure that there aren’t many distractions in our environment (after all, our inner life will distract us enough from focusing our attention!). 

  2. Close our eyes to prevent the various objects from calling our attention. Later on, when we meditate with our eyes open, we will be in a better position to see just how our attention is pre-occupied by our surroundings.)

  3. Meditate in a physical location that is relatively distraction-free. This means avoiding places that may trigger fears (e.g., public places where one fears being accosted by people/animals) and/or where one may be interrupted (e.g., by others, phones). Some people feel less anxious meditating with background noise/music, and so eventually, meditating without the accompanying noise will allow you to notice what is happening with your awareness that motivated you to seek noise in the first place. It’s not that wanting noise is “abnormal”, but just that it may be distracting you from a background uneasiness (that perhaps motivated you to seek meditation in the first place).

  4. Have an object upon which you focus your attention. Examples include a mantra or the breath. Chanting a mantra and manipulating the breath are two active forms of focused-attention meditations. A more passive form of focused-attention meditation is mindfulness of the breath, which is the practice of focusing on the breath that is always already happening (without any kind of active manipulation).

    • Some meditation techniques emphasize fixing our attention on an external object (which would require keeping the eyes open). Generally speaking, however, meditation is taught with eyes closed, especially to beginners as they work to cultivate the capacity to focus their attention. 

 

As you become more experienced with focusing your attention and noticing the ways in which your awareness is pre-occupied, you can manipulate your circumstances so that you can notice how your awareness is taken in/up in said circumstances. Eventually, this habit will become second nature and you’ll be able to notice your awareness becoming absorbed in your daily life.

Image by Samuel Austin

Further Reading

This article is intended as a short response to a single question about meditation: can you meditate with your eyes open during your meditation? Similar response articles address questions such as whether one should meditate sitting or lying down and whether meditation is ultimately just “sitting quietly”.

Our article on the purpose (and benefits) of meditation offers a comprehensive discussion of the role of meditation in traditional yoga philosophy and practice.

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