Can You Meditate with Open Eyes?

Meditating young woman with open eyes on her bed.

If you’ve been trying to connect with a sense of spirituality or improve your mental health, you might have read about a practice called “meditation.” While meditation can mean many different things, we usually think of a serene monk closing his eyes and connecting with the divine when we think of meditation. Guided visualization apps and videos might also influence your idea of what meditating is “supposed” to look like.

As someone who has been meditating regularly for the past few years, I’ve tried several different types of meditation. At first, I thought that meditating meant sitting with my back straight and my eyes closed while humming “om” like the more experienced yogis in my yoga class did. After a few years of practice in meditating, I’ve learned that meditation is less about how you look or what you do and more about how it makes you feel.

Whether you’re trying out meditating for the first time or you’re a seasoned meditator, you may be wondering if it’s possible to meditate with your eyes open. The answer, as we’ll discuss, could be as unique as the individuals who meditate. This is to say that the decision to open or close the eyes during meditation is a personal one based on preferences and goals.

Can you meditate with open eyes?

Technically, you can meditate with open eyes or closed eyes–it’s a matter of personal preference and style. For some people, meditating with open eyes allows them to turn deeper inward and pay attention to their stilled innermost self or spiritual guidance. For other folks, keeping their eyes open during meditation invites unwanted distractions and disrupts their focus.

A skilled meditation expert could probably meditate in any number of positions and settings. An expert meditator can meditate with eyes open, eyes closed, seated, lying down, or riding the busy city subway. If you’re going to keep your eyes open during meditation, you may want to incorporate a few tips passed down from experienced meditators so that you don’t lose focus or get frustrated.

How can you meditate with your eyes open?

Senior woman female sitting in lotus position practicing meditation while her eyes open.

If you want to try meditating with your eyes open, you should prepare yourself and your environment to succeed. While meditation is all about moving towards progress rather than achieving perfection, meditating with your eyes open can be more distracting than meditating with your eyes closed. Because of this difference, it’s important to declutter the outside so that the interior remains uncluttered, as well.

If you want to meditate with your eyes open, create a calm, peaceful space in your surroundings. If you have plenty of distractions, you may want to consider waiting to meditate until you are in a more serene place. For example, it may be hard to meditate on a bus or in a public setting with your eyes open.

It may be easier to do so in the safety and comfort of your own home. Before meditating with your eyes open, make sure to turn off any electronics, including your cellphone. Put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode or set it in another room.

When you’re meditating with your eyes closed, it is easier to ignore distractions like phone notifications or calls. When you’re meditating with your eyes closed, you may see a notification for your social media post pop up and have a harder time resisting the urge to check it in the middle of a meditation session. Carve out the sacred space for yourself by letting friends and family know you will be unavailable during this time.

Most things can wait until you’ve centered on yourself and enjoyed even a brief ten-minute meditation. When meditating with your eyes open, be sure to maintain a soft, unfocused gaze. Instead of staring at specific things or points in the room, let your eyes wander throughout the scene.

Don’t judge anything or analyze it–simply observe it and let it pass like you observe thoughts and let them pass in meditation. If your gaze focuses on something (like that pair of dirty socks you swore you tossed in the laundry bunched in the corner of the room), gently redirect it back to a neutral, soft, wandering state. If your thoughts begin to wander to places outside of the here and now, such as tomorrow’s work or yesterday’s embarrassing moment, you don’t need to beat yourself up.

Just acknowledge the thought and then let it pass without judgment. Sometimes, meditation can make us feel sleepy whether we’re keeping our eyes open or letting them flutter closed. If a wave of tiredness falls over you as you meditate, notice the tiredness.

Let your eyes close for a few moments and take deep, intentional breaths. Even if you end up falling asleep, it is part of the process. Perhaps a few minutes of rest is exactly what you need.

Take care not to judge yourself or think harshly about yourself because you “failed” to meditate. No one wins or loses in meditation–we all simply do our best and try again the next time. That’s what the word “practice” is all about in meditation.

What happens when you meditate with open eyes?

A group of fit young individuals sitting on green grass and meditating.

According to mensyogajournal.com, “Some people believe that it is impossible to meditate with your eyes open, as the focus required for meditation can be disrupted. However, others find that keeping their eyes open allows them to better connect with their surroundings and maintain focus on their breath or mantra. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Those who choose to keep their eyes closed may find that they can more easily focus on their internal experience, while those who keep their eyes open may find it easier to remain aware of their surroundings.” Ultimately, when you meditate with open eyes, you figure out if meditating is easier or more challenging for you when your eyes are open. It’s simply more information and experimentation to inform your practice in the future.

Every person is different and every session of meditation is different–no two are alike. Some days, you may find it easier to meditate with your eyes open. You may find it refreshing to feel connected to your surroundings while maintaining a neutral, calm demeanor.

On the other hand, you might find it easier to meditate with your eyes closed some days. After all, when you close your eyes, you block out the outside world and delve deeper into your mind and spirit.

What do you do with your eyes when you meditate?

A close-up photo of a Women's open eye.

As ananda.org shares, “This is the way to do it: before meditation, stretch out your arm in front of you and lift the thumb upward. The thumb should be slightly higher than the eyes. Gaze at the thumbnail, then close your eyes and keep the position of the eyes.

They are looking upward, without being crossed.” This method can help if you want to keep your eyes open during meditation but you find yourself getting sidetracked by different things going on around you. Don’t feel bad if this method feels tricky at first–meditation is a skill that takes practice, time, and patience to improve.

It’s all about trying different things out and seeing what feels helpful for you spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. If something is too challenging at the moment, you can always try it at a later date.

Yoga matt and meditation pillow.

If keeping your eyes closed is hard during meditation, you may want to consider meditating in dark lighting or putting an eye mask over your eyes during meditation to avoid getting distracted. Even if you find it tough to meditate with your eyes open now, you may find it easier in the future. The only right way to meditate is the method that feels right for you.

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