Wondering how to meditate with eyes open vs eyes closed? Some meditation traditions default to recommending eyes closed during meditation, but others recommend keeping your eyes open. There are benefits and drawbacks to each method.
Most of us default to closing our eyes when we meditate.
But we don’t have to. Monks in east Asia have been meditating with their eyes open for hundreds of years.
By contrast, modern mindfulness teachers tend to teach meditation techniques that involve closing the eyes. Among other reasons, this tends to be less distracting and easier for beginners.
With hundreds of meditation practices around the world, there’s no one “right” way to meditate. Trying multiple practices is a good way to see what you gravitate best towards.
Let’s explore open eye meditation vs closed eye meditation, so you can get a better idea of which might be right for you.
Can you meditate with open eyes?
Yes. This technique is known as open eye meditation, and it’s relatively common in east Asia.
Practitioners of Buddhism in east Asia have been meditating with their eyes open for hundreds of years.
Open eye meditation is thought by some to be better for intermediate and advanced meditators, as it allows you to focus on your surroundings while still achieving a state of mindfulness. It can be more challenging for beginners, as an open visual field can lead to more distractions.
Meditators typically have three options when it comes to what to do with their eyes while meditating:
- Keep them closed
- Keep them open
- Keep them partially closed
There are advantages to each, and at the end of the day, it comes down to your own comfort level with the technique.
At the same time, there are several benefits to keeping your eyes open while you meditate.
Some people find that keeping their eyes open helps them stay more awake, focused, and aware during meditation, while others find that it allows them to connect more with their environment and the people around them.
How to meditate with eyes open
To meditate with your eyes open, follow these steps:
- Take a deep breath to center yourself
- Sit on a cushion on the floor with your spine straight, facing a blank wall
- Keep your eyes half-open, with an unfocused gaze. Blinking is okay.
- Look down at a 45 degree angle towards the floor
- As your mind wanders and thoughts arise, gently note them, then let them go
There are other ways to meditate with your eyes open. This is just one method.
Traditions that use open eye meditation
It’s not just monks that practice open eye meditation. Everyday practitioners of numerous traditions of Buddhism meditate with their eyes open, too.
The Zen Buddhism tradition tends to recommend keeping the eyes open.
So does Tibetan Buddhism.
Typically, these practices recommend meditating with the eyes open for a mix of practical and spiritual advantages.
On a practical level, it’s harder to fall asleep when your eyes are open, and it’s also harder for your mind to run wild with mental images that project onto the back of your eyelids.
Instead, when you’re just staring at a wall or a flickering candle, you may find that your mind has less room to wander.
On a spiritual level, closing your eyes can be seen as a “withdrawal from the world” whereas keeping your eyes open keeps you in participation with the world. In some traditions like Zen, mental withdrawal from the world is discouraged and an “eyes open” meditative stance is encouraged.
Is there a difference between meditating with your eyes closed or opened?
At a deep level, there’s no meaningful difference between meditating with your eyes open or eyes closed. Both practices help you build awareness. There are a couple of practical differences, however.
When your eyes are open you’re more likely to be focusing on something in your visual field, like the floor in front of you or a candle, and may experience fewer wandering thoughts.
When your eyes are closed, you may be reducing sensory distractions by closing off your visual field. Meditation with the eyes closed is also more appropriate for certain meditation techniques like body scan meditation.
But in the end, the goal of meditation is to train your mind in the art of being present not just during your meditation practice, but in your everyday life. Your mental training is practice for remaining present and observing your thoughts without judgment, whether you’re on a pillow in a quiet room or in a crowded, noisy office.
The answer to the question of “eyes open vs eyes closed” is therefore: Yes. Either, or both.
Whatever helps you in this practice of being present and nonjudgmental.
Benefits of open eye meditation
Some people find that there are benefits to open eye meditation, so it’s worth a try if you haven’t attempted it before.
Remember, you don’t have to open your eyes all the way. Keeping them halfway closed, with a downward gaze, can lessen the visual input that comes through the eyes while still helping you not fall asleep during meditation.
A few benefits of open eye meditation:
- Avoid falling asleep during meditation
- Stay more focused and aware
- Improve your skills of focus and concentration
- Connect more with your environment and the people around you
- Practice mindfulness in a way that translates more directly to the real world (in your daily life, your eyes are usually open, not closed)
Picking the right technique for you
If you’ve gotten this far, you might be asking yourself, “So, should I meditate with my eyes closed or opened?”
Fair enough. But there’s no one answer to this question.
You should try meditating with your eyes closed, open, and half-open. Then, practice whichever works best for you.
If you tend to fall asleep during meditation, meditating with your eyes open is definitely worth a try. You’ll have a better shot at staying awake. You might also try open eye meditation if you’re having difficulty with wandering thoughts, or with translating your mindfulness practice to the real world.
Closed eye meditation may be for you if you’re finding yourself easily distracted by visual input, if your eyes get too dry when open for long periods, or if you’re simply more comfortable with them closed.
There are no right answers here. Meditation is a practice.
Go forth and experiment!
Frequently asked questions
What do you do with your eyes when meditating?
When you’re meditating, you have three options for what to do with your eyes: keep them open, keep them closed, or keep them half-open. Different meditation practices around the world recommend different variations, so it’s up to you to try for yourself. Some people find that keeping their eyes closed helps them stay more focused, while others find that keeping their eyes open helps them stay awake during meditation. Keeping your eyes half-open with a downward gaze may be a helpful middle ground to experiment with.
Is it OK to meditate with your eyes open?
Yes. Numerous traditions around the world recommend meditating with your eyes open, including Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. Many forms of concentration meditation also require your eyes to be open: for example, staring at a flickering candle during meditation.
Is it better to meditate with eyes open or closed?
Meditating with your eyes open is not better or worse than meditating with your eyes closed. Ultimately, it’s up to you which technique you prefer. Frequently, beginning meditators are recommended to start meditating with their eyes closed to reduce distractions. On the other hand, as your practice advances, you may experiment with keeping your eyes open or half-open in order to reduce wandering thoughts and avoid falling asleep during longer meditation sessions.
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Hi there—my name is Ryan. My mindfulness practice kicked off in 2016 after I joined a ten-day silent retreat. I started Mindfulness Box because thinking about what makes humans happy, calm, and peaceful is endlessly fascinating to me.