There is a wide variety of meditation techniques out there, and it is beyond the scope of this blog to list them all. The basic technique involves sitting in a cross-legged or full lotus position on a cushion or on the floor, with your hands on your thighs, and with your eyes closed. But even in this basic posture, there are thousands of variations you can do with regards to your physical state (different hand mudras, sitting on a different surface, sitting in a different location, eyes open or closed), but also to your mental practice (loving-kindness meditation, pebble meditation, Vipassana, Zazen, Transcendental meditation, Kundalini, following the breath, contemplation, visualisation, chanting, and many, many more). When there are so many meditation techniques to choose from, one may begin to wonder – why do most people meditate with their eyes closed?
To answer this question, I started doing some research combined with my own practice. In fact, one without the other could never fully answer this question. But even both will only answer the question from my perspective and to my knowledge, and as always I encourage the reader to try out several different meditation techniques!
Through my research I discovered that despite the much stronger support for eyes closed meditation, several authors do recommend meditation with eyes open. They argue that as we go through the remainder of the day with our eyes open, learning to meditate with our eyes closed doesn’t make any sense. Moreover, meditation with our eyes open may help us to cultivate the habit of being mindful in the physical world while we see it, learn how to cope with our thoughts and emotions openly, and cultivate the practice of dealing with everything in a calm and gentle manner. Overall, there are benefits to both types of meditation practice.
The benefits of eyes open meditation include:
- We are less likely to fall asleep
- We may experience less mental images and thoughts
- We can meditate anywhere and anytime
The benefits of eyes closed meditation include:
- We are less likely to be distracted by external stimuli
- We may find it easier to reach a meditative state
- We are less likely to experience separation between the observer (us) and the observed (things, thoughts, feelings)
As mentioned before, there is wide variation even in eyes open meditation. Some meditation practices require your eyes to be open in the beginning only (e.g., meditating with a candle or a Buddha statue), while others may require you to maintain your eyes open throughout the entire practice (Tibetan Buddhist meditation), or even maintain the meditative state throughout the entire day (e.g., Samyama). While I prefer meditation with my eyes closed, I believe the choice ultimately boils down to two factors: 1) Which tradition do you adhere to, and 2) What method do you personally prefer? After all, meditation is and will always be a personal experience for each and every one of us.
In the words of Sadhguru,
“Can I meditate with my eyes open? No. With eyes open, can I be meditative? Yes”.
I would be very interested to learn more about meditation traditions which require the eyes to be open during formal meditation practice. Please share your thoughts and experiences below 🙂