When most folks think of meditation, they think of being criss-cross-applesauce on the floor, hands resting gently on the knees, and their eyes closed. However, while this is often the portrayal of meditation, this isn’t always what it looks like.
Meditation can take various forms and isn’t restricted to a particular pose, contrary to popular belief. You don’t even have to close your eyes; you simply need to do what works best for you. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation in and of itself is simply the practice of focusing your attention. Generally, you pin your focus on one specific thing in a purposeful yet non-judgemental way. Your mind is free to choose the focal point, so whether you decide to focus on your breathing, bodily sensations, a mantra, or sights and sounds around you is entirely up to you.
Meditation doesn’t necessarily need to take place cross-legged on a yoga mat. You can meditate just about anywhere since meditation isn’t restricted to a specific pose or setting. That said, many folks use meditation to relax and relieve a busy mind, freeing themselves to take a step back from the chaos of daily life.
Do You Need To Close Your Eyes During Meditation?
No, you don’t need to close your eyes during meditation. Although many folks associate meditation with the eyes closed, you don’t have to close your eyes. Some people find it easier to focus on a singular thing with their eyes closed, as movement can create a distraction that pulls your mind from its focus.
When you close your eyes during meditation, you may find it easier to remove yourself from the distractions around you, as you can no longer see the stimulation occurring in your surrounding environment. You might find it easier to concentrate on your thoughts, although you might find specific sounds distracting.
Of course, meditating with your eyes closed might make you feel drowsy, allowing you to drift into sleep. If drifting into peaceful sleep is your goal, you may find it easier to let go of your surroundings and relax by closing your eyes. If sleeping isn’t the goal, you may find it easier to keep your eyes open. It’s entirely up to you.
Is It Okay To Meditate With Open Eyes?
Absolutely, you can meditate with open eyes. Many folks who are new to meditating struggle to keep their eyes open while focusing inward. They may unintentionally become overly conscious of blinking or strain to keep their eyes open.
Once you become more in-tune with yourself by practicing more frequently, you may find it easier to practice meditation with open eyes. Eventually, you may master the art of a blank stare, allowing your mind to zone out and focus inward without having to close your eyes.
This can be tricky for newbies, as our eyes are one of the primary ways we collect data from the world around us. With practice, you can develop your skill to focus inward while letting the world continue around you.
Of course, you can always practice with your eyes closed, but practicing with closed eyes has its downfalls, too. Ultimately, you should do what is best and most comfortable for you.
If you’re trying to incorporate open-eyed meditation, try implementing these tips:
- Pick a focal point: Think of when you zone out. For many folks, it starts as a blank stare focused on a single object, and before we know it, we’re no longer aware we’ve been staring at something for an unnatural amount of time. This can be a great way to focus during meditation. Simply pick a focal point, like an outlet on the wall or a piece of decor. Focus on the spot or item without straining your eyes, allowing your mind to get lost in the moment.
- Practice regularly: Like most things, the more you practice meditation, the better you’ll get. So, practice meditating throughout your day. You can practice while walking around the house, folding laundry, doing the dishes, or any other relatively mindless task you do throughout the day.
- Stick to open or closed eyes: When meditating, stick with your eyes open or closed. This doesn’t mean you can’t blink; just choose to practice open-eyed or close-eyed. If you switch, you might lose your focus early on. Of course, you can close your eyes as your meditation delves deeper, or you could open your eyes when drowsiness flares.
- Walk around slowly: Certain types of meditation are practiced while moving, such as traditional Zen meditation. In this form of meditation, participants start sitting with their eyes open before slowly getting up to walk in a circle. Start by focusing on the sensations throughout your body, such as how your legs move or the sensation of your feet contacting the ground.
- Focus on a spinning fan: A spinning fan can be a great focal point that lets you get lost in constant motion. Additionally, this can be a great way to differentiate between focusing your gaze versus focusing your eyes.
- Use a candle: As we’ll mention later, a candle is a standard prop used in meditation. Simply use the candle’s flame as a focal point, allowing your eyes to rest on the light without strain or focusing too hard.
- Face a blank wall: If wall art, decor, and other items and individuals distract you while attempting to meditate, sit facing a blank wall. This can be an excellent way to let your mind relax and let go, allowing you to focus on sensations and breathing.
- Sit in a dim room: If you have trouble focusing during open-eyed meditation, try practicing in a darker room without distractions. While this can make you sleepy, concentrating on your breathing or bodily sensations might be more manageable.
Traditions Where Meditation Is Practiced With Open Eyes
In several cultures and traditions, meditation is practiced with open eyes. For example, most Buddhist traditions in Tibet and Japan never require meditators to close their eyes. Instead, the participant closes their eye partially, shortening the gaze by looking downward.
A few settings where meditation is traditionally practiced with open eyes include:
- Tibetan Buddhism: According to Tibetan Buddhism, the correct way to meditate is by keeping your eyes open but looking downward at a 45-degree angle. The purpose is to limit the mind from bringing up mental images and creating other distracting activities.
- Trataka Meditation: This is a Hindu and yoga meditation form where participants focus on a candle’s flame to awaken the third eye.
- Zen Buddhism: In this form of meditation, participants keep their eyes open to focus on engaging and remaining present in the world instead of escaping from their surroundings and isolating themselves behind shuttered eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Long Should I Meditate?
You don’t have to meditate for hours to reap the benefits of turning your focus within. Many folks seem to agree that you should meditate for about 10 minutes a day or longer to reap the benefits of the practice. Of course, every individual responds to meditation, so more or less time in each session might be better for you.
Does Meditation Affect The Brain?
Studies show meditation can affect your brain. While some studies show significant changes in the brain within eight weeks of meditating, other studies say it takes much longer for these changes to occur. However, the results of long-term meditation are undeniable.
Meditation can help strengthen areas of your brain responsible for learning, memory, attention, and self-awareness. On top of that, meditation can relax your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your fight or flight reactions. Mindfulness meditation can improve cognition, attention, and memory with regular practice.