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Opening the View: Open Versus Closed Eye Meditation

Posted by Alice Jennings on 6/17/2014

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

- T.S. Elliot

 


Have you ever been lost in guided meditation, or meditating in savasana when the urge to open the eyes overcomes you? You try to repress this compulsion, but the thought cycles through your mind until it nullifies your meditation. Without a clear mind, one cannot meditate.


It is often said that meditation is practice for the rest of your life. Do we walk through day to day  life with our eyes open or our eyes closed? There are benefits to both opened-eye and closed-eye meditations.  When we enter into a meditative state, our mind gets lost in thought, the body becomes relaxed, and we concentrate on not concentrating. We strive for an empty mind. When the eyes are closed during meditation, this often leads to falling asleep in just a few minutes, especially if you are feeling tomasic. Falling asleep during meditation is not necessarily a bad thing; we simply enter into a different state of consciousness that is unfortunately very close to unconsciousness. Instead of reaping the benefits of a conscious meditation, we are left with static energy and sweet nothingness. However, sometimes during a guided meditation, slumber can result in vivid and surreal dreams that emerge from the imagination station in your brain. Plus, a short nap usually results in an improved mood, a boost of energy, and can be like pushing a “reset” button on your day. This can be quite beneficial for someone experiencing a lousy day. If you meditate with closed eyes and don’t fall asleep, you can focus inward. Depletion of one sense intensifies the others.


Buddhist monks traditionally meditated in dark monasteries for lengthy durations. To stay awake and alert, the monks kept their eyes softly opened in what is known as lion’s meditation: eyes half-opened and half-closed. It’s best practiced in a yoga studio, Hindu or Buddhist temple, or a sacred space with little to no distractions. If I am at home, I cannot meditate with my eyes opened because my eyes will wander. I see a set of colored pencils and next thing you know, I’m off doing a different activity. If I see pillows out of place or something that needs cleaning, I can’t help but stop and clean. Yet an opened-eye meditation has its benefits. It can facilitate improving your awareness and your state of consciousness. You can meditate longer if you slightly open your eyes with a soft gaze about 5 to 10 feet away from you, using a drishti point. This can be anything from a spiral in hardwood flooring to the top bolster on a pile. If objects become distracting, soften the gaze to where your eyes blur your path of vision.


A full open eye meditation, or open focus, is perfect when you are sitting in a beautiful environment. Maybe you are away at an ashram located amongst the valley between steep mountains or pinnacled atop of one. Breathtaking scenery should be the only focus of open focus. In this practice, one should simply see. Take in the entire panoramic landscape or narrow the focus upon one object. Either way, meditation on vacation is an excellent way to practice open eye meditation.


At the end of the day, the yogic precept of “listen to your body and do what feels right to you” extends to the closed eye versus open eye meditation debate. How do you meditate?



By: Alice Jennings (G+)