I recently had a reader comment on one of my posts, where it was mentioned that one of the issues faced with traditional forms of meditation is that staying in a relaxed position with one’s eyes closed will usually result in the body slipping into something akin to a dream/sleep state. At least for one of the posts, I was discussing the use of meditation as a means of refreshing oneself from fatigue, so this wouldn’t be an unexpected result. But the reader made a good point about the importance of experiencing one’s day with open eyes, to live in the moment to experience all the beauty that life can potentially offer.
I remember in my pre-teens when I started toying with the concept of meditation and more often than not, trying to meditate for more than ten minutes would typically result in my falling asleep. At that age, it was entirely a bad thing. But during adulthood, we scarcely have the free time to meditate in any form, much less being available to fall asleep randomly. Imagine taking your lunch hour to meditate at the office and falling asleep? Only to have your boss give your shoulder a shake and ask you what the hell is going on?
I’m not saying this has happened to me, and the fact that some employers not only encourage but provide the resources for lunch-hour naps notwithstanding, that’s a topic for another post. The question is, can one meditate with eyes open? Are there any benefits to such a practice and how does one do it? The answer isn’t as simple or easy as a yes or no. And there are a LOT of conflicting sources. Depending on what definition you read, meditation is simply defined as working towards an enlightened state of focus, concentration and awareness. It’s thought to be a technique capable of changing one’s consciousness, allowing for a number of physical and mental benefits. If you’re a reader of some old classics, you may remember that Marcus Aurelius wrote a book simply called “Meditations.” In this context, meditation is considered someone’s written discourse on a particular subject, weighing heavily on their opinion. The focus of today’s post is obviously the definition as I’ve provided it, above.
Meditating with your eyes open, or “wakeful meditation,” as I’ve heard it referred to, is a practice where one can go about one’s day and perform daily activities all while maintaining some basic level of awareness towards meditation. In some respects, this can be a handy tool for allowing yourself to be freed from distractions in one’s environment, to increase one’s focus and even in some circumstances, to block out certain forms of pain.
This is not without challenge, and I’d be lying if I said it was something that could be sustained indefinitely. But it’s certainly possible and definitely recommended. The thing about meditation that most people seem to forget, is that you don’t need to be dressed in robes, sitting in the lotus position with your eyes closed in order to achieve it. I had a math teacher when I was in high school, who would take the fifteen-minute recess to close his classroom door, sit at his desk and simply close his eyes and perform a simple, deep-breathing meditation. Fifteen minutes. That’s it. And it would leave him refreshed and ready to continue on with his day.
I found an analogy online that would seem to be fitting. The word “meditation” is a bit like the word “sports.” If you tell someone you play sports, they’d likely ask you what sport you play, since there would be hundreds upon hundreds of possibilities. Meditation is very much the dame thing. There are many ways of meditating, different methods, techniques and postures, all with the goal of helping one increase their overall awareness and consciousness. The key thing is to find a method that works for you and suits your purposes. Otherwise, it’s like picking out a car to buy. If you don’t get the model you want with the options you were looking for, it’ll get you from point “A” to point “B,” but there’ll always feel like there’s something missing. Meditation falls very much under the same comparison. A huge shout out to the reader who provided comments that elicited this post. If you’re reading this, inspiration is always appreciated. ☯️