When I learned to meditate, which was a mantra-based meditation style, I was instructed to close my eyes. As I became a bit more familiar with Buddhist meditation, I learned that it is more common for one to keep their eyes half open/closed than having them closed all the way. This soon became an obsession of mine that took away (and continues to) from my meditation practice. Silly, I know. I know that gentleness and not getting so hooked the the precise nature of meditation is important, but I couldn’t stop getting caught up on the state of my eyes.
I tried to do Shambhala style meditation with my eyes gently open part-way, my gaze slightly out in front of me, and with a focus on my breath — letting go of the mantra. I found having my eyes open distracting, yet I told myself that this is part of the “training” that is meditation — exercising the ability to stay present despite distractions. I also completely understand the reasoning for keeping one’s eyes open — to stay awake. Meditation is a practice of being completely and most fully awake and present, so keeping one’s eyes open certainly seems key to doing that; however, I never come anywhere close to falling asleep when I have my eyes closed during meditation. I feel more comfortable with my eyes closed, as I am not worrying about gaze flitting here and there or about straining my eyes from being cross-eyed for so long. I am able to relax more deeply into the meditation when my eyes are closed, but I’m not relaxed to the point of a dream-like state at all. I recognize my thoughts more clearly with my eyes closed, and I’m able to then release them more readily. I’m more aware of my inner-self with my eyes closed, as I feel that is where the gaze is directed.