Mindful Meditation: Eyes Open or Closed?

Meditate with eyes open or closed?
While I was doing my sitting meditation monthly challenge Alex Bowe (blog) and Sam Alexander (blog) asked an interesting question:
Do you meditate with your eyes open or with eyes closed?
In my specific case, I do eyes open fixed around one meter ahead of me, this comes from Taisen Deshimaru's Questions to a Zen Master. He prefers eyes open (although he never says that!), but does not completely dismiss eyes closed.

The reason behind eyes open stems from historical reasons: monasteries are dark places, and a monk (or nun) with his eyes closed is very likely to doze and fall asleep easily. Keeping your eyes open will prevent that quite effectively, at least if you are not extremely tired.

But Master Deshimaru adds a reason for closing our eyes, and it is related to occidental culture. We are more stressed, and being bombarded with external thoughts. Closing our eyes can shut down one channel of feelings and lets us concentrate in our breath. If you follow the eyes closed path, try to meditate in a fresh room and not immediately after eating.

The ultimate reason that made me decide for eyes open came from the wonderful (and long) Zen and the Brain, by James Austin (a neuro-scientist). You want to do mindful meditation. You do so by sitting very still and being mindful of your breathing (for example). And you want to carry that mindfulness into your daily life. What is then more natural than having your eyes open to let you carry this mindfulness throughout the day?

It is not really important which way you follow: there is no wrong answer to this question as long as you sit and meditate.

What is your stance? Do you meditate with your eyes open or closed?

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Photo credit: an old sketch of one of Lauren Bacall's eyes.

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