Forget traditional meditation - Gwyneth Paltrow swears by eyes-open meditation for daily calm

Never managed to make meditation stick? Give this one a try.

Gwyneth Paltrow practicing eyes-open meditation
(Image credit: Moments of Space)

You'll have heard of traditional meditation, long hailed as a simple, affordable and actionable way to boost your calm from home. You'll also have heard friends and colleagues raving about how good it is for you... but that doesn't mean you've managed to make it stick, right? Enter stage right, eyes-open meditation.

Confirmed to be Gwyneth Paltrow's go-to form of meditation when we spoke to the actress last week, she shared: "I can be at my desk, walking down my hall, or on a call and I can meditate. It's been game-changing and it's really deepened the results of what meditation can do for me."

Long known as something of a guru when it comes to wellbeing, Paltrow launched her own wellness brand Goop back in 2008 and has made headlines with her alternative therapies ever since. That said, one thing's for certain - she's not afraid to give everything a go and report back on what works and what, well, doesn't, eyes-open meditation falling firmly into the first camp.

Never heard of it and curious to learn more? In short, it's a flexible and practical way of incorporating mindfulness and meditation into the rhythm of your everyday life, appealing to those who may find traditional meditation practices challenging to maintain.

Keep scrolling for an expert's take, plus a step-by-step from Gwyneth on how to try it for yourself - wherever you are. Don't miss our guides to sleep meditation, body scan meditation, and transcendental meditation, while you're here.

Gwyneth Paltrow swears by eyes-open meditation: your guide

What is eyes-open meditation?

According to Moments of Space founder Kim Little, eyes-open meditation - as the name suggests - is a practice that involves meditating with your eyes open, engaging directly with the world around you. 

“Unlike traditional meditation practices that often require closing your eyes to minimise distractions, EO meditation allows you to maintain a soft or unfocused gaze, integrating the external environment into your meditative experience,” he explains.

You likely won't have heard of it before for a few reasons, according to the pro. "First, the most popularised forms of meditation in Western cultures often emphasise techniques that involve closing the eyes, which can make eyes-open practices less visible in mainstream wellness and media," he explains. "Additionally, Dzogchen and Mahamudra, where these practices are more commonly found, are specific to Tibetan Buddhism and might not be as widely taught or discussed outside of those communities or without seeking them specifically."

Bottom line: meditation can actually be incredibly diverse. What's key is working out what works for you. 

Where does eyes-open meditation come from?

Eyes-open meditation originates from ancient meditation traditions, notably Dzogchen and Mahamudra within Tibetan Buddhism, Little explains. "These practices have been teaching eyes-open meditation for thousands of years, emphasising the integration of meditation with everyday life experiences." 

While it's not your traditional form of meditation, it is a type that highlights the importance of maintaining awareness and presence not just in secluded meditation sessions but in all aspects of your life, he goes on. "It uses your visual sense as a primary means to cultivate mindfulness and connect with the external world as part of the meditative process."

What are the benefits of eyes-open meditation?

"Simply, it’s easier to incorporate into your day-to-day life than the more traditional method and also helps meditation fit seamlessly into even the busiest of lives," shares Little. “It helps to cultivate a seamless state of mindfulness and presence into daily life, enabling you to meditate anytime and anywhere, even amidst the hustle and bustle of modern living."

Aside from that, there are numerous benefits including:

1. It's accessible

It can be practised anywhere, anytime, and without the need for a quiet, secluded space, shares Little. "This makes meditation more accessible to people in various environments, including public or busy places."

2. It's easy to integrate into your daily life

Eyes-open meditation is easy to seamlessly integrate into your daily activities, allowing you to cultivate mindfulness while engaging in routine tasks, he continues. "This helps you to overcome the challenge of finding dedicated time for meditation."

3. It teaches you to deal with distractions

"By incorporating the external world into the practice, eyes-open meditation offers a practical approach to dealing with the constant distractions of modern life," explains Little. Think about it - by learning to meditate with your eyes open, you'll be especially adept at ignoring visual distractions from screens and digital devices.

4. It reduces barriers to entry

One of the main things that put people off meditating is the multiple barriers to entry - I know I often put it off because I don't have a quiet space or can't guarantee my fiance will walk on me, which only puts me off mid-practice. With EO meditation, though, there's no need to find complete silence or ensure privacy, shares Little "This reduces the barriers to starting a meditation practice, demystifying meditation and makes it more approachable for beginners," he goes on.

5. It's easy to do

Not just that, but EO meditation aligns with the realities of a fast-paced, connected world, making mindfulness more attainable in the context of modern lifestyles. "Often, taking time out for traditional meditation may not always be feasible," Little points out.

It also encourages a direct engagement with life as it happens, fostering a non-dualistic understanding that meditation and daily life are not separate but interconnected, the expert concludes.

What are the disadvantages of eyes-open meditation?

While there are loads of reasons to give eyes-open meditation a go, some do find it harder than more traditional meditation, which might make sticking at it challenging. Whether it'll be difficult for you personally depends on your unique experiences and preferences, shares Little. "For some, keeping the eyes open might initially feel challenging due to the increased potential for visual distractions," he explains. "It requires a different kind of focus, where the goal is to maintain a soft gaze without attaching to any specific visual stimuli, which can be a new skill to master."

That said, he also counters this point and stresses that some people find eyes-open meditation easier or more accessible because it allows for a more direct integration of mindfulness into daily life. "It can feel more natural to those who struggle with the sense of isolation or restlessness that sometimes comes with closing the eyes. Additionally, it can help prevent drowsiness and encourage a state of alert awareness," he continues. 

How do I try eyes-open meditation?

Keen to give it a go? Lucky for you, Little has shared her top tips for giving it a go at home yourself tonight. As he explains:

  • Start by maintaining a soft open gaze that rests in the middle distance, without focusing on any one thing in particular. 
  • Next, focus on keeping that gaze steady despite surrounding movement and distraction, be that visual or auditory.
  • Allow yourself to be aware of all movement without following the focus or giving attention to any one specific sight or sound. Your mind will shift from being lost in objects, to connecting inwards to the awareness that is perceiving them.
  • While you're meditating, focus on using your awareness of the negative space around you (external physical space) as a means to mirror and further connect with inner mental space. "This provides relief from your stress and baggage," he concludes.

For a simple follow along version, watch Gwyneth's video below.

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Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.