Eyes wide open

John Wood, Founder of Rageheart

by John Wood

When I used to meditate, I meditated with my eyes shut.

I’d don my white clothes, wrap my prayer beads around me, set a timer for 20 minutes, shut my eyes, kiss my gurus perfectly manicured feet…

…and then I’d meditate 🧘‍♂️

(Ok… I never wore white clothes, only ever briefly flirted with prayer beads and I never actually kissed anyone’s feet.)

But when I stumbled across the world of nervous system healing, I quit the “eyes closed” habit.


Because it’s backwards.

Think about it…

People meditate to calm themselves down. To relieve stress. To clear their mind.

In other words…

People meditate to move out of sympathetic (fight-or-flight) activation and into parasympathetic rest-and-digest.

But here’s the thing:

The primary (and perhaps only) way we go from sympathetic to parasympathetic is by orienting to (ie. seeing) the safety that’s around us.

We literally have to SEE that it’s safe.

That’s one of the big problems with meditation (at least as most people do it):

How can you see if it’s safe around you if your eyes are shut? 🤔

Then again…

If that’s true, why do some people feel calmer after meditation?

Well, speaking from experience…

Meditation made me feel calmer but rather than it being true parasympathetic rest-and-digest, I discovered that it was actually freeze or dissociation.

In other words…

I wasn’t truly calming myself down (not in the healthy way, anyway)…

…I’d just gotten really good at consciously activating the freeze portion of my nervous system.

That’s why I still felt quite numb and disconnected after almost 10 years meditating 🤷‍♂️

I was calmer, sure.

But did I feel alive?

No way.

I remember complaining to friends that despite everything I did, I just felt, well… kind of empty.

Now, there’s a number of reasons that happened but one reason is that I shut my eyes during meditation.

That’s why these days, I rarely shut my eyes when trying to “calm down” unless I want to sleep.

This reduces the likelihood of the freeze function being activated… and it also makes it easier to bring what I learn into my day-to-day life (rather than it staying on the meditation cushion).

Ragers like David D. inside The Rageheart Academy are finding the same thing:

What more can there be said other than it works!?!

It’s absolutely brilliant that many of the techniques and practices are designed to work with your eyes wide open when you are in the trenches dealing with the stress and anxieties of modern life.

Who knew that by focusing on your body and sensation it would help me get out of my head and process accumulated tension in my body? It’s so simple and obvious, yet genius! Now I understand what people mean when they say BE YOURSELF!

– David D.

The obvious question from here is…

Doesn’t this mean that Rageheart simply teaches meditation with the eyes open?

The answer to this is somewhat complicated.

The techniques inside The Rageheart Academy are somewhat similar to meditation since many of them are about using and refining your ability to pay attention to your experience.

However, the difference is how the science of the nervous system and the survival response informs the use and practice of these techniques.

In my experience, that subtle difference actually makes a world of difference in results.

That’s why the nervous system approach has replaced meditation for me… and just about every other technique for “feeling better” that I used to use (gratitude lists, journaling, etc).

It’s why I write these emails, build the academy and spread the word about this way of working.

Anyway, if you want to work with your nervous system (with your eyes open as David mentions), join me inside The Rageheart Academy here:



John Wood

P.S. Know anyone who meditates but is a little stuck?

Refer them to The Daily Growl and give them better tools for calming down (tools that don’t disconnect them from themselves).

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