The glory of gazing

Have you ever aimlessly looked into the distance and it’s not until someone actually calls your name a few times that you realise you were even in this “stare mode” ?

Sometimes when we stare or gaze at something we are so focused that we withdraw from the external environment but without really realising it. It’s sounds a bit strange but staring or gazing can be used in a way to help you reach a meditative state.

This is similar to what trataka, another yogic cleansing technique aims to achieve. Trataka involves staring at a candle without blinking your eyes. By focusing on the candle flame, you are ideally able to withdraw your senses from the external environment (pratyahara), enhance concentration and stimulate the ajna chakra (the third eye). Trataka has even been said to assist with headaches and by allowing your eyes to water, it also works to cleanse and even improve their function of the eyes.

To begin trataka, sit in any comfortable, meditative position in a darkened room. Place a burning candle at eye level, just a metre or so in front of you. In the first stage, bring your attention to the base of the candle. Any external thoughts that enter the mind can be acknowledged, but draw your mind back to the point you are focusing on them. If you have to blink, then blink but ideally you want to keep the eyes open. Allow the eyes to water and then close.

A process called palming then begins. Palming involves simply rubbing the hands together till warm and then cupping both eyes with the hands. This gives the eyes a chance to relax.

In the next stage, move up the base of the candle to the flame. Firstly focus on the wick of the candle. When your eyes start to water, begin palming. In the next round, focus on the actual flame of the candle and then do some more palming when you’re ready. Then focus on the candle as a whole.

Now when you close your eyes here, try to visualise the image of the candle in your mind’s eye. Initially the after image will be fresh in your mind and you will be able to visualise it easily. However, after a while you will find you will really have to concentrate in order to hold the image in your mind’s eye for an extended period of time. This is where the challenge really lies and complete concentration is required.

If you’re new to trataka you will blink and your eyes will most likely, water quickly. However, after a few rounds you will see improvements in the length of time you are able to gaze. You’ll find it becomes a more meditative and relaxing practice as you go along and achieve complete concentration.

So next time someone catches you out when you’re in a seemingly aimless stare, call it trataka and say you’re improving your concentration.

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph is an accredited yoga teacher who loves to share her yogic journey from travels in India, cleansing techniques, her favourite poses and their benefits and tips to remember when practising.

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