Trataka meditation, or gazing meditation, is a profound practice that centers on a visual focal point. This focal point acts as a meditative touchstone to bring your attention back to when your mind starts to wander. The word ‘trataka’ means ‘to look’ or ‘to gaze’ in Sanskrit. It’s most frequently practiced with a lit candle, but you can use anything as your focal point.
Meditation is one of the best ways to manage stress. You can start practicing meditation today; it requires no external resources and yields innumerable benefits.
Improve Your Brain Function
Adopting (and maintaining) a meditation practice brings with it a variety of brain-boosting effects. In addition to improving your emotional regulation, meditation also boosts your cognitive abilities. Trataka meditation specifically has been found to increase practitioner’s performance on a selection of cognitive tests, especially improving cognition in seniors.
Increase Your Attention Span
If you struggle to pay attention or frequently find your mind wandering, trataka meditation is a great choice to actively improve your focus. At its core, trataka meditation is an exercise in concentration and has thus been found to improve the attention span of practitioners.
Reduce Your Risk of Chronic Illnesses
Trataka meditation has been shown to increase your vagal tone. This comes with a whole host of profound benefits. It helps your body regulate blood glucose levels, which lowers your likelihood of getting diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It also releases stress and helps you relax.
Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is associated with a myriad of different health problems, ranging from heart attack and stroke to vision loss and sexual dysfunction. One in three Americans suffers from high blood pressure. Trataka meditation has been shown to lower blood pressure, which can keep you from developing the issues related to high blood pressure.
Improve Your Vision
Trataka meditation is often touted as a method to improve vision-realted issues. Since you’re actively focusing your eyes and preventing them from wandering off, you strengthen the muscles surrounding the eyes. There are even studies that show that trataka meditation is just as effective, if not more so, as doing traditional eye strengthening exercises.
Our eyes are one of our most important sensory organs, taking in 80 percent of our sense impressions. Because we rely so heavily on our eyes, learning to control them in a conscious way can unlock some major health benefits. In fact, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is emerging as an effective method of helping people heal from trauma. It’s even being combined with mindfulness meditation to create an even more holistic treatment.
Since visual stimulation plays such a huge role in the way we perceive the world around us, trataka meditation allows us to step back from the overwhelming stimuli we’re constantly taking and learn to focus our attention wholly on one object.
Some sources say that the best time to practice a trataka meditation is at sunrise or midday, but the timing of your practice matters less than its regularity. Finding a regular time to practice is key in letting meditation become a habitual part of your day, rather than something you do sparingly.
The most common focal point used in trataka meditation is a lit candle. You’ll want to place it at eye level, approximately an arm’s length away. If the trataka method resonates, you can get a specially made candle stand. When you’re starting out, placing it on a table in front of you works just as well. It’s best to practice without glasses on, so if you’re short or long sighted, you can adjust the distance of the candle so that you can clearly see the flame.
Trataka meditation happens in two phases: external and internal. When you start trataka, you start with external gazing, which uses your candle as your focus.
Focus your gaze at the end of the wick and try not to blink. Keep your attention focused fully on the flame. If your mind wanders, notice the thoughts that arise and then calmly return your attention to the flame. If you find it difficult to focus, try holding your breath after you inhale for a few moments. Relax into the space between your breaths. This will help settle your mind.
If your eyes begin to water or feel that you must blink, close your eyes and try to focus on the afterimage of the candle. Hold that image in your mind as clearly as you can, bringing your focus upwards towards your third eye or the space in the center and just above your eyebrows. It’s okay if you can only keep your eyes open for a few seconds at first. You’ll find that the practice becomes easier with consistent practice.
If the image begins to fade, open your eyes and repeat the practice. When you finish, rinse your eyes with cold water.
Once you’ve been practicing external gazing and you’re comfortable with the process, try internal gazing. Instead of using a tangible focal point, like the candle, internal gazing involves looking at a mental image. This can be the image of your candle since by now you probably know it well. You can also try visualizing a dot of light in the blank space behind your eyes.
Like with external gazing, your center of focus should be at your third eye. From here, visualize your image. When thoughts enter your mind, notice them and let them pass as you bring your attention back to your visualization.