Meditation is no longer a mysterious power that only saints and yogis of the past centuries possessed.
Its practical benefits are now being studied by science and it's now been seen to have genuinely positive effects on a person's overall health.
From lowering blood pressure to destressing the mind, meditation does it all. But a lot of people have difficulty meditating.
Well, let's face it. It is difficult. It's hard to concentrate the mind on a single thing, be it an object or a mantra, with so many distractions around.
Knowing that it's so challenging, yogis of the old days devised various techniques to help with concentration.
One such method is called trataka and it involves using your eyes.
How would that work? Read on to find out more.
What Is Trataka?
Trataka, also called tratak, in Sanskrit means 'to gaze'. In meditation, one of the ways to concentrate is to gaze unwaveringly at a single object until your eyes start to well up.
You may gaze at any small object, or a dot on the wall, or simply stare at a distant star. But the most commonly used object to practice trataka is the flame of a candle.
Now, why does trataka work so well? This is because your eyes are one of the most important parts of your body.
Physiologically, the eyes have a direct connection with the brain. And also, almost half of your brain is dedicated to processing images captured by your eyes.
Well, if your eyes are so important to the brain, isn't it expected that calming your eyes would also calm your mind?
That's exactly the concept behind trataka. Focus your gaze, concentrate, relax your eyes, and still the mind.
But why is gazing at a candle so popular?
It's because the light of the candle forms a strong after-image even after you stop gazing and close your eyes. This image helps you to remain in your meditative state for a longer time.
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What Are Trataka Benefits?
Alright, so now you know that you've to use your gaze to concentrate for your meditation session. But even apart from improving your concentration, trataka has several benefits. Let's briefly look at what they are.
- Improves eye strength and vision - not blinking for a few minutes can strengthen your eye muscle and improve the clarity of your vision.
Improves concentration and memory - not just during meditation but regularly practicing trataka can improve your concentration in other spheres of life, too.
And remember we talked about the connection between the eyes and the brain? This connection builds up your memory through trataka.
- Purifies the eyes - with every trataka practice, your eyes flush out impurities within themselves and help in curing certain eye diseases.
- Calms the mind - when you concentrate on a single object, you disconnect yourself from your surroundings. That's one way of calming the mind.
- Reduces anxiety - as the mind gets attached to the object of focus during trataka, it ceases to get influenced by all the anxiety triggers of the external world.
- Improves cognitive function - trataka charges the neurons in the brain, creating more alertness and awareness.
- Helps with sleep - consistently practicing trataka makes you more peaceful, which in turn helps you sleep better.
- Balances the two sides of the brain - your left and right sides of the brain must work in perfect harmony to maintain serenity. The central gaze in trataka practice helps you achieve this.
- Boosts willpower - it helps awaken the energy in your spiritual eye, or the third eye, which is also known as the seat of your will.
- Leads to superconsciousness - regularly practicing trataka clears your mind, fixes your concentration, and aids you in meditating deeply to reach the mind's higher conscious state.
How To Practice Trataka?
Okay, so candlelight meditation has plenty of benefits. But how do you do it? First things first.
You need a candle and a table on which you can place it. When you have these two, follow these steps:
- Choose a dark room where the candle would be your only source of light.
- Sit in a meditative posture. The key is to keep your spine straight and your hips at an elevated position compared to your knees.
- Place the candle on a table, adjusting the height so that the flame of the candle is at your eye level.
- Start gazing into the brightest part of the flame without blinking.
- Continue to gaze until tears begin to appear in your eyes.
- Close your eyes and concentrate on the image of the burning candle imprinted at the point between your eyebrows.
- Maintain the focus on the image until it completely fades out.
- Open your eyes and repeat the steps beginning from step 4.
- Continue the process for as long as you feel comfortable.
- End your practice by breathing deeply and feeling the bliss of your relaxed mind.
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Types of Trataka
You know by now that candlelight meditation is just one way to practice trataka. When we're talking about fixing our gaze, it can be fixed on so many different things, right?
Yes, there are other forms of trataka meditation besides staring at a candle. Here are the three types.
1. Internal Trataka
Also called Antar Trataka, this is a process where you get to focus on something inside your mind. There's no need to place any object before you.
All you have to do is close your eyes and gaze at the point between your eyebrows. If that's not your thing, you can also visualize a sacred symbol of your choice (Om is a common one) and focus your mind's eye on it.
2. Middle Trataka
In this practice, you gaze at the tip of your nose or the middle of your eyebrows. You need to keep your eyes open for this type of trataka. The candlelight trataka also falls into this category.
Other objects that you can focus on are concentric circles, a black dot on a white wall, a symbol on paper, and so on. Middle trataka is called Madhya Trataka in Sanskrit.
3. External Trataka
External or Bahya Trataka is about focusing on distant objects. We're talking about stars and the sun and the moon and other planets here. Something that's too far away.
You can also gaze at a clear blue sky. This practice is called sky gazing and is quite common in Tibetan customs.
So, if you love star gazing, this type of trataka should come naturally to you.
Trataka Precautions: Who Should Not Do Trataka?
Trataka is great when practiced properly. But if you're a beginner, you may want to start slow or not try trataka at all if you have any of the following conditions.
Staring too hard at an object may aggravate the condition of a migraine patient.
Eye surgery (cataract or others)
Although trataka strengthens eye muscles over time, initially it can cause pressure on the eyes. If you've had any form of eye surgery, stay away from trataka until you're completely healed.
Traumatic experiences from the past
An effect of trataka is that it allows your memories to resurface. If you've been through trauma, you may not want to release these emotions.
Not that you should avoid trataka in this case but maybe you can take it slow.
Mental health issues such as schizophrenia or hallucinations
Trataka isn't recommended for people with mental health conditions as it could worsen the symptoms.
Apart from all the above, do keep in mind that as a beginner, you shouldn't practice trataka for more than 10 to 15 seconds.
Slowly increase the time and gaze at your candle for longer durations only when you're ready. Trying too much too fast can cause damage to the eyes.
Concentration is a Vital Step Towards Meditation
If concentrating during meditation is difficult for you, trataka can be a big help. After all, you only need a candle and a dark room. And then, just sit there and stare at it.
Those who don't like candles can also go for other objects or practice internal trataka. All of these are equally helpful in easing your mind and improving concentration.
Regardless of what kind of object or symbol you're using as a prop, be sure to start slow. Once you get into the habit of practicing trataka, you'll begin to see its multiple benefits.
As with everything else, be aware of the contraindications and stop the practice if you don't feel right.
But if things go well, this could easily become one of your chosen paths to reach the higher consciousness, which is the ultimate goal of any spiritual being.
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