Candle gazing meditation is a form of Trataka meditation that uses a candle to still the mind.
Have you ever looked at a fire burning and realized how captivating it is? You don’t need to know anything about meditation to experience relaxation while steadily gazing at a bonfire or a fireplace.
Similarly, candle gazing uses our natural fascination with flames to bring us both mental and spiritual benefits.
What is candle gazing meditation?
Trataka is a concentration technique that allows the mind to calm down and focus as a prelude to meditation. It involves holding your gaze on a small object for an extended time without blinking until your eyes start to water.
In “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” Trataka is mentioned as one of the six Shatkarmas, also known as Kriyas. These are purification techniques that cleanse the physical body and prepare it for pranayama and meditation.
The Sanskrit word ‘Trataka’ translates as ‘steady gazing’. The name doesn’t suggest you need to gaze at the flame of a candle. However, this is a popular object that is relatively easy to focus on. Thus, candle gazing is accessible to beginners and can help them advance their practice.
For ease of explanation, this article dives into candle gazing in particular but you can practice Trataka with any object that fascinates you.
Bahir Trataka (Bahiranga) – Outer Steady Gazing
Bahir Trataka is a technique that requires focusing on an external object such as a candle, your nose tip, a flower, a star, the moon, the AUM symbol, a cross, a crystal, etc. In contrast to other concentration techniques, to perform Bahir Trataka you need to keep your eyes open.
It is best to focus on something that is meaningful to you. When you choose an object – stick to it so you can reap the full benefits.
Anter Trataka (Antaranga) – Inner Steady Gazing
Anter Trataka is more advanced than outer gazing as it includes seeing your object with your inner eye. You can move on to this technique when you’re able to clearly evoke the image of your object with your eyes closed.
Evoking a clear and steady image requires some practice. As preparation for Anter Trataka, you should first establish your concentration in Bahir Trataka. Next, while focusing on an external object, you can momentarily close your eyes and try to see the object as clearly as you saw it with your eyes open. When you progress with this inner and outer combined gazing technique, you will later be able to hold your attention on the object without looking at it.
Anter Trataka encourages you to lose the connection with the physical world, which stimulates your inner eye and promotes heightened awareness.
What are the benefits of candle gazing meditation (Trataka)?
From a spiritual point, Trataka is said to open up your third eye, Ajna chakra. It is also a useful technique that brings stillness to the mind and prepares it for meditation.
Like any concentration practice, regular Trataka can have a positive effect on your focus, which in turn can influence your productivity. It is also a practice that fosters patience and can have an overall relaxing effect.
Although it is often claimed that Trataka can improve your eyesight, there are no major scientific studies that show any dramatic results. Some data suggest that prolonged regular practice, of six weeks and more, can be beneficial to people with eye health issues.
How to do candle gazing meditation (Trataka)?
- Position your object.
- Sit comfortably
- Centre yourself
- Start with outer Trataka
- Practice inner Trataka
- Close your practice
Position your object
The rule of thumb is to place the candle’s flame at your eye level at an arm’s distance from where you’re seated. It is recommended to perform Trataka without wearing glasses or lenses unless this prevents you from seeing the clear shape of the flame. While these are the general rules, do explore what is most comfortable for you.
Sit in a comfortable position that will not distract you from your candle gazing practice. You can sit on the floor or in a chair. It doesn’t matter as long as your spine is erect and you can hold the pose.
Close your eyes and feel your body. Stay present with every breath. Set an intention to not move your body during the practice so you can solely focus on the candle’s flame.
Start with outer Trataka
Open your eyes and gaze at the flame. Try to focus on the tip of the wick. This is outer Trataka
Relax your eyes and try to keep them open without blinking for as long as it feels comfortable. You don’t need to strain your eyes. You will find that as you relax your eyes, they’ll blink less frequently.
Keep your gaze and attention steadily focused on the flame. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the Trataka practice.
Practice inner Trataka
After 2-3 minutes of gazing, close your eyes and focus your attention on the after-image of the flame.
If you don’t see an image with your eyes closed – just be patient and continue, it will come with practice. For now, you can imagine the flame.
If you see an after-image, try to make it as clear and steady as possible. When the image begins to fade, open your eyes and gaze again.
Repeat this cycle of gazing with your eyes open and then focusing on the after-image with your eyes closed a few times. If this is your first time practicing Trataka, 5 to 10 repetitions might be best. Always stay mindful of what feels comfortable.
Close your practice
When you’re ready to finish your Trataka practice, close your eyes one last time and watch the darkness in front of you. Keep your attention steady and refrain from any judgment or expectations. Now you may open your eyes, blow out the candle and thank yourself for this mindfulness practice.
When should I practice Trataka?
While you can practice Trataka at any time of the day, it is recommended to do it on an empty stomach. If you’re also doing asana and pranayama practices, Trataka should follow them.
You can also perform it at night as steady gazing helps bring the mind to a Sattvic state and prepares it for Japa (meditation).
Trataka, like meditation, can be done at different times of the day, depending on the benefits you are looking for.
Suggestions about safely practicing Trataka
- You can splash your eyes with cold water immediately after the steady gazing practice to stimulate blood flow to the area.
- Avoid using the sun as the object of focus as this can damage your retina. It is only acceptable to look at it at sunrise and sunset. A safer option is to gaze at the full moon.
- It is recommended to move your body before and after the practice. Performing asana before Trataka helps loosen the body and prepare it for staying in a seated position for an extended time. Movement after the practice improves blood circulation and removes any stiffness.
Practicing Trataka is as simple as lighting up a candle and setting an intention to focus on it. Like anything else that relates to yoga and meditation, testing it for yourself beats reading about the experience every time. Give yourself the pleasure of experiencing candle gazing meditation.
If you’re looking to discover other mindfulness practices that are suitable for beginners, try one of these guided meditations.
“Do not worry if all the candles in the world flicker and die. We have the spark that starts the fire.”Rumi