“You are the universe in ecstatic motion, set your life on fire” counseled the 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi.
Good advice for 21st century burn-out, and there’s a safe and soulful way to tap back into that inner fire. All you need is a candle.
Candle gazing — otherwise known as trataka — is a simple method of eye exercise meditation, one of the six ancient kriyas (or purification practices) in yogic science aimed at unlocking the various energy channels (chakras) in the body.
Trataka (“gazing”) consists simply of mindfully focusing the eyes (which stemming from the brain as they do are said to have 200 million working parts). Focusing with relaxed intent on the flickering light of a candle for a set period of time settles the mind, strengthens the eyes, and builds resilience, both physical and mental.
According to both yoga master Swami Rama, founder of the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science, and the Yoga Pradipika, the classic manual on Hatha yoga, the practice of candle gazing can:
* Improve eyesight
* Invite mental clarity
*Purify the consciousness
*Balance the nervous system
* Sharpen intuition
*Increase compassion and open the heart
And if you keep coming back? Trataka, say adherents, can begin to open the Third Eye, that space between the brows that is considered by yogis to be the doorway to higher consciousness or enlightenment.
No wonder. Fire and a flickering flame, of course, have traditionally been symbols for renewal and. transformation.
Even better, Trataka is a minimalist practice. Here’s your starter kit.
* A space free of distractions (no honking horns outside or crying babies nearby)
* Moderate temperature without drafts
*A comfortable seat — a cushion, rolled up blankets, or yoga mat will do
* And of course, most importantly the right candle. It should be dripless, made of non-toxic materials, (soy or beeswax, not paraffin), and free of distracting scents.
A plain white candle is perfect but a colored candle may add more value to your practice if you have very specific goals.
Consider green which symbolizes wealth and fertility; red or pink which stands for passion, happiness, and sensuality, or white which symbolizes purity, intuition, and spirituality.
SIX STEPS TO CANDLE GAZING
* Start by settling in on your cushion, mat, or blankets, finding good posture, and closing your eyes for a minute or two to unplug from the outside world.
*You may want to create and express an intention for your practice (to work on greater compassion, greater patience, a calmer spirit, or better, healthier habits,) or express silently or out loud any habits or thoughts you wish to symbolically burn away in the flickering flame of the trataka candle.
*Take some long deep in and out breaths to steady the mind.
*Place the candle at eye level and try to look steadily at the center of the flame. Try not to blink. If tears appear, wipe them away and continue.
* Spend 15 to 30 minutes gazing, shorter if this is your first time.
* Extinguish the candle. Sit with eyes closed for another moment.
* You may want to do a bit of journaling here if you’ve started your practice with a stated intention.
* Optional but nice: close the practice with “Om” or a mantra of your choosing, hands at the heart center.
Be the moth to that flame. “Om Shantih”!