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November 30, 2017

How to practice: candle-gazing meditation

There are so many forms of meditation that it can be tough to know where to start. Today, I’m offering simple instructions for candle-gazing meditation, a form of concentration practice. The concept is simple: during meditation practice to focus one’s attention on the flame of a candle.

Also called Trataka meditation, this practice is said to relieve stress, enhance memory and concentration, and provide deep relaxation.

Choosing your candles:

I recommend choosing unscented 100% soy or beeswax candles. Many candles contain toxic chemicals, and many perfumes or added scents also contain unhealthy ingredients.As they burn, you will be breathing in the candles’ vapors. Best to find candles with the fewest ingredients, colors, scents or additives.

Finding a comfortable seat:

Choose either a cushion on the floor or a chair.

If on the floor, make sure that your knees can easily drape down below the bowl of your pelvis. Ensure that your spine can stretch long and upright. If either of these is a challenge, use additional cushioning underneath your seat.

If in a chair, I recommend sitting on the edge of the chair. Again, the spine should be long and upright. Feet should be flat on the floor.

Place your hands in your lap or on your thighs, your choice of whether to have your palms facing up or down.

Set up  your space:

Choose a quiet, somewhat dark or dim place. If you need additional warmth, add a sweater or shawl. (Your body temperature will drop after you’ve been sitting for a while.) Turn off and set aside any devices or distractions.

Place a small table three to four feet in front of where you will be seated, and place a candle on the flat surface, so that it is at or just below eye level. Light the candle. Ensure that there are no cross-breezes that could disturb the flame as you practice.

Practice:

Find your comfortable seat. Relax the space around your eyes. Breathe softly and easefully – allow the breath to lengthen as you settle your body and mind.

Place your gaze on the candle’s flame (rather than the candle itself or the wick). Bring your full attention there, allowing thoughts, outside sensations or movements to settle and cease. If you do find yourself distracted by a thought or emotion, gently bring your attention back to the candle’s flame.

If your eyes get tired, allow yourself to blink. Do not strain your eyes.

At the conclusion of your meditation, close your eyes for a few moments and breathe deeply. At this point, you may either open your eyes and allow yourself to come back into the room fully – or continue with a different form of meditation, such as lovingkindness or mindfulness meditation.

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