Have you ever tried trāṭaka? This is a steady gaze meditation, holding the gaze on a particular image without blinking. Trāṭaka is a yogic purification (shatkarma) for the eyes, where the aim is to control the ciliary (blink) reflex. This stimulates tears to be produced to physically clear the eyes, but also stimulates the pineal gland which is though to bring energy to the third eye (ājňā chakra). They say that restless eyes = a restless mind, and in the modern world, smartphones and computers are training our eyes to be increasingly restless. Focussing the eyes for even a few minutes on a single image can help to still the mind.
One of my first experiences with 'true' meditation was a trāṭaka meditation at the Sri Chinmoy centre in K'Road. I was a little hesitant at first but found this first experience of meditation to be almost magical. I wasn't sure where I went for the time I was meditating but I floated out of the centre on a cloud of peace and joy (even though my shoes had been stolen and I had to walk home in bare feet. It must have been a good mediation!)
There are many different focal points for a trāṭaka meditation. Some choose yantra symbols to gaze at (such as a mandala), a single black dot on a wall, a picture of a deity or guru or even a mirror reflecting your face (focus on your right eye). However, candle gazing is very popular as flames 🔥 have an innate attraction to the eye. Making this a great introductory form of meditation. Thankfully, our eye movements (along with our breathing) directly influence our mental and emotional state. This is great news! As our eye movements are much easier to control than calming a messy ball of thoughts in our brain i.e. if you can control your eyes, you can control your thoughts.
Okay...so DO NOT now go and stare at a candle 30 plus minutes! Let's start slowly...
Fix your gaze on the candle flame and hold it here, actively looking at the flame but with a relaxed gaze. Try to place the candle flame at eye height so that there is no strain in the neck, between an arms distance and 5 feet away from you and in a still (so the flame doesn't move) and darkened room. Try to gaze at the flame for an extended period without blinking. After a few minutes your eyes may start to water, at this point, close your eyes and focus on the after image of the candle behind your eyelids. When you feel ready, open the eyes and start the process again. I would only recommend the candle gazing version of trāṭaka for a maximum of 10 minutes, as it can dry out the eyes. The more you practice this gazing, the longer you'll be able to continue without blinking. Don't worry if you can only do a short time to start, practice makes perfect.
" I meditate So that I can inundate My entire being With the omnipotent Power of peace."
- Sri Chinmoy
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please don't try candle gazing if you have any of the following conditions, cataracts, glaucoma, myopia, astigmatism or epilepsy.