Defining concentrated gazing
Concentrated gazing (Trataka) means “to look” or to gaze”. Trataka is the last of the shatkarmas. It acts as a stepping stone between physically oriented practices and mental practices which lead to higher states of awareness.
The practice of trataka involves gazing at a point or object without blinking the eyes. It is a method of focusing the eyes and in turn the mind on one point to the exclusion of all others.
The object being used to gaze at can be either external to the body, or internal. There are two types of practice:
- Bahiranga (external trataka)
- Antaranga (internal trataka)
Choice of object of concentration
The choice of object can be almost anything. However, it all depends upon you, which object suits you. However, the object must have some meaning for you. In this way, there will be more likelihood of maintaining your awareness on the object during concentrated gazing (trataka). Here is a list of commonly used objects:
- Aum symbol
- A candle frame
- A cross
- Statue of Lord Krishna, Shiva, Jesus Christ, Buddha
- Yin and yang symbol
- Black dot on a white sheet of paper
- The rising sun
- The moon
- A star
- Eyebrow centre
In fact, there are endless possibilities. You can choose any object. But once you decide upon the object, try not to change it as this will decrease the effectiveness of concentrated gazing practise. In other words, if you spend time developing your awareness of one particular object and then suddenly change it, then you will have to start from the beginning again to allow your mind to assimilate the new object.
We use a candle as the object of practise for trataka. The reason for this is that its brightness seems to rivet and to hold our attention. It has an almost magnetic effect on the eyes and on one’s awareness.
Concentrated glazing (Trataka) should be practised while sitting in the most comfortable and steady position while the body being relaxed. The preferred asanas to practise trataka are padmasana (lotus pose), siddhasana (accomplished pose) or even sukhasana (easy pose) as these postures tend to automatically hold the body in the steadiest position without much effort. However, if you are a complete beginner, you can even practise trataka while sitting on a chair.
Bahiranga trataka (External concentrated gazing)
- Place a candle 2 to 3 feet in front of you with the flame at eye level.
- Sit in a comfortable meditative pose and place the hands on the knees in either jnana or chin mudra. The body must be relaxed.
- Close your eyes. Be very calm and quiet and keep the body perfectly still throughout the whole practice. Practice kaya sthairyam (steadiness of the body) for a few minutes.
- Open your eyes and gaze at the middle portion of the candle flame, just above the wick.
- The eyes must be steady. Do not blink. Lower the eyelids if the eyes become sore or tired.
- Stare as long as possible, 5 or 10 minutes. But if you can gaze longer without closing the eyes, do not hesitate to do so. Only when you really need to, you should close the eyes.
- When closed, the eyes should be fixed on the impression of the flame in front. If it moves bring it back to the center and continue gazing until the impression disappears. Once you can stabilize the image, study it and look intently at the color.
- Keep the mind completely devoid of thought and empty. If any thoughts come, put them out of the mind immediately. Only concentrate on the object of awareness.
Antaranga trataka (Internal concentrated gazing)
- The preparation must be identical to external gazing.
- Keep your eyes closed throughout the practice and concentrate on your symbol. The Aum symbol is perfect.
- If you have no symbol, then try to visualize a point of light, like a twinkling star or the moon.
- Try to see the object clearly and steadily in the dark space in front of the closed eyes.
- Practice for five to twenty minutes.
This practice is more complicated than external gazing. It can take a log time to master it, so it has to be cultivated. But with perseverance, nothing is impossible.
Concentrated gazing is beneficial not only the eyes, but a whole range of physiological and mental functions. It can be used to treat depression, insomnia, allergy, anxiety, postural problems, poor concentration and memory.
Trataka develops the power of concentration enormously as it enables us to focus our mental energy towards one particular point. Consequently, this results in peace of mind.
Also, those people with weak eyesight and weak eye muscles will gain much benefit from trataka.