At a time where our brains are constantly being stimulated and stressed by everyday trials and tribulations, do you ever find yourself briefly mesmerised by the gentle flicker of a flame and drifting off into a calm space for just a moment in time?
Why not turn that moment into planned downtime, where you can quieten your mind and relax or recharge. This meditative practice, known as Trāṭaka, involves focusing the eyes by gazing at an external object such as a candle flame. It is the perfect way to bring meditation into your daily routine and although it can be difficult to justify the time in our hectic schedules, you will certainly reap the rewards. So whether you have five minutes or thirty minutes to spare, give yourself a break and find the time each day.
So, there's no time like the present – choose your candle and follow our beginner's guide to candle meditation:
Step one. Find a comfortable hiding place where no one will find you (including the kids, dogs, partners and definitely no emails or text alerts!).
Step two. Dim the lights or draw the curtains to minimise bright light, and make sure the room is a comfortable temperature.
Step three. Yep you've guessed – light your favourite candle and place it on a stable surface at eye level (approximately 50cm away from where you will be sitting).
Step four. Find a comfortable position, whether you prefer to sit in a chair or sit crossed legged on the floor, make sure you are able to maintain a comfortable upright posture for the duration of the meditation.
Step five. Take a few slow deep breaths, focus on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving your nostrils to help focus your attention and quieten the mind. Don’t worry, your mind may wander, but take a few minutes and just return your attention to the rhythm of your breathing.
Step six. Now focus on the candle's flame, maintaining a slow, even breathing pattern. Try to hold your gaze without thinking about anything else, just immerse yourself in the dancing flame, the changing shapes and colours. If your mind does wander, don’t give up; just keep bringing yourself back to the peaceful arc of light. Blink if you need to, obviously...
For your first practice, start with five minutes where you focus on the candle and gradually build to between ten and fifteen minutes. It will become gradually easier and you will find your mind wanders less and less.
Step seven. When you are ready to finish your meditation session, take a few minutes, close your eyes, return your focus to your breathing and let your mind and body acclimatise to your surroundings. Slowly stretch your muscles, gently open your eyes and return to your day, enjoying the long-lasting feelings of calm and a readiness to face to world with a sense of pride that you have again found time and given yourself permission to just be. (Don’t forget to blow out the candle!).
Step eight. Repeat as often as possible, and never, ever feel guilty for taking a brief hiatus, because those of us who could benefit most from introducing meditation into their routine are often those that say they don’t have the time to do it.
Incorporating candle meditation into your routine has extra advantages, such as:
• Strengthening the eye muscles, and improving vision and memory.
• Improving the ability to concentrate, bringing greater clarity in mind and improving decision-making abilities. This can be particularly good for anyone studying or preparing for exams.
• Calming the mind and quietening our inner voice, providing stress relief and deep relaxation.
For those of you who want to learn more, then I can highly recommend Live & Dare’s fascinating article, which explores Trāṭaka in great detail, including the evidence and science behind it.
So whats stopping you, give it a go…
We’d love to hear about your experiences and also any wellbeing tips you may have.