In my last article, The very first discipline for meditation, I highlighted the importance of practicing how to keep the body very still. When the body is kept still, the mind quiets down to some extent.
The next challenge is to train the mind to stay focused on only one thing. In the beginning, the mind is chatty and undisciplined.
Yoga Practice For Making The Mind Single-Pointed (Improves Eyesight Too!)
I’m going to share a yoga practice to train the mind to be single-pointed. I actually started using this technique to improve my eyesight. I began wearing glasses when I was 12 years old. By the time I was 34, I was fed up with my dependency on the glasses. In just 5 weeks of doing this practice, I eliminated my need for glasses and restored my eyesight to better than 20-20. My optometrist couldn’t believe it. She still calls me the ‘yoga lady’.
This yoga technique is called Trataka. I incorporate it into my daily meditation routine so I get the side benefit of keeping my eyes healthy too. I like multi-tasking, don’t you?
I will first describe the meditation technique and then explain how you can add Trataka to it. Trataka involves gazing intently at a candle flame. Here’s what you have to do:
Your Meditation Practice First
Set up a meditation space that is away from any open window where the breeze can disturb the candle flame. To ensure that your entire focus is on the flame, turn off the lights, draw the curtains or do this practice when it’s dark outside.
Whether you normally do your meditation practice on a chair or on a firm cushion on the floor, set up a candle (or a tea light) to be placed directly in front of you. You can use a table or your altar. Place the candle at arm’s length away from you to prevent your breath from disturbing the flame. Elevate the candle so that your eyes will look straight at the tip of the wick. You can use books to add or take away height. Once you are all set up, you can light the candle.
Now, you can begin your meditation practice. Sit comfortably with your body upright, keeping your head, neck and spine all in a straight line. Close your eyes, relax and keep your body very still. Breathe slowly and deeply several times. Feel yourself becoming more and more relaxed….
Now, synchronize your deep breathing with the slow mental chanting of your favourite mantra. Pick a chant that you resonate with. It could be a holy name from your faith or a simple word such as ‘peace’. Holy names uplift and purify the mind of worldly thoughts. If you find you cannot chant mentally, chant audibly but very softly.
I like chanting the sacred ‘OM’ mantra which is a symbol for the Divine. It is a simple but very powerful mantra. It is broken up into three sounds: A-U-M. Breathe in and chant mentally, “AaaUuu…”; breathe out slowly and chant “Mmm…” Try it a few times; it is very relaxing.
When you are able to synchronize your breathing with your chanting, you are now ready to do Trataka.
Keeping your eyes relaxed, gently open them and gaze at the tip of the candlewick – not the top of the flame, but the glowing tip of the wick.
It’s not easy to hold your gaze at such a bright object so your initial reaction will be to blink repeatedly. Instead of quick blinking, try to close your eyelids slowly. Do not strain. Stay relaxed… breathe deeply…and chant your mantra. As soon as the eyes get tired and you feel the urge to blink, gently close your eyes.
You will likely see the afterimage of the flame when you close your eyes. Here’s the important part – Firmly hold your inner gaze on this afterimage as long as it remains there. Gently open your eyes when it’s gone and look at the candle wick again. Keep repeating this process until you are able to look at the tip of the wick for a longer and longer amount of time.
You will find that with repeated practice, you are able to stay relaxed and keep your eyes gazing at the tip of the wick for several minutes. Don’t worry, how long it’s been. Stay focused on holding the gaze outside, and very importantly, continue holding it inside. If your mind wanders, you will lose your concentration on the afterimage. This focused holding of your inner and outer gaze sharpens the intensity and concentration of the mind.
Train The Eyes And You Train The Mind
The eyes are the doorways to the mind. When the eyes are trained to be still and focused, the mind becomes the same.
Throughout this whole process of Trataka, remember to stay relaxed, sit upright, breathe deeply and mentally chant your mantra. If it’s all too much, practice Trataka separately.
You will find both these methods – synchronization of the mental chanting of a mantra with the breath and the Trataka practice, excellent ways to focus your mind in meditation. And, you’ll keep your precious eyes healthy throughout your life.
Like this post? Sign up for the free fortnightly Spiritual Solutions Newsletter and receive the latest articles, news and updates in your email inbox!