If you’ve ever looked at a flickering candle flame and thought how calming and meditative it appears, you’re not alone!
In fact, did you know that candle gazing is actually an ancient practice, otherwise known as Trataka, with several benefits?
Unlike other forms of meditation where the eyes are often closed and your attention goes inward, a candle gazing meditation involves gazing at a flame and making that the subject of your focus.
The result is entering an almost trance like state, and it’s a powerful practice that you can easily incorporate into your routine to experience its benefits!
In this post I’ll be giving you the lowdown on candle gazing benefits as well as a simple step by step guide to performing your own Trataka candle gazing meditation.
By the end you’ll have all the tips and tools you need to experience the benefits of candle gazing for yourself!
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Trataka Meditation Benefits
Before we get into the step by step process of performing your first candle gazing meditation, let’s look at some of the benefits.
First and foremost, candle gazing can be a very efficient way to practice meditation and is a great option for those who struggle to stop their mind wandering.
That’s because by keeping the eyes open and having an animated object to focus on it is easier to stay focused and enter a state of pure awareness, as we aim to in transcendental meditation.
But not only this. From practicing Trataka, we get all the usual benefits of a meditative state, but according to Hatha yoga traditions there are also several other benefits of candle gazing such as:
- Improves vision/eyesight
- Improves concentration and memory
- Enhances patience and willpower
- Improves productivity
- Calms the mind and promoting inner peace
- Improves clarity and decision making
- Provides stress and anxiety relief
- Deepens sleep and helps sleep related disorders
- Strengthens intuition and clairvoyance
Now, it’s worth noting that the scientific evidence to support some of these claims is limited (e.g. very small sample sizes or inconsistent findings)… so if you’re someone that values high quality research and statistics then you may want to take these benefits with a grain of salt.
But I can speak from personal experience that candle gazing definitely has a positive affect on my levels of stress and relieves my anxiety symptoms, at least in the short term.
And even without the additional claimed benefits, Trataka is a great tool to enhance meditation and that’s an awesome benefit in itself!
Candle Gazing Side Effects
But even with the aforementioned benefits of candle gazing, it’s worth considering if there are any side effects or risks associated with this practice before you jump on into it.
With one of the main concerns actually being discomfort in the eyes.
While the Hatha Yoga Pradipika suggests that Trataka is a beneficial practice to prevent or help eye problems, research on this front is inconsistent.
And in actual fact, candle gazing may cause discomfort associated with eye strain if not done properly (which I’ll run you through later in this post).
It’s therefore advised that you avoid candle gazing meditation if you have a pre-existing eye disorder, or at least consult with your eye doctor before trying this practice for yourself.
Furthermore, it’s generally best to be cautious and not engage in candle gazing if you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, have a mental health condition that includes psychosis, or if you’re prone to seizures.
Otherwise, candle gazing is generally considered safe for the general population!
How to do a Candle Gazing Meditation
So now that you know the potential candle gazing benefits (and potential side effects) let’s get onto the nitty gritty of how to do a candle gazing meditation.
If I’ve sparked your interest thus far, here’s how you can do your very own candle gazing meditation in 6 easy steps!
1. Set your space
First, you’re going to want to set your space. And by that I mean set the mood in your environment.
As with any other meditation practice, the space around you is important to set the scene and get you in the zone.
This will mean different things to different people, and the most important thing is for you to personally feel like this is a nourishing space where you can fully concentrate during your candle meditation.
But as a general rule I would encourage you to dim the lights or turn them off completely, perhaps using a himalayan salt lamp to give a warm ambience to the room if you’d prefer for it to not be pitch black.
Then make sure you won’t be disturbed and turn off any electronics or place them on silent.
You may also wish to play soothing or comforting meditation music to help you relax and tune in.
2. Put your candle on a surface in front of you
As an extension of setting your space, you are going to want to set up your chosen candle in a suitable position for performing your candle gazing meditation.
So make sure you place your candle on a hard surface away from any flammable items.
You also want the candle to be around eye level so bare this in mind and preferably use a table rather than the floor.
3. Light the candle
Now, of course, a non-negotiable step in your candle gazing meditation is lighting the candle!
Make sure your wick is at a suitable length (around 1/4 inch) and then light the flame.
I would recommend using a long kitchen style lighter for this or matches that can be put out safely. I wouldn’t recommend using a pocket lighter to light your candle as you are more likely to burn yourself (speaking from experience here!)
4. Sit in a comfortable position
With your candle lit, it’s time to find a comfortable position to perform your flame gazing.
Sit as you would in any other meditation – meaning whatever position is most comfortable for you.
For many people this will be on the floor in a crossed legged position with a tall neutral spine. But if this isn’t accessible to you can sit on a chair or even up against a wall for support.
You may choose to sit on a meditation cushion for additional comfort if you’re on the floor, and I’d recommend covering your legs with a blanket to keep warm for the duration of your practice.
You should also aim to be around 3ft to 4ft from your candle.
5. Gaze at the candle flame
Once you’re in a comfortable position, your focus is now to keep your gaze fixed at the candle flame without fidgeting or blinking.
Give the flame your full attention, maintaining a fixed but soft gaze until your eyes start to water – this is normal!
Continue gazing until you feel you cannot physically keep your eyes open any longer, but without straining.
As a general rule of thumb, you should keep your lids heavy and your gaze slightly out of focus to ensure that you’re not straining your eyes during the meditation.
6. Finish by closing your eyes
Once it feels natural to break your gaze, close your eyes.
When you close your eyes you may see an image of the candle flame in your mind’s eye.
Try to direct this image at your third eye chakra (the point between your eyebrows) and focus on it until it starts to fade.
When the image completely fades, reopen your eyes and repeat the process a few times.
Then come back to a closed eye position and let your eyes rest here for 5-10 minutes, noticing how you feel.
And there you have it, you’ve completed your first candle meditation! But keep reading for some extra tips and things to consider to get the most out of this practice…
Selecting a candle for Trataka
While you can use any candle you like for your candle gazing meditation, you ideally want to choose a non-toxic candle that’s made from natural soy wax or beeswax.
You can also experiment with using different colours and smells to resonate with a particular chakra that you might be trying to unblock. Or even explore using crystal candles to work with specific energies.
Here is a basic guide to working with specific colours of candle in your Trataka practice:
- White: Crown Chakra (higher consciousness, purity, clarity, completion)
- Purple: Third Eye Chakra (intuition, wisdom, imagination)
- Blue: Throat Chakra (self expression, communication, trust)
- Green or Pink: Heart Chakra (compassion, healing, love, forgiveness)
- Yellow: Solar Plexus Chakra (self esteem, confidence, inner power, courage)
- Orange: Sacral Chakra (sensuality, sexual energy, optimism, happiness)
- Red: Root Chakra (grounding, stability, comfort, safety)
- Gold: abundance, prosperity, wealth
My personal favourite tip is also to buy a candle with a wooden wick – these make a lovely crackling sound which is really soothing and perfect for candle gazing in my opinion!
Here are a few options of candles to get started:
Extra Tips for Candle Gazing Meditation
Hopefully by now you have a good understanding of how to perform your candle gazing meditation.
Candle gazing doesn’t have to be a complex practice, but there are definitely steps you can take to make it a more powerful and beneficial practice for you.
So bear the following tips in mind if you’re considering starting your own Trataka practice:
- Candle gazing is best practiced on an empty stomach so you don’t have energy directed elsewhere (digestion)
- It works best as a night time practice, since you have more control over the lighting levels
- If you practice during the day, you might want to consider blackout curtains to completely block out all light
- Regularly trim your wick to increase the lifespan of your candle and improve the flame
- Do not strain your eyes – it is better to keep a soft gaze than to stare
- Allow your eyes to rest afterwards (avoid looking at screens)
And there you have it! You are now equipped to start your own candle meditation routine.
Let me know if you’ve tried candle gazing meditation and what your favourite part of the practice is!
Want more content like this? Check out this post:
The 11 Best Crystal Candles for Manifestation in 2023
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Esther is the founder of Through the Phases. Her mission is to guide others to grow to their full potential and create their dream life using spiritual and personal growth practices. Read more about her story here!