Monday mediation for beginners
Finding your way to Meditation
Dhyana is one of the 8 limbs after Dharana and before Samadhi, it is on the path to ecstasy or some may call it Nirvana, a place that everyone would like to dwell in. As one of the final three stages it is only possible to get to meditation after concentration and focus in dharana. An exercise such as Trataka (black dot/candle gazing) can help the mind to find this focus.
Journeying through these limbs is said to awaken our being, invoking enlightenment in to the living being we inhabit, allowing us to access full consciousness and reach a state of bliss (Samadhi). Through this practice of awareness known as transcendental awareness it is possible for the practitioner to harness this feeling and allow it to be present in others areas of one’s life.
For me mediation is a chance to find a little peace, distance to reflect and lightness in my soul. With the opportunity to find a little bliss amongst the chaos of the world, especially when things seem to be out of sync. It is in these moments that I can find calm, a safe place to ground whilst still finding light balancing the environment around me.
I love the cycle of practice, asana dealing with yesterday, pranayama dealing with now and mediation dealing with what is yet to come. This practice helps me to prepare my mind for dhyana and can create the right conditions so that my mind can connect to an object and settle, without this process I often find that the mind wants jump around and it can be more challenging to settle.
“The ultimate goal of yoga is to always observe things accurately, and therefore never act in a way that will make us regret our actions later” (Desikachar)
I have first had experience that mediation has helped me to do exactly this, taking time to stop be still and reflect. This is why it is a part of yoga.
The practice of trataka boosts concentration and memory, and promotes strong, healthy eyes.
If you’ve ever been transfixed by a candle flame and felt your mind clear, you may have been tapping into a yogic focusing practice called trataka. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines trataka as “looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed.” This simple technique has a purifying, invigorating effect on the mind and improves concentration, paving the way for a deeper meditation practice.
Steady Your Gaze
Though many objects can be used to focus your gaze during trataka, the most common is the flame of a candle, (alternatively you can draw a black spot and fix it to the wall at eye level).
1. Find a comfortable meditative posture with your head, neck, and trunk aligned.
2. Set a candle two feet in front of you, with the flame positioned at eye level. Make sure the room is dark and draft-free.
3. Begin with your eyes closed, observe your breath until you feel it becomes even and clam.
4. Open your eyes and rest your gaze on the middle part of the flame, right above the tip of the wick. Keep your eyelids slightly more open than usual, and maintain your gaze without blinking if possible.
5. Observe any thoughts that arise, watching them as if it’s a movie, try to visualise yourself setting back from them and not getting involved, just watch.
6. Try and see the image of the flame in your mind's eye, resting your awareness at the (ajna chakra) eyebrow centre.
7. Close your eyes only when they begin to strain and water. (You can cup your palms and place them gently over the eyes to ease them, but do not rub the eyes; because the tears you have shed are carrying away impurities, wipe them gently with a tissue.)
8. Then find the image of the flame in your eyebrow centre, try to stay with it until the image disappears.
9. Then rest in savasana seated or laying down.
According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue, and sloth, and closes the doorway creating these problems.” In addition to improving concentration and memory, trataka cleanses both the eyes and the cerebral cortex, balances the nervous system, and relieves depression, anxiety, and insomnia.