Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Practice of Candle Gazing to Find Your Center

Have you ever spaced out, lost your phone, or forgotten why you came into a room? Had words on the tip of your tongue or been moving so quickly that you goofed? What if these moments are an opportunity to check in with your current ability to concentrate, be mindful, and adjust your life pace? 

There is a practice that can bring you back to center. Candle Gazing Meditation, or trataka in Sanskrit, means “to look” or “to gaze.” The practice asks us to look “intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point” (Hatha Yoga Pradipika). A simple technique, trataka is said to relieve mental stress, reduce anxiety, free your mind from negative thoughts, and sharpen your eyesight.

Trataka is also said to pave the way for a deeper meditation practice by increasing concentration, or dharana in the Eight Limbs of Yoga. And, meditation is one of the ways we can slow down, be present, and ground our energies — especially when life is as chaotic and challenging as it is these days.

Some believe a regular trataka practice can actually enhance your intuition, give you the ability to visualize, and deepen your spiritual connection… all things we can explore to reflect on how we show up in the world.

Light a candle, sit, and breathe. 

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” –Buddha 

How to Practice Candle Gazing Meditation 

  1. Find a space and seat in which you can be comfortable, quiet, and in relative darkness (definitely not bright sunshine).
  2. Clear a space, intentionally, where you can place a single candle. 
  3. Do your best to minimize distractions in the space or around your space. 
  4. Light your candle and sit.
  5. Close your eyes, breathe deeply a few times, and settle in. 
  6. Gently open them to focus on the flame of the candle. 
  7. Try not to blink, and allow the image of the flame to fill you, your mind, and your breath. 
  8. Imagine yourself breathing in and out the flame, gently. 
  9. Relax the space between your brows, and imagine your mind opening up to new possibilities. 
  10. Continue to focus, allow thoughts to waft away, and stay with the flame, breathing in and breathing out. 

Note: Those who have a tendency to hallucinate, have psychic problems, or suffer from schizophrenia should not practice trataka.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.

Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?

Bring Esalen home: new at the Esalen store

Goddess Moon Goods Candles in Big Sur Jade, Lavender & Rose, New Moon, and Big Sur Wildflower.

Each candle includes pressed petals or herbs and a stone or crystal for enhanced connection to intention. Caroline Salyer, owner of Goddess Moon Goods, offers these beautiful creations for experiencing the senses and bringing us into the present moment.  

All purchases made at the Esalen Store in person and online go directly to support Esalen programs and the land. Thank you for giving back to our community.

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Esalen Team