No doubt you’ve heard about the huge well-being benefits of meditation. There are thousands of studies that have shown mindfulness meditation can positively impact mental and physical health.
At a time where the vast majority of us are feeling anxious and stressed, it’s a good time to give it a go.
Why is meditation beneficial for mental health?
According to Dr Caryn Zinn, senior lecturer and dietician at Auckland University of Technology, meditation can play a part in looking after your mental health, along with fundamentals such as a good diet and exercise.
“Mental health can be enhanced by daily activities that naturally release the body’s feel-good hormones that increase motivation (dopamine), closeness (oxytocin), calmness (serotonin) and delight (endorphins). Examples include being active outdoors, focusing on eating protein-rich foods, giving and receiving hugs (inside your bubble only of course), yoga/meditation, sleep-ins, new discoveries (eg. art, music) and laughter,” she says.
But a lot of us struggle to turn off all those worrying thoughts when they sit down to meditate. If you find it difficult to stop your mind wandering, you could try a candle gazing meditation (trataka sadhana). It is a simple practice and because it is done with the eyes open, it can be easier to stay focused.
Trataka sadhana, which loosely translates to “gazing ritual,” originated in India as a practice within hatha yoga. It involves staring at a single point – often a flame – and is believed to strengthen the third-eye chakra.
How to do a candle gazing meditation
- Set your space. Dim light is best for candle gazing, so close the curtains if it’s daytime. Remove any distractions such as phones. Make sure you’re wearing loose, comfortable clothing and the room is a comfortable temperature – a blanket or shawl can be useful if it’s chilly.
- Select a level surface for your candle. This needs to be near eye level so you don’t end up straining your neck or slouching. Place the candle on the surface and light it. Beeswax candles are a wonderful option – they’re slow-burning and have a delicate, natural honey scent.
- Sit on a chair, the floor, or a cushion so the candle flame is at eye level and about 2 feet away. Make sure you’re comfortable, sitting up straight and can remain completely still while meditating.
- Look at the candle and allow it to be the main focus of your mind. As you gaze at the candle, breathe. Observe the sensation of the light flowing into you with each inhalation. Eventually your thoughts will slow, and then fade altogether and you will be left with only awareness of the flame. Your eyes are likely to water after some time but this is normal. If you blink or get distracted, just return your attention to the flame.
- Finish by closing your eyes. An image of the candle’s flame may appear in your mind’s eye. Try to direct this image at your third eye chakra (the point between your eyebrows). When the image fades, open your eyes again and repeat the process. Allow your eyes to rest for a while once you’ve finished your meditation (avoid looking at screens).
Looking for more wellness advice? Read our guide to gut health for more ways to boost your wellbeing.