There is an ancient yogic technique practiced for thousands of years by the adepts of India known as Trataka or steady gazing. It is known to bring incredible benefits to one who practices regularly such as healing of the eyes, clarity of the mind, and yes – even increased psychic abilities. One can practice trataka on a variety of images including a candle flame(the most popular), a black dot on a white wall, a flower, the rising or setting sun and even the moon. As we move into a super full moon this weekend it opens up a unique opportunity for gazing that can possibly, if practiced with the right intent, induce superman-like qualities.
Trataka is a preparatory practice, as well as an advanced practice because in order to fully tune into psychic abilities, one has to remove the obstacles preventing the experience of clarity. These obstacles might include suppressed emotional and mental disturbances, fears and expectations inhibiting clear insight. To be clairvoyant is to ‘see clearly’ or to experience clear vision. Usually this means seeing things others do not and often events or possibilities that haven’t happened yet. You can only see clearly if you are not harboring conditions in your mind that keep you repeating fears and expectations for yourself or others. Practicing trataka is a great technique to cultivate clarity. Known originally as a Shatkarma, or cleansing practice, one of the initial preparatory practices of Hatha yoga, trataka cleanses the subconscious mind allowing clarity to replace fear and mental fog.
How do you do it?
Trataka means steady gazing at a still object. In the case of the super full moon, the moon is a great choice for something still and bright to hold your attention. You may also, at other times of the month, when the full moon is unavailable, use the crescent moon, a candle flame, the water on a still lake, the rising or setting sun, a symbol, a tree, a star in the sky, a crystal, a cup of tea, your nose tip, eyebrow center, even the neck of your own shadow. The point is the object should be unwavering. You can even stare into another person’s eyes. All other objects should be tuned out of your awareness, if possible, by turning down the lights (as in the case of a candle flame).
Begin steady gazing at your object of choice. When you gaze at the moon, you will see only the bright moon on a black background. Keep the eyes open and one pointed until you begin to feel them start to water. The watering signifies cleansing taking place in both your physical eyes and your inner vision. Keep gazing. At times, your vision may shift as to see light all around you, the moon may become several moons or even disappear from you view. Do not strain too long, generally after a few tears, go ahead and close your eyes and continue to stare at the reverse image of the moon or other object now found in the blackened space behind your closed eyes.
At first, this reverse image may only last a few moments, but over time you will increase your ability to see this image longer and longer. This is when the real practice starts. You will know what is meant by this when you experience inner trataka, also known as antar trataka. When this inner image finally disappears, open your eyes again and begin again. Continue the practice from 5-15 minutes, starting with less time, building up to more. Perhaps your first time you will only do one or two rounds of outer and inner trataka. Eventually you may do as many as 10 rounds. “Ten to fifteen minutes trataka without the least blinking of the eyes will start inducing some mystical experiences.”
What happens inside?
Swami Satyananda Saraswati of India, master yogi, describes what happens in the brain and body to one who practices:
The impression of the object falls on the optic nerves. The shadow of the object falls on the eyes and then on the retina. The optic nerves of the retina are connected by the sensory nerves with the brain. The brain has several centers which are connected with the optic nerves. These centers receive information through the optic nerves and send out commands. Many of these centers are asleep or inactive. Trataka does not merely increase the function of perception. Through the medium of perception, the centers of the brain which remain inactive in an ordinary person are awakened. Man is capable of becoming a superman if he is able to awaken and activate those glands and nerve centers which in the natural course of evolution are in an inactive state.
In other words, we are capable of creating superman-like qualities by practicing fixed gazing at objects such as the super full moon. ”The eyes possess the power to act as a reservoir of energy as well as a transmitter.”
The benefits go on: ”In daily life trataka has many uses related to the power of healing and clairvoyance. Trataka can be utilized for curing eye diseases, spiritual healing, acquiring knowledge of certain events, detection of thieves, murderers, etc., acquiring knowledge of the future, tracing lost individuals and so on.”
According to the famous Hatha yoga text The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swatmarma: ‘Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway creating these problems. It should carefully be kept secret like a golden casket.” In other words, it is unnecessary and even potentially detrimental to your practice to announce what you are doing to others, keep the practice to yourself. As you proceed through healing of the eyes and magnifying inner qualities, you will have no need to ‘make them public’ but rather, enjoying the evolution of your own consciousness, will itself be the reward.
Alpha brainwaves are also induced by the practice of steady gazing, allowing a disassociation with the senses and deepening of inner awareness. According to sources, this is how it happens:
”When the same object is constantly seen, the brain becomes accustomed or habituated, and soon stops registering that object. Habituation coincides with an increase of alpha waves indicating diminished visual attention to the external world. When alpha waves are produced it indicates that particular areas of the brain have ceased functioning. This is the case,, not only with trataka, but with any practices of concentration. When the awareness is restricted to one unchanging sense stimulus, like touch or sound, the mind is ‘turned off’. Complete absorption in a single perception induces withdrawal of contact with the external world.”
When this occurs, the yogis call this state sushumna or liberation. Sushumna refers to the activation of the central energy channel in the spine which indicates both hemispheres of the brain are active and balance within has been achieved. In this state, the central nervous system begins to function in isolation and the brain functions independently from the senses. When this happens it is said that spiritual consciousness emerges as the higher brain is liberated from the limitations of time and space. One will know this only through experience as no scientific findings can explain this state in logical terms. Super full moon gazing is a simple practice that can elicit amazing superhuman qualities through very little effort, as only commitment to a regular practice is necessary.
Practicing trataka can have a profound experience on ones dreams and dream states. The mind is trained to become still during a practice such as trataka. Before stillness there is much oscillation which contributes to various types of dreams. It is said that one with a tamasic mind (often resting on problems, worry, fear and frustration) will have more perverse dreams, a rajasic person (most individuals with fluctuating minds) will dream in symbols and a sattvic aspirant with a steady mind will dream true visions.
Practicing trataka before bed can help to center the mind after a day full of variants. Trataka is so much more calming and preparatory to sleep than reading a book or watching television and it takes only a few minutes.
Are there any precautions to trataka?
There are several suggestions to help one who is new to the practice of trataka that should be kept in mind in order to practice safely and effectively. First, one should not strain the eyes at any time. A couple of tears streaming down the face is fine, but to continue in this manner too long puts excessive tension on the eyes and can be harmful. In order to stimulate blood supply in the eyes and enhance the practice, it is suggested to splash cold water on the eyes immediately following your steady gazing practice.
It may take some time for your eyes to begin to adapt to this new practice. It is advised not to rub the eyes after practicing eye gazing, but to allow the effects of the practice to settle in, undisturbed. Also, do not put any solutions, even eye drops into the eyes directly following trataka, as this may counter act some of the beneficial effects.
Choose your symbol or object carefully. If you stare at something potentially violent, like a volcano or the image of the goddess Kali, for example, you may begin to embody these traits unless you have transcended them. If you are mentally unstable, perhaps start with a candle flame before trying something as potent as the full moon. A candle flame is the safest and simplest object to begin with. The full moon is potent and can draw impurities out of the mind quickly, so be aware of this when choosing to practice trataka with the super full moon. If you do use the moon as your object, be aware over the next few days of any thoughts or emotions surfacing that seem out of the ordinary or as a ‘repeat’ of things from your past, as the moon may have caused a surfacing to occur – allowing old thoughts, emotions and experiences to be cleared. Try to be the observer of these surfaced experiences rather than claiming them as something new or repeating. In this way they can move out of your field more quickly.
Some exercise is recommended before and after the practice of trataka, even a few simple stretches, in order to get the energy moving through the body, revitalizing the nerves. Repetition of an internal mantra, or sound, can increase the potency of the trataka practice. Using the sound of ‘OM’, ‘LAM’ or ‘LOVE’ or any other suitable healing sound can multiply the effects tremendously.
Once again, if practicing trataka on the sun, as is done in sun-gazing, make sure it is only during the hour of the rising or setting sun and at no other time of the day. Practice on the full moon is best! Especially the super bright super full moon of the solstice weekend!
Practicing trataka takes only 5-15 minutes per day, gazing into the moon or any other still pointed object. Begin by staring, without blinking until the eyes begin to water, at your object of choice; then continue to concentrate on the after image behind closed eyes in the same manner until it disappears. Repeat this formula several rounds, adding an internal mantra such as ‘OM’ if desired. End by splashing the eyes with cold water and stretching the body.
Super moon gazing (along with other forms of trataka) can induce amazing benefits in the body such as healing the eyes, deeper sleep, better memory; it can also reduce mental oscillations and even induce the superman-like qualities of increased telepathy, psychic healing and clairvoyance. So make sure to get out under the moon this weekend and get charged up, cleared out and healed through still pointed focus on the moon.