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Tratak, also known as fixed gazing or candle gazing, is an ancient form of meditation where the eyes remain on one focal point. This practice is thought to increase concentration and mental clarity by eliminating outside distractions. Though a lit candle is usually the object of the gaze, a ghee lamp or a dot either on an object or on the forehead of another person can also be used.
The practice involves both physical and mental elements. A practitioner begins by sitting comfortably about 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters) away from the focal point and at eye level. While maintaining straight posture and a steady gaze, the individual inhales and exhales thoroughly and slowly. Then the practice typically dictates imagining the power of the item, such as the light from the flame, entering the body and illuminating the inner self. This process usually lasts from 10 to 15 minutes.
Many tratak practitioners will attempt to increase the depth of their concentration and meditative state by trying not to blink as they gaze at the item. It is believed that once an individual blinks, a thought will enter the mind, breaking concentration. While the practice does not dictate fighting thoughts that enter the mind, keeping the mind as clear as possible does increase the effectiveness of tratak. Some practitioners augment their practice by engaging in alternate breathing, in which the process of inhaling and exhaling is further focused by using different nostrils for each revolution of air.
If a candle is used for tratak practice, it must be extinguished in a specific way once the session is done. Traditional beliefs state that the breath is poison to the purity of the flame and the god that is believed to live in the fire. For this reason, the flame is typically extinguished by pressing the wick against an item until it is no longer lit.
Tratak is used to reduce stress, un-clutter the mind, increase mental clarity, and boost concentration. It is thought that the practice reduces fragmented thoughts by instilling an overall sense of calm in the individual. Traditionally, the practice is believed to give the individual a heightened feeling of bliss and awareness. If the practice is done with a light source, it is thought that the illumination causes the pineal gland, or third eye, to respond, giving the practitioner a feeling of peace.