Never heard of open-eye meditation? This ancient practice is actually perfect for both newcomers to meditation and seasoned practitioners alike.
Steady gazing or Trataka, is a traditional concentration and purification exercise otherwise known as open-eye meditation. Among the six Shat Karmas (yogic purification practices) Tratak is known as the simplest to do. It involves gazing at an object or point of focus without blinking, then closing your eyes and continuing to hold the visual of the object in your mind’s eye. Consistent and correct practice of trataka increases concentration and purifies the mind from fluctuating thought patterns. It also has been proven to improve eyesight and stimulates the brain in at least two studies.
“The practice of gazing steadily, without blinking on a small object is known as trataka by the wise. Trataka eradicates all diseases associated with vision & calms the mind.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2.32 & 2.33Tweet
Open-eye meditation is one of the six purification practices called Kriyas, which are exercises that cleanse the internal organs. They are generally practiced before asana, pranayama or higher-level meditation techniques because the purpose of these kriyas is to make the body and mind strong enough to withstand advanced practice.
How to Open-Eye Meditate
The selection of the trataka symbol should be made with care. The thing you concentrate upon can arouse that aspect within you, so consider your intention with the mediation and what you are trying to accomplish. The flame of a candle acts as a natural magnet for the eyes and mind, which attracts good vision and thoughts. Plus, the mind is capable of retaining an excellent image of the flame afterward. Some other traditional objects that are good for beginners include a black dot on a piece of paper, a picture of someone special, a symbol such as OM, an image of a deity, or even your own face in a mirror. You can also use something in nature like a flower or the moon. As a beginner, avoid more complex objects, like an entire tree. Pick something that is not moving and can be viewed in its entirety. Place the chosen object so that it can be seen clearly at about eye level an arm’s length away from you.
Before you begin to open-eye meditate you may want to begin with your eyes closed to help you calm your mind. Work with steadying the breath. This could include using an easy count for the length of breath, like a 4-count inhale and 4-count exhale, or by simply making the breath slower and longer. If you began with the eyes closed, open them after a minute (or more depending on how much time you have for your meditation).
There are a variety of ways you can practice open-eye meditation. They all include gazing at the object without blinking and without straining. Some teachers advise you to stop when the eyes start to water and others don’t. The watering of the eyes can be very cleansing and sometimes quite intense.
The other main variation is in how long to gaze for. Tony Riposo, E-RYT 500, recommends that after about a minute of holding your gaze, close your eyes, keep your inner gaze steady and visualize the object in your mind at your third eye center. He says, “When the image loses its crispness in your mind’s eye or you begin to forget what it looks like, open your eyes again and repeat the gazing.”
Other teachers may have you start with open-eye meditation for 5, 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Like any meditation practice, it is best to start with shorter lengths of time and work up to more.
On a spiritual level, the open-eye meditation exercise awakens the third eye and enhances our intuitive skills and higher wisdom.
Want to learn more about your third eye center?