The Eye of the Beholder: Gazing Meditation (Tradak)
by Nischala Joy Devi.
July 3, 2013.
Each evening after a very stressful day working at a medical clinic, I joined hundreds of other people in making the pilgrimage to watch the sunset at the ocean. We would leave our cars and worries in the parking lot and jog to a front row seat on the rocks or on the beach. For several minutes we seemed to be united in body and mind, sitting in stillness and gazing at this daily miracle of beauty. After the last ray had dissolved into the sea, leading us into another night, the unity of the gazers would begin to fragment. Some would continue to sit; and others would walk, jog, or slowly meander back to their cars (minus the old worries). For many, it had become a nightly ritual for meditation and releasing tensions. Though most didn’t call it by name or, perhaps, even know there was a name for it, we were doing a kind of meditation called tradak.
Gazing, or tradak, is a wonderful technique for people starting in meditation or for those days when the mind is overly active. It is the main technique I have used when working with children. This starts with an external object and then draws us inward. The restless mind is allowed to observe something real, concrete. In tradak, we use the outward and inward vision alternately; this keeps the eyes and the brain working together. You choose an object you like that will inspire you. It could be the delicate beauty of a flower or a simple candle flame, a photograph, a mandala or yantra (geometric design), a sunset—anything that allows you to feel quiet and peaceful.
Like the setting sun in the opening paragraph, an inspirational object is placed directly in front of you at eye level. It only needs to be close enough for you to see the basic form and get the feeling. It is not necessary to distinguish details. Glasses and contact lenses are removed so that the eyes are able to relax and soften.
How to Practice Gazing Meditation
Have the body in a comfortable position–-either in a chair with the feet flat on the floor or cross-legged on the floor. Have the spine erect, shoulders back, not leaning to one side or another, and not leaning forward or back. Observe the body. Check to see if the toes are relaxed, then the feet, ankles, shins and calves, knees, thighs, hips, hands, wrists, forearms, and so on.
Inhale through the nose and, as you exhale, let the breath out very slowly, releasing with it any tension that you might feel. Take in another breath and let it out even more slowly. Feel yourself relaxing. It is important to repeat this breath and release tension any time you feel that tension starting to seep into the body and mind.
Allow the eyes to close and the body to be still. Slowly open the eyes a little more than halfway. Keep the eyelids relaxed, soft. At first, the eyes will wander. Gently begin to gaze at the object you have chosen and follow the qualities of the object as you go deep within. (Be sure to keep your eyes relaxed and let them blink normally. If your eyes start to tear or if you feel any discomfort, close them softly and allow them to rest.)
After a few moments of gazing at the image, close your eyes and observe the image as it appears in the mind’s eye. When that inner image begins to fade, open the eyes again and gaze at the external object. Repeat this sequence several times.
If the mind starts to wander and brings in stories about the object, gently bring your attention back to the object in front of you and let go of the stories. Simply be with the object.
Keep the breath normal, breathing through the nose.
Now imagine how the image might feel-—its warmth, coolness, texture, beauty, or simplicity.
Continue the process, gazing outward with the eyes open and gazing inward with the eyes closed. See if you can let all the thoughts and feelings go and just concentrate on your chosen object of meditation. If you begin to feel any tension in the body, take in a few breaths and let it go.
Allow the eyes to close. See the image with the inner eye as you draw deep within for a more internal meditation. Be still for a few minutes and enjoy the inner tranquility.
Keeping the eyes closed, slowly and gently bring the hands together and briskly rub the palms together, generating heat. When you feel warmth from the hands, take the palms and gently cup them over the eyes. Allow the darkness and the warmth from the palms to penetrate deep into the eyes, soothing away any tension you might feel. Very slowly bring the fingertips down and softly stroke the eyelids out toward the ears, removing any tension or stress from the eyes then return the hands to the lap. Relax. Stretch out the body. Observe how peaceful and centered you feel.
For more about Tradak: The Healing Path of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi
Article: Meditate With Your Breath by Nischala Joy Devi
Featured Photo: Candle Flame by Darren Hester | morguefile.com