Day 3 – trataka (candle flame)

My brother has two children, who I love more than anything so when I come down to stay I usually sleep over to have as much time with them as possible. Knowing they love to wake up early and stare at me until I wake up, I set my alarm for 5.30am so that I can meditate while they are still sleeping. I end up going right back to sleep afterwards and although I wouldn’t normally interrupt a full night of sleep to meditate, I know that if I don’t do it that early, it won’t get done. And rightly so. Here I am at 10pm, the first chance I have had to write about it.

Last night I was researching a meditation website I found and came across some helpful hints about beginning a meditation practise. In its section titled ‘Preparation’, it suggests creating a permanent space to practise. If a permanent place is not available, it suggests using sacred items such as incense, a candle or a crystal to create a sacred space wherever you may be. I particularly like the suggestion, ‘A piece of fruit, placed on the table and consumed with reverence afterward, makes a tasty ending to a meditation!’ The site also recommends showering or washing the hands and face before practise to feel as though you have ‘cleared’ yourself for the practise.

I light a small candle and set the two crystals beside it, along with a small bunch of four green grapes. The two crystals I have with me are Serpentine and Amethyst. Crystals can be powerful enhancements to any spiritual practice and carry specific vibrations in their mineral make up. I have chosen Serpentine as it is particularly good for meditation in its ability to still a mind that normally can not be stilled. It provides calm and stability to a person and is said to aid in the flow of prana (the life force that is carried through the body by the breath). Amethyst is a fantastic crystal for meditation as it is so calming and relaxing that it is often used for insomnia. It works with the third eye centre, Anja chakra and is often considered a spiritual stone that aids in developing psychic potential. It was also considered protective and is one of my favourite crystals due to its ability to cluster in enormous caves.

Today I have no cushion so I decide to sit on my heels in Vajrasana, hero’s pose. Vajrasana is ideal for meditation and can be practised by people with sciatica or slip disc issues instead of other seated meditation poses which may be difficult. It is the most ideal pose for digestion if you have an overly full stomach, however if you do not practise this seat often, it may be quite difficult to begin with as it is a deep stretch for the tops of the feet. It only takes a few minutes a day, however, for the body to adjust and it quickly becomes a comfortable pose, particularly for short meditations under fifteen minutes. Following the basic trataka meditation, also described on meditation.org (see Class 1), I take seven deep long breaths to centre myself and then allow my gaze to soften as it focuses on the flame of the candle. Its warmth and light seems to grow as it encompasses my whole awareness and while there is still a mild chatter occurring in the back of my mind, my attention remains alert and entirely centred on the flame. My niece’s cat, Mr Cat, a hairless Devon Rex who resembles Mr Bigglesworth, has spent the night curled up on my chest and has decided to join me once again, kneading his way onto my lap. My gaze does not move from the flame and I try not to move as his sharp claws curl into my legs. Eventually he settles down and his rhythmic purring has become another layer of background noise. I last no longer than ten minutes on this particular meditation as I feel the thoughts tumbling back to the forefront of my mind.

Although I do not feel as though I was able to perform a deep trataka, I do certainly feel the benefits as the day goes on, finding the energy and patience to play with children on minimal hours of sleep. I intend to practise trataka again this year with a variation of time and place as it is a technique I feel as though I have not yet mastered.

For parents, I understand that finding time to meditate is rarely, if ever, possible. I have no children of my own, however I am a firm believer that finding time for ourselves, to sit quietly in meditation can dramatically effect our relationships and make us more mindful in the way we interact with those around us and is therefore of utmost benefit to our loved ones as well as ourselves.

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