There are countless great meditations out there, from mantra to creative visualization to shadow work and so on and so forth. One to add to your list of ‘must try’ is candle meditation.
What is candle meditation, you ask? As its name suggests, this type of mindfulness practice encourages meditating with candles. And as easy as that seems, there is a reason to use candles and a technique to fully take in its benefits.
Light the fire (literally), close your eyes, and meditate.
What Is Candle Meditation?
This meditation is more commonly known as the practice of trataka, the Sanskrit word for ‘look’ or ‘gaze.’ Trataka meditation involves focusing on a small object, a black dot, or in this case, the flame of a candle.
Humans have long been mesmerized by fire. And this practice is believed to be inspired by our ancient ancestors, who would spend time around campfires for survival and socializing. The flames would provide a sense of warmth and safety.
If you have a fireplace, been to a bonfire, or sat in a room lit only by candles, you know how mesmerizing a fire can be. It can be quite hypnotic.
And unlike many guided meditations where you close your eyes, this candle gazing meditation encourages you to have your eyes open. This allows you to do as its namesake suggests — meditate while gazing into the candle flame.
Is that it, then? Just stare at the flame for a period of time?
It can be if you want. Candle meditation is a self-guided practice.
Sometimes, you will want a silent mind. Other times, you may want to let your thoughts wander. Or you may want to do specific self-development exercises like thought control, visualization, or affirmations.
When you learn how to meditate with candles, you can quickly create a state of trance with its warm glow, allowing the mind to settle and open up to experience profound insight and focus.
5 Benefits of Candle Meditation
While having an open flame may seem like a fire hazard more than anything, there is goodness that comes with a candle meditation ritual. And it coincides with the benefits of trataka.
Here are five of them:
#1: It opens your third eye chakra
Candle meditation is linked to the third eye chakra, also known as the ajna chakra. As the sixth energy center, this chakra is responsible for linking your mind to higher consciousness.
It’s associated with intuition and divine wisdom, and it promotes pattern recognition, learning skills, and memory. And when it’s open and balanced, you’re able to cut through illusion and access deeper truths without losing your connection with reality.
#2: Improves focus and concentration
Meditation is known to improve mental health, concentration, visual focusing, and more. Like staring at a full moon, using a flaming candle helps sharpen your focus and concentration. This often leads to deep meditation.
A small study looked at the effects of candle flame meditation on concentration and memory levels of thirty-seven college students who participated for 20 minutes in the mornings for 12 weeks. They were then tested in concentration and memory before and after the sessions. The researchers observed that after the meditation, the test scores increased significantly.
#3: Improves cognition
It’s been suggested that this type of meditation helps improve brain function. One study published in Scientific Reports was done to prove that.
It suggests that this type of focused practice, like candle flame meditation, “not only improves our cognitive and motivational functioning, it influences the way our brain networks function and operate.”
The researchers looked into the effect of focused attention meditation on the individual’s internal changes in whole-brain networks. The results suggest that “in addition to altering specific functional connectivity, meditation leads to a reconfiguration of whole-brain network architecture.”
#4: Lowers blood pressure
Watching the fire, like our ancestors, helps lower blood pressure, according to a 2014 study by the University of Alabama.
The researchers studied 226 adults who watched a video of a fireplace, taking their blood pressure before and after the video, as well as noted their experiences of the fire. They found that those who watched the fire with sound had a decrease in blood pressure as opposed to those who watched with no sound.
Furthermore, the researchers hypothesized that “hearth and campfires induce relaxation as a part of a multisensory, absorptive, and social experience.”
#5: Improves sleep quality
Because candle meditation helps reduce blood pressure, stress levels decrease. And relaxation happens as a result.
A 2020 study, albeit small, evaluated the effect of trataka on insomnia severity and the quality of sleep in people with insomnia. The participants practiced trataka for 45 minutes per day for 10 days.
The results showed a significant reduction in both the participants’ insomnia severity and the quality of sleep. And the researchers concluded that this form of meditation might be considered a treatment modality for those struggling to enhance their quality of sleep.
How to Do Candle Meditation
Learning how to do meditation with candles is very simple, and the name gives it away. Here’s how it goes:
- Sit in a comfortable position. You can sit in any way that is comfortable to you (your usual meditation pose, which can be anything from sitting in a chair to sitting in full Lotus).
- Place a lit candle about three feet (one meter) in front of you. To maintain a good upright posture, place the candle as close to eye level as possible to avoid neck strain or slouching. Alternatively, the candle can be on the ground about three to six feet (one to two meters) away from you so that your gaze falls naturally on it.
- Turn off the lights or dim them. Candle light meditation is best done in a relatively dark or dimly lit room so that it is easy to hold your focus on the flame and maintain a peaceful ambiance. Use candles with a scent that is aligned with your intention: soothing, energizing, or clarifying. Beeswax candles are always a great option for their delicate, natural honey scent.
- Focus on the candle flame as you breathe deeply. Start by getting comfortable and taking a few long, deep breaths to relax. Bring your attention to the dance of the flame. Try to go for as long as possible without straining the eyes, and then close them when you need to.
As you stare at the hypnotically-flickering flame, your mind might begin its natural wanderings. Just redirect your concentration to the flame anytime this happens.
By doing so, your thoughts will eventually slow and then, fade altogether. And as with other types, like mantra meditation, you may just experience the transcendence of thought.
5 Trataka Techniques to Incorporate
While it’s enough to follow the simple steps of candle meditation. But if you want to make it more challenging, you can try incorporating these trataka techniques.
#1: Visualize the flame as a source of love and light
The flame is a great metaphor for divine love and light that can penetrate the dark corners of your thoughts. So feel it radiate outward, penetrating dark corners of the room. And allow the light and love of the flame to fill the room and every cell in your body.
#2: Visualize the flame burning away your impurities
Visualize it burning away thoughts of hate, fear, impatience, insecurity, greed, anger, anxiety, self-loathing, depression, jealousy, bitterness, guilt, and resentment. Replace them with the love and light of the flame as well as positive thoughts and emotions.
#3: Use it as a present-awareness exercise
To further enhance your present-awareness, focus your gaze at the very tip of the flame, where the flame turns to smoke. Notice how the color is different than it is in the middle or the bottom of the flame.
Observe how the slightest air movement affects the flame in some way, just as your thoughts affect your environment. Pay attention to the smoke – sometimes it rises straight up into the air and sometimes it twirls around in upward spirals.
While the flame is the centerpiece of this meditation, also be aware of the aroma emanating from the candle (if you’ve chosen one with a scent). Its essence can help you go into a deeper state of relaxation.
#4: Contemplate the infinite nature of a flame
When one flame lights another, and that flame lights another and so on, you can see that the flame is infinite.
Visualize the light and love of the flame and radiate it outward from your heart to…
- People you know,
- Everyone you have ever met or will meet, and
- Those who have wronged you or whom you have wronged.
Visualize the light and love from your candle lighting the candles of every other person on the planet.
You can use this guided meditation with Emily Fletcher (or check out these Mindvalley meditations) as a background or complement to candle meditation.
#5: Expand on this visualization exercise
Eyes open or eyes closed, visualize the flame lighting the way for people who need help emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually.
Visualize the flame lighting the hearts of people consumed by fear and hate. See it guiding you toward your higher purpose.
Let your imagination run with this. You can use light in so many different ways.
Light the Flame & Meditate
Candle meditation can be used to quiet the mind and let your soul speak. Simply light up a candle and get in the zone.
But if you’d like to try out other techniques, Mindvalley’s got you covered. The Mindvalley app has a whole library of guided meditations by experts, including Emily Fletcher, Rachel Pringle, Marisa Peer, Paul McKenna, and Vishen, founder of Mindvalley himself.
You can also master how to shift from meditating for relaxation to meditating for peak performance, energy, vitality, superhuman creativity, intuition, and even sex. Mindvalley trainers like Emily Fletcher in The M Word Quest or Vishen in The 6 Phase Meditation Quest are here to guide you through what can be an incredible life to live.
Ready to light the flame? Welcome in.