This practice is a deceptively simple but powerful practice. It is “gazing steadily at a fixed point”. There are two forms of the practice: the external exercise and the internal training. The external activity is easier to practice because one simply has to gaze at an object or symbol. However, the internal method involves precise and stable inner visualization of an object.
In this practice, an object is gazed at until its subtle form manifests in front of the closed eyes. The point of concentration is usually a symbol or object which activates the inner potential and can absorb the mind. The symbol most commonly used is a candle flame, because even when we keep our eyes closed, the impression remains naturally for some time, and then we can perform internal exercises. The purpose of focusing the eyes on an external object is to arouse the inner vision and make it steady by stopping the eye movements.
This exercise is a process of concentrating the mind and curbing its oscillating tendencies. It is one-pointed concentration of the mind. There are numerous distractions that obstruct it. Association and identification through the eyes and sight are major contributing factors to this leakage. Furthermore, the eyes constantly move, either in large movements or tremors. Even when we focus the eyes on an external object the perception is always fluctuating due to these spontaneous movements. When we consistently look at the same object is constantly, the brain becomes accustomed or habituated and soon stops registering that object. Habituation coincides with an increase of alpha waves indicating diminished visual attention to the external world. With the production of alpha waves particular areas of the brain have ceased functioning. When we restrict the awareness to one unchanging sense stimulus, like touch or sound, the mind is ‘turned off’. Complete absorption in a single perception induces withdrawal of contact with the external world.
In this exercise, the result is a ‘blanking out’ of visual perception and in the wake of this suspension, the central nervous system begins to function in isolation. When we isolate the brain from the sense modalities and the associated mental processes, spiritual consciousness emerges. The higher mind becomes liberated from time and space. There are many other useful symbols for eye exercises apart from the candle flame. Such activities include a crystal ball, a mirror, the full moon, a star, the rising or the setting sun, your partners eyes or your own shadow. A steady flame of light is the most practical one. Reason for this is because a flame (such as a candle flame) produces the best after-image that helps in easier visualization even when we close our eyes. The desired effect of this eye exercise is that one can visualize and concentrate on the image even with closed eyes.
For the awakening aspirant, it is necessary to stall eyeball movement for great benefits and experiences. As we are aware, eyeballs are constantly in motion even while sleeping in the form of REM (Rapid Eye Movement). The aim is to minimize and eventually stall even this minutes of movement. This exercise is a wonderful practice to achieve this as it helps in overcoming this by focusing on a point and then visualizing its after-image with the eyes closed.
Many of the hurdles in our personal lives and even on the path to awakening have to do with our inability to disconnect with the external world at will. Exercise like this one, through the focus on one object, helps to make this disconnection more easily and prepares us to do so at will.
Place a candle on a stand and adjust the height of the stand so that the wick of the flame is at horizontal eye level. Position the candle at an arm"s length. Remove your glasses when you start to exercise. People wearing glasses may have to adjust the distance between the stand and themselves so that they observe a clear image of the candle wick without a blur. It is important that the flame does not flicker at all.
Sit in a comfortable meditative pose with the spine erect and place the hands on the knees. Relax your whole body, close your eyes and prepare yourself mentally. Make yourself calm and quiet. Allow yourself to become conscious of your breathing and gradually begin to slow your breathing down and be prepared to keep your body perfectly still throughout the entire practice. Open your eyes and gaze at the middle portion of the flame (ideally one should focus on the red tip of the wick as it does not move due to draft).
The focus should be on the top end of the cord, as the candle burns. Keep your eyes relaxed while fixing the gaze on the wick. Try not to blink as blinking will interfere with the formation of a clear inner image. Gaze for as long as possible without blinking and without strain until the eyes begin to water or tire. When you practice this exercise you may release a lot of tears from the eyes. Do not worry, this is natural and is a part of the cleansing process. What you do not want to do is hold the eyes open so long that it is painful. Go gently and as you practice it will become easy to keep the eyes open longer. You will be able to increase the time gradually with practice to ten minutes.
Remain the silent witness throughout, observing all thoughts and feeling which may arise. When you close your eyes, keep them fixed at the impression inside. If the afterimage moves, bring it back to the center and continue gazing until the impression disappears. Once you can stabilize the afterimage, study it and look intently at its color.
One can do this exercise at any time but is more efficient when performed on an empty stomach. If you wish to delve deeper into the mind, it should be done late at night or before going to sleep. If there is an uncontrollable thought during the exercise, counting should also be done at the same time. One can also imagine that one is breathing in a straight line, from the point of concentration through the eyebrow center and straight back to the back of the head. When you close your eyes to gaze at the counter image, continue with this awareness.
Prepare yourself as in the external training. Keep the eyes closed throughout and concentrated on your symbol. If you have no symbol, try to visualize a point of light, like a twinkling star or a crescent or full moon. Attempt to see the object clearly and steadily in the dark space in front of the closed eyes. Practice for five to twenty minutes (this practice has to be cultivated over a long time).
According to the ancient texts this eye exercise, ‘eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway creating these problems’. It helps not only the eyes but a whole range of physiological and mental functions. It is therapeutic in: balancing the nervous system, depression, insomnia allergy, anxiety, postural problems, poor concentration, memory and relieves nervous tension.
It unlocks the inherent energy of the mind and channels it to the dormant areas of the unconscious. Ancient texts mention the arousal of clairvoyance, but other capacities such as telepathy, telekinesis, psychic healing, etc., can develop. Not only that further results of one-pointedness of mind are: strong willpower, improved memory and concentrative ability. Physiologically, this eye exercise relieves eye ailments such as eye strain and headache, myopia, astigmatism and even early stages of cataract. The eyes become clear bright, able to see the reality beyond appearances. It also stimulates the brain via the optic nerve. It improves the internal and external visual function. It helps in disconnecting with the noise and distractions of the outer world, and it is deeply relaxing.
- Personal experience
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