Candle Gazing and 4 Other Ways to Balance an Overactive Mind
The effects of constantly being “on” can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. Try candle gazing and these other practices to induce stillness and relieve stress.
Do you know anyone who doesn’t have an overactive mind? If so, they are few and far between. People often label themselves (or even their mood) as one specific Ayurvedic dosha. “I’m a Pitta!” or “I’m feeling Kapha and lazy right now,” are statements I hear all too often.
It’s not that cut and dried.
In actuality, everyone is made up of all the elements or doshas. One may be overactive. One we may be deficient in. But according to Ayurveda, we’re all made up of earth, water, fire, air, and space. Yet, every individual has a unique mixture or combination, making up our special constitutional balance.
Prakruti is that specific combination of doshas that is present at birth and with you until you transition to the nonphysical, nonlocal self. Prakruti can be likened to your nature. You can remember Prakruti because most of your tendencies and physical makeup comes from your parents. (“P” for Prakruti and parents.)
Vikruti on the other hand is the doshic imbalance that you are experiencing at this very moment, whether from external circumstances or internal turmoil. Vikruti is that which needs some attention, balancing, and healing.
Vata is the air and space dosha. It’s cold, dry, constantly in motion, quick, and always changing. Someone with a Vata imbalance may experience bouts of fatigue, insomnia, digestive disorders, arthritis, hypertension, and, above all, an overactive mind (with thoughts typically rooted in fear and worry).
Someone with a ruling Vata dosha loves the thrill of new experiences. On the flip side, that can also mean they rarely stick to one thing long enough to complete or master it. Vata’s by nature are creative, energetic, and lively conversationalists who are always onto the next best thing.
If it’s possible for a culture to have a Vikruti, ours is definitely Vata.
Modern society is moving at a thousand miles a minute, just like our brains. If our brain is like a computer, we rarely hit the “off” switch. And with our technologically loaded society, we all know every system needs a chance to regularly reboot—including our own mind and body.
The effects of constantly being “on” and not practicing stillness and other stress-relieving practices, wreaks havoc on our body and mind.
Furthermore, studies show depression is linked to overactive brain areas. And a restless mind can lead to things like sleep disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and other serious diseases like anxiety disorders, and other mental health problems.
There are some great ways to counteract and balance an overactive mind, but it does take dedication and discipline. The outcome, however, will be worth the effort put in.
Practice Trataka or ‘candle gazing’. Many Vata types have difficulty with meditation. Stillness is not so much in their nature, but something to be cultivated. Candle gazing offers a simple segue into beginning a meditation practice. Trataka is also said to help with willpower, focus, and enhanced vision (by giving your eyes a bath of sorts). It is a great practice in awareness because when you stare long enough at a fixed object, after a while, your brain stops registering that image. This enhances your ability to tune out the outer world and develop more of an inward awareness.
If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy closing your eyes in meditation, try Trataka.
- In a dimly lit room place a candle at eye level (on a coffee table as you sit on a zafu or the floor).
- Light your candle and sit 2-3 feet away from it.
- Place a soft gaze on the tip of the wick.
- Refrain from blinking as you gently stare at the flame and let your eyes water a bit (traditionally you will let your eyes fill to the point of tears).
- Then, close your eyes and observe the image of the candle at your third-eye center (between the eyebrows).
- When the image fades, open your eyes and begin your candle gazing again.
- Repeat 3-4 times. This is a practice to build up to, so start for just a few moments a day and as it feels comfortable, increase the amount of time you spend in trataka.
Self-massage with warm sesame oil. Sesame oil is a grounding and warming oil, great for balancing Vata. This is not a slap-it-on oiling. It’s a loving, nurturing kind of oiling.
- Place a good amount of heated oil all over your body.
- Start back at your scalp and spend time on each area of the body, working your way down to your toes.
- The movements should be slow and deeply connected.
- Spend extra time on your limbs, abdomen, and feet in particular for a little foot reflexology.
- End with a salt bath with essential oils such as patchouli, vetiver and basil.
Use the bija mantra "Lam." The Lam mantra is meant to activate the root chakra (invokes feelings of safety, security, and grounding). Those with a Vata Vikruti tend to be free spirits, always moving with the wind. Stabilizing the root chakra can work wonders on being able to stand your ground (a vata weakness). Bija or “seed” mantras can bring about a meditative state that those with Vata imbalances so desperately need.
- Sit comfortably in a tranquil and quiet setting.
- Visualize a bright red light at your root chakra (at the base of your spine, emanating 360 degrees in all directions throughout your hips, pelvic floor, and into the ground).
- Chant aloud the sound "llllllaaaahhhmmmm" repeatedly 20-30 times. The longer you repeat the mantra the more powerful the effects.
Practice BREATH-centered yoga. All yoga asanas are meant to be lead by the breath. But that doesn’t mean that we all do it all the time. Let go of any form or routine that you are used to and simply let the breath and body lead the way. This could mean that your 30-minute yoga practice includes only four to five poses. The movement starts with the breath and is slow, mindful, and nurturing. More time in savasana at the end of your practice is recommended.
Ask “where is my center?” Simply asking this question brings awareness to your core. Not just your physical core, but the core of your existence. The eye of the storm. The you that is not moved or shaken by the external environment. Where the ego-mind becomes universal consciousness. The place where the balance you seek always was and always will be.
About the Author