A ritual is an embodied remembrance, an act of preservation, and an invocation of the mystical. Both presence and purification are necessary ingredients for ritual—the latter spanning all regions and religions from Misogi, the Japanese Shinto practice of washing one’s body in sacred waters, to Smudging, the ceremonial Indigenous tradition of burning dried herbs like sage. Purification is a process. It’s the removal of dirt or in the case of the heart, the layer upon layer of hurt, judgment, and distrust that we’ve collected over time.
So how do we cleanse ourselves from that which cannot be seen? Luckily for us, all great sages say the same thing: that you already know … that the greatest wisdom lies within, and that the path to uncovering it lies in the here and now. Trataka, the Sanskrit word for “gaze,” is a meditation technique that uses the sense of sight to still the mind. While the practice may appear passive, the central point of focus enhances one’s ability to dissolve distractions and cultivate mental clarity over time. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines the ritual as “looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed.”