Lighting a candle


The phrase ‘Lighting a candle’ has many different meanings in our culture and of course in the realms of meditation and complementary therapies, candles are frequently lit to create an ambient atmosphere.

I have often suggested to those beginning to learn how to meditate that lighting a candle can help to set the scene for meditation. Just as laying the table for dinner can act as a trigger to enjoy a meal, so can lighting a candle in a quiet space act as a trigger to meditate. In this scenario, I am not advising the student to look at the candle during the meditation. My view is that it is better to stick with the one basic technique of following the breath until the practice is well established. Only then should one try out another technique.

For me. the aim of any meditation technique is to bring the individual to a state of alert, awareness without thoughts. Any other intended outcome is entertainment for the mind.

At a recent meditation group meeting, I brought a candle and placed it in the centre of our circle and lit it. As we placed our attention on it, I suggested that we could look at the candle, exploring its many characteristics. In this way, we gave the busy mind something to be interested in. As the attention became more directed to observing the flame, the mind quieted down. At this point I invited the group to close their eyes, remaining alert and aware, and when thoughts began to arise, I suggested they open their eyes and look at the light of the candle again until they felt ready to close their eyes again.

At the end of the meditation, everyone was keen to describe how they saw and felt about the candle. This was interesting for me to observe. I realised that because this was a new technique, they seemed to feel it was important to share their experience of the light of the candle. After a few moments, I asked how it was when they closed their eyes. They all admitted that they easily came to a state of ‘peace’ ‘calm’ ‘no mind’.

Varying the meditation technique one uses can be useful in refreshing one’s practice, but caution is needed to avoid falling into the mind’s trap of analysing the technique and forgetting the sole purpose which is to return to our natural state of being without thought.

So, why don’t you try lighting a candle for your meditation, and let me know how you found it.