“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness” (Eleanor Roosevelt).
Light. So necessary for comfort in the wintertime, when days are cold and dreary. I understand the importance of Winter Solstice, and taking at least a few moments to honor and celebrate the point in time in which the days start to become longer…celebrating Light in all of its forms. One way we can do this is with candles.
Candles have a long history; candles.org states, “The Egyptians were using wicked candles in 3,000 B.C., but the ancient Romans are generally credited with developing the wicked candle before that time by dipping rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax. The resulting candles were used to light their homes, to aid travelers at night, and in religious ceremonies.”
In modern times, candles are still used very much in a way that would fall under the ‘religious ceremony’ category, as well as celebration of events, and achieving a cozy or romantic atmosphere.
But did you know that you can add ‘personal health and well-being’ to the list as well?
Firstly, something that’s important to be informed about (if you’re as of yet unaware): many of the candles on the market today are made of paraffin/petroleum, and the general consensus of many is that petroleum and chemically scented candles with lead wicks = dirty air/bad, natural based candles with vegetable oil and soy and beeswax = clean air/good.
Organizations such as The United States Environmental Protection Agency (http://nepis.epa.gov/Adobe/PDF/P1009BZL.pdf) and The American Chemical Society (http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2009/august/romantic-candle-lit-dinners-an-unrecognized-source-of-indoor-air-pollution.html) have made statements after studies. Some other informative articles discussing this topic are: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/are-your-candles-emitting-toxins/, and http://www.postconsumers.com/education/the-eco-truth-about-candles/.
But there’s hope! Vegetable based and soy waxes have the ability to burn clean, and beeswax candles are believed to help clean the air as they burn, emitting negative ions. “The scientific principle at work here is that a proper balance of negative ions bind with the positive ions, creating complete molecules which have a heavier weight mass and a balanced charge. Hence, the positive ions (toxins, dust, odors, etc.) no longer float, they simply fall to the ground” (http://purebeeworks.com/beeswax-candles-emit-negative-ions-c108.php).
In addition to that amazing health benefit, candles can also help clear your mind. By using a simple technique of candle meditation, you can move yourself to a more calm, centered and balanced mental state. This, in turn, can have a positive effect on the atmosphere around you, as you will energetically change things by having changed your personal energy.
Even if you’ve never had any previous experience with meditation, all it is (in its simplest form) is a clearing of the mind of ‘residue’ of any thoughts and emotions. The candle seemed singularly gifted to help with this task—who hasn’t been completely transfixed by a flame—its colors, its heat, sound, and smell; the way it radiates?
Many people receive enormous benefits from ‘candle-gazing’, or concentrating/meditating while looking into a candle flame. Many regular participators experience positive side effects ranging from heightened manifestation abilites, to awakening their pineal gland.
However you choose to bring it into your life, this is an exercise that can meet you at any level. You can incorporate this into your life easily, in whatever way you choose, from the simplest action to relax and clear your mind, to a more intense yoga disciplined technique called Trataka (http://www.wikihow.com/Develop-Your-Concentration-Using-the-Candle-Gaze-Exercise, http://www.yogamag.net/archives/1991/cmay91/tratak.shtml).
The candle should be placed about an arm’s length away from you, at eye level (if possible). Whether seated on the floor or in a chair, have good posture.
Being away from open drafts (having an environment that encourages a steady flame) is important. If desired, dim the lights. Take a moment to center yourself, and your breathing.
Gaze at at fixed point on the candle’s flame, and, as much as possible, try to not blink (this may be difficult at first; if your eyes start to water, close them and give them a rest).
After about a minute, close your eyes and concentrate on the ‘after-image’. As it begins to fade, you can choose to do it again, designing a discipline for yourself.
I’ve tried candle gazing for myself. It seemed to come to me fairly easily, as I was able to stare and not consciously blink for quite a long time, and, eventually, forget about the act of blinking/not blinking altogether. The world sort of faded out around me, and everything took on a blurry shade of gray.
I experienced something of a psychedelic effect, as the candle and its holder seemed to sink into the table and then move upward, as if the whole area were breathing. Another time I did it, the candle seemed to move in a circular motion (it’s best to be prepared for some possible optical illusions, so as not to become unnerved).
The whole experience left me feeling clear and vibrating with energy, and I plan on continuing to incorporate it into my life on a regular basis. Try it for yourself!