A single candle
There is something primal about a candle burning in the dark. The warmth and light provided by fire since the early dawn of mankind is captured in one small flame.
A candle offers security and comfort. Just one flame keeps the darkness at bay, along with all that is hidden by it.
A candle allows us to see. We can safely navigate a path through the dark, avoiding obstacles and holes that would otherwise cause us to stumble and fall.
A candle deepens our connection with others. It reveals only those nearby and focuses our attention on them. Seeing those we love in the soft, gentle light enhances the intimacy we experience together.
A candle touches our spirit with a profound juxtaposition. The tiny flame is so fragile it can be extinguished with a single breath, and yet, if set free, it has the power to become a raging fire. Holding that power captive in a single flame allows us to master one of the most powerful forces on earth. But still it commands our awe and respect… allow it to escape and it will pay us no heed as it sets our world on fire.
Over recent months I’ve been doing daily mindfulness exercises using a mobile phone app called Headspace. Fifteen minutes a day has already proved its worth many times over. Becoming aware of my thoughts and feelings moment by moment is enabling me to understand and manage my thinking and decisions in a way I’ve never been able to before.
Instead of automatically reacting to situations, being aware of what I’m thinking and feeling at that time allows me to choose how I respond. Instead of being controlled by negative feelings such as anxiety, frustration, anger and depression, I am better able to acknowledge they are there, accept them, and make life-giving choices in the face of them.
I’m becoming more aware of what is happening in conversations with others… What is the other person really saying? Why are they saying it? How are they feeling? Instead of being absorbed by the impulse to ‘have my say’ and respond with my opinions, experiences and solutions, I can listen more intently and focus on understanding them. It is usually better to say less and listen more, in order to be more empathetic and contribute more value when I do speak.
The mindfulness app began with a 30 day introductory pack called Foundations. You can then choose from a range of topic specific packs. So far I’ve worked through Anxiety, Acceptance, Sleep packs. Along with the mindfulness exercises each pack provides simple tips and techniques for getting the most out of the topic.
There is much more to mindfulness to than this but let’s get back to the candle…
My bedtime candle
One of the tips suggested in the Sleep pack was to set in place simple habits that tell your brain it’s soon time to sleep. These habits help your body and mind to begin relaxing even before you get into bed.
I now have a bedtime candle…
My candle is mounted in a beautiful old brass candle holder… the classic design that allows you to safely carry a lighted candle from room to room. Each night after I’ve cleaned my teeth, taken my tablets and been to the bathroom, I light the candle in the kitchen and carry it to my bedroom, turning off the lights as I go. Placing the candle in front of the mirror on my chest of drawers fills the room with a beautiful, soft light. I change into my pajamas by candlelight, get into bed and blow out the tiny flame as my last act of the day.
It’s such a simple habit, but it is beautiful and profound at the same time. I guess this is how (healthy) rituals develop… simple acts that take on a much deeper meaning beyond the acts themselves. A pre-sleep habit encourages our minds to let go of the busyness of the day, and prepares our bodies to release all the physical tension that builds during the day.
Much more than a candle
One night when I put the candle on the dressing table I was fascinated by the reflections in the mirror and the way the light fell on some special items I keep on my dressing table.
The ‘Willow Tree’ Grandfather and Grandson statuette caught my eye. The soft light and shadows added a new dimension of beauty to an ornament that captures the precious relationship between myself and my 4 year old grandson Flynn.
I then noticed how the candle lit up a collection of three dice I have created over the years out of redgum, softwood and talc stone. Creativity is a gift that I value greatly. To be able to bring ideas to life using my own hands gives me a great deal of fulfilment. My writing and photography are other aspects of this gift. Each time I build, write or capture a ‘Wow!’ image, I feel like I have been given a gift to both enjoy myself and share with others.
My childhood teddy is very dear to me… as a very young boy I loved my teddy very much and cuddled it every night. But even more important is that provides a direct link to my Mum, who died unexpectedly when I was only 8 years old. I remember sitting next to her in the back seat of my Uncle’s car on a long holiday trip. Mum was knitting the jacket my teddy still wears to this day. This jacket captures the fact that my mother, whose severe illness left her unable to care for me for much of my early life, did in fact love me deeply, rather than being a woman who abandoned me during those critical years.
A new light in my life
I find it amazing that a single candle has brought to life so much more than I initially expected or hoped for! Not only does it help my mind and body settle for sleep at night. It highlights the precious gift of creativity which inspires, fulfils and humbles me. It reinforces the connection I feel with my beautiful grandson. And it allows me to see that the mother who had no control over leaving me at such a young age was not only my mother but my loving Mum.