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Candle Exercise

Materials Needed:

  • A quiet place where you will not be disturbed for at least 30 minutes.
  • Candle that will burn for at least that long (birthday candles are out!)
  • Meditative music that is relaxing to you.
  • Paper/pen or computer to write down your reactions to the exercise.

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Sitting in a comfortable position (on the floor or in a chair with good support or you can sit on the floor with a couple of pillows underneath you) and place a lighted candle at eye level in front of you.

2. If you are sitting in a chair, sit straight with both feet on the floor/ground, with your hands resting comfortably on your thighs, right hand cradled in your left hand, palms up and relaxed. Try to imagine a thick cord hanging above you that goes from the top of your head, down through your spine in a straight line, connecting you to the earth. Keep your posture as such.

3. Ground yourself to the earth by imagining your feet growing downward into the earth (or that the cord running through you develops branches), anchoring you firmly to the earth’s energy. At the same time, draw energy into you through your feet, bring it up your spine, over the top of you head and back down the front of your body and back up your spine in a continuous loop.

4. Close your eyes and try to center yourself. Breathe in deeply, inhaling to completely fill your diaphragm, not your chest, slowing taking in the air. Let out your breath slowly. Continue to run your loop (see #3 above).

5. While continuing to breathe fully and slowly, begin at the top of your head and work your way down through your whole body, relaxing each area as you move through it mentally.

6. Try not to numb any part of your experience. If you feel tension, breathe “into” it; if thoughts keep flitting in and out of your mind, simply acknowledge them and let them go. Some students tend to fall asleep during this exercise. Don’t let that discourage you. Obviously, you needed the rest. When you wake up and are more refreshed, try it again.

7. Any thoughts or images that come into your mind need to simply be acknowledged but then allowed to float by. Don’t fixate on it or let it run away with you. You are trying to quiet the chatter that tends to occur in our heads. If it is too difficult to let thoughts in and out, repeat a word (such as “relax” or “calm”) or hold an image in your mind of a peaceful place where you can simply get lost in the moment. You can even say a mantra like, “I am relaxed, I am relaxed” or a word, such as “happiness, happiness.”

8. Open your eyes when you feel you have reached a calm and quiet state.

9. Staring at the candle flame with a relaxed focus, continue to breathe in and out, slowly. Work towards being able to have the relaxed type of focus one needs in order to view those pictures that contain three-dimensional images. You are staring at the candle, but also are not straining your eyes or brain. Your state of mind needs to be relaxed and open, allowing the experience to “be” experienced.

10. As you continue to stare at the candle, your eyes should adjust to the procedure and eventually you will not be looking “at” the candle” or past it, but your awareness will be an open-focus of attention, taking in the flame and the surrounding colors or halos that it emits. Try not to “stare” at any of the phenomena you are experiencing, but simply allow it to happen. Let your consciousness expand to take in everything around you. This is called mindfulness–Being aware of every part of your body, but without fixating on your interpretation of what is happening there.

11. As you continue and find yourself more comfortable with this exercise, imagine that you are “one with the flame” and feel your connection to the flame and its “flameness.” In what ways are you similar to the flame in which you are immersed? Do you feel the fluctuations in your sense of self as you watch the flame move? Open your awareness to take in stimuli with all your sense without becoming attached to that stimuli.

12. While you are doing this exercise, do any images arise for you? What are they? Don’t push them away or try to capture them, just allow the flow of consciousness to continue.

13. Do this exercise and try to work towards a 30-minute session. When you have completed this exercise, get the paper/pen or computer and write about your experience (25 points). Your summary needs to descibe in detail your answers to the following questions:

  • What was it like? Did you have a difficult or easy time relaxing?
  • What did you feel in your body?
  • What did you “see” in the flame?
  • What emotions did they evoke?
  • Did your consciousness seem different during the exercise? How was it different from your normal consciousness?
  • Were you able to reach the “relaxed focus” necessary to become “one with the candle?”

For a more deepened sense of meditation, continue with the following suggestions. If you have experienced the Candle Exercise before, or experienced the above state of consciousness and feel that you are ready to make some progressive steps using the candle…try this:

 

PROGRESSION EXERCISES:

These exercises are meant to help you establish stability in your development of concentration and quieting the mind:

 

STEP 1:

1. Follow the instructions above to get centered and stable in this candle exercise.

2. Do this at least once a day for a few days.

3. Keep your mind on the candle flame and remain in the sensuality of the present moment. Breathe gently, then more gently, until the sense of breathing is lost.

4. Allow yourself to enter more deeply into quiet and calm, keeping the body relaxed. Don’t tense up in concentration, nor fall into a stupor, dullness, or a trance.

5. If you become distracted, gently bring your focus of awareness back to the object—the candle flame.

6. Work towards the ability to be undistracted by external or internal ramblings. You should feel a relaxed, pleasant tranquility in which your mind is quiet and thoughts arise without distracting the mind from the flame.

 

STEP 2:

1. Once you have established a steady, tranquil state, try this next aspect of the exercise.

2. Do not use the candle flame or any object this time. Simply fix your focus on space, lke the sky, or the space between you and a wall. Stay relaxed. Strive to achieve what is called “dissolving the mind” in space, or “merging the mind with space.” It is allowing the mind to be diffuse, while remaining strong in presence, rather than focusing on an imagined point in space.

3. There may seem to be some heaviness involved in your absorbed consciousness state, but strive for a relaxed, pliable, light and tranquil mind (unity consciousness, non-dual awareness).

 

Obstacles to overcome:

Agitation: Calm yourself before your practice session, avoiding too much physical or mental activity. Slow stretches help to relax the body and quiet the mind. A few deep, slow breaths is also helpful. Focus your mind immediately to the practice so you don’t develop the habit of letting your mind wander as you sit in meditation posture.

Drowsiness: When you start to drift and your mind feels like a fog, heavy and with blunted awareness, strengthen the mind’s focus on the object to peneratethe drowsiness. If this doesn’t work, take a break, stretch, or do some practice while standing.

Laxity: Your mind may feel calm in this state, but in a passive, weak mental state in which your concentration has no strength. If you lose your focus, wake up your mind. Reinforce the attention and guard the stability of being present.