The Candle Meditation Technique
As you might have guessed, a candle meditation is practiced by gazing at a candle flame.
For some people this type of meditation is quite easy, as they find it easier to let go of thoughts when they are concentrating on a physical “thing” rather than on a mantra.
For others, this meditation can be a bit of a challenge - yes it can sometimes be tricky to keep your eyes open and focussed on a candle without them blinking or watering. However, with a little practise, most people find that they gradually become very comfortable with this type of open-eye meditation.
One thing is for sure, this meditation is a fantastic way to improve your concentration skills, and it can lead you into a profoundly deep state of meditation if practiced properly.
Read on and I’ll tell you how to do this meditation the right way, and how to know when you have really succeeded at it!
How to do the Candle Meditation
Before you light a candle for your meditation, take a minute to prepare the space in which you will meditate. Turn down the lights or draw your window shades closed. You'll find this meditation much easier to do in a room that's not too bright and you'll avoid eyestrain too, so make sure the room you are in is dimly lit and at a comfortable temperature.
Now light a candle and position it at eye level, or slightly below. It’s OK to look down at the candle slightly, but make sure that your head is not tilted too far forward and that your body is not slumping.
It’s important that you are able to maintain a comfortable upright posture that feels natural to you. Take a seat in your favourite chair, or sit cross legged on the floor, and make sure that your candle is at least 50cm away from you otherwise it may appear too bright.
Now simply stare at the candle and allow the image of the flame to occupy your mind.
At first, your mind will probably wander about and your eyes will resist your efforts to keep them still. This is normal and it will gradually ease as the meditation progresses, so don’t be too concerned if this happens to you.
You may also find that you eyes water a little. Again, this is normal and it usually dissipates quite quickly. If distractions like these arise, simply return your attention to the candle flame and let them go.
A great way to deepen a candle meditation is to imagine that you are breathing the light of the candle in and out of yourself. You don’t need to perform a complex visualization exercise to do this, just keep your eyes fixed on the candle flame, and allow your natural breathing rhythm to fill your awareness.
Casually sense that the light of the candle is flowing into you as you breathe in and out. Feel a sense of purity and clarity infusing with your body and mind as you absorb yourself in this meditation.
The reason that you are able to see is because your brain processes the signals that are sent to it via the optic nerves in your eyes. What happens as this meditation progresses is that your brain begins to stop processing these signals. That might sound dramatic, but it’s actually perfectly natural, perfectly safe and a profoundly serene experience. Let me explain what this looks and feels like...
Your eyes are firmly fixed on the image of the flame in front of you and because your eyes are not moving, they are not providing your brain with any new information to process. You then find that some areas of your peripheral vision start to fade from your vision completely...
Gradually, more and more of your peripheral vision fades away until you have no visual awareness of anything but the candle flame.
This is a profound experience. Your eyes are open, but you are actually not seeing anything but the small flame in front of you. As a result it feels as though there is no distance between yourself and the flame. In essence, you have become one with the flame.
To achieve this requires both mental stillness and the physical stillness of your eyes. As soon as you move your eyes around, your brain is flooded with new sensory input and you will instantly be able to see the room around you again. Remain still and focussed on the candle, and you will slip back into this state of profoundly deep meditation quite quickly.
It may take some practise to really stabilize this experience, but it's well worth it!
At the completion of your candle meditation, close your eyes and lie down for at least five minutes as you let your body and mind come back down to earth.