Why Candle Meditation?
Candle meditation has its origins dating back to the time when fire was invented! There are several benefits of candle meditation, including improving sleep quality and reducing insomnia. There are also various mental health benefits some of which are: alleviating anxiety, providing mental stability, and improving concentration. Candle meditation is a useful strategy when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed because you allow your mind to focus on one thing – the candle. When you concentrate on one thing, the muscles around your eyes contract less, your heart rate may slow down, and if you experience racing thoughts they may slowly shut down, one by one.
The goal of candle meditation is to maintain your focus on watching the candle change colors. The more you engage in candle meditation the more your concentration and mindfulness skills will improve. Your endurance and ability to use this practice in the long-term will increase with each session.
The essence of mindfulness is to be present in the moment. College students are often constantly going and doing thing after thing without taking the time to truly appreciate the time and effort they put forth. Candle meditation allows you to slow down and limit your focus. It’s a chance to clear your mind from racing thoughts or preparing for your next task. Each of our five senses stimulate cues to grab our attention. Staring at a candle reduces the external stimuli that may distract or overwhelm you. All you’re focusing on is one visual cue and clearing your mind from everything else for the 30 or 60 seconds you take to complete this practice.
Sounds Great! How Do I Start?
This practice may be done in your room or on the go. Try to find a comfortable space and sit up straight in a comfortable spot. Put your candle at eye level so you don’t strain your neck or slouch your back. Then, you’ll flip the switch at the bottom of the candle to turn it on, and set up a timer for thirty seconds. A non-electronic timer that makes a sound when time is up is ideal to reduce any distractions that take away from your practice. If there are any machines or devices running around you, like a TV or radio, turn them off if you can. Put your phone on silent and place the screen out of sight so you can have this moment for yourself without the risk of distraction.
Your goal is to be present in the moment and simply watch the candle change colors. This practice is intended to clear your mind from racing thoughts or worries, and help you regain an immediate sense of stability and control. Each time you engage in this practice, challenge yourself to increase your focus. If you centered your focus for 30 seconds, challenge yourself the next time to meditate for one minute. Then two… three… four…
Ready, Set, Meditate!
To begin this practice, turn on the flicker-light. Set a 30-second timer, if possible, on a non-electronic device, such as a clock or a sand timer. Take a few moments to gently listen to the sounds going on around you. Then, listen to the sounds your body makes, using your steady breath as an anchor. Take a slow, deep breath. Listen to the sound you make when you are breathing. Notice how your belly expands on the inhale. Hold your breath, then slowly release, as your stomach flattens on the exhale.
As you continue to slowly breath in and out, focusing on your breath, allow yourself to be fully present in the moment. Gently watch the candle fading from one color to the next. Without thinking about what the next color will be. Simply sitting, simply watching. As you find yourself drifting in thought, come back to your breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths.
Continue to watch the colors of the candle flicker and fade, flicker and fade. Focusing on your breath, and when your mind wanders off, without judgement, bringing it back to the present moment of calm. A moment of being alone with yourself.
Finally, do not forget to thank yourself for taking the time to practice slowing down; for regaining a sense of control, and centering yourself in the present moment.
You can use any of these YouTube links to watch a virtual candle (some with and some without music) if you can’t use an actual candle (a perfect option for dorm rooms or meditating on the go.)