The clock struck 4pm in the UK and my family gathered at the temple space in our home to light a flame for the global pandemic we find ourselves in. I watched my mother strike a match and light the ghee lamp she had lovingly made with cotton. She set it in a metal holder and as the clock struck past the hour, the warm light illuminated the room, our eyes and our lives. Over the other side of the world, in India, millions of families were doing the same. But why is this significant?
For as long as I can remember, my parents always started the day this way. In Indian culture, the flame represents many symbolic and metaphorical values and it is tied to many of the ceremonies and rituals we grow up seeing in our homes. It is shared with many cultures around the world.
The Symbolic Nature of The Flame
The light which springs from darkness is a visual reminder to remove ourselves from darkness, ignorance and evil. Whether in our thoughts or in our actions, this is a visual cue to remind us to think, say and do everything with warmth and brightness. It is the same flame which was once used to guide the path through darkness and so it also represents the knowledge and light which can guide us through our problems, our fears, our tensions and our unhappiness.
When we light our flame, we also enter a different space. The ritual allows us to transform the room that we are in for another purpose whether for prayer, meditation, yoga or relaxation. It is also customary in Hinduism and in many other religions, that all auspicious events and important social functions begin by lighting a lamp or candle. You’ll see this in weddings, funerals and of course, on our birthday!
With these cultural traditions deeply instilled in my life, my yoga practice and teaching also begin with lighting a flame, candle or incense to allow whatever energy has been in the space before me to leave and to invite in the wisdom of this new light which is shared by those who practice with me. Whilst purifying our hearts and minds, this knowledge or wisdom, in yogic practice, is the highest form of wealth.
There is a specific ‘candle meditation’ also known as ‘trataka’ which has many benefits:
- Improved concentration and better productivity levels. …
- Cleanses the etheric body. …
- Revitalises energy. …
- Calm mind and sense of inner peace. …
- Improved eyesight and vision. …
- More patience and willpower. ..
How to do a Candle Meditation:
1) Find a dark or dimly lit room away from distractions. Close the curtains if it is day or practice when the sun is setting or at night. Turn off your phone and ensure there is no blue light from any screens.
2) Light a candle or ghee lamp and place it around 50cm away from you
3) Find a comfortable place to sit, on a cushion, floor or a chair. Ensure you are warm enough or use a blanket around you as you will be sitting still for some time.
4) Start to focus all your attention to the flame. Watch it as it flickers and you will see that all else will fade into the background. This includes the physical and also the psychological. Negative thoughts, patterns and energies. It is normal for the eyes to water in the beginning.
5) Even if you feel bored, let the sensation pass and return the eyes to focus on the flame. This is where the training of concentration and memory happens!
6) With each breath, focus on the sensation of the light flowing into you as you inhale and darkness flowing out from you as you exhale.
7) When you finish, whether for 10 minutes-1 hour, gently close your eyes and stay with them shut for 5 minutes to allow the body to reset and integrate all of the wonderful benefits from your practice.
What Candles To Use?
Try to avoid candles with intoxicants or chemicals, we are what we consume and this includes with our eyes! Ideally this is a ghee lamp. But if this is not accessible to you or you are vegan, you could use soy or beeswax. Ultimately, the ghee lamp is the one which has medicinal and ayurvedic benefits due to its satvic nature.
How to Make Your Own Ghee Lamp?
- Warm up your ghee so that it turns from solidified to liquid. You can do this on a soft flame or by placing it in a jar and into a bowl of hot water to let it melt
- Take your metal tin and arrange your cotton wicks to stand upright in them. I like to do around 40-50 at a time to last the month.
- One by one, hold the thin end of the cotton wick and submerge it in the liquified ghee. Hold for at least 30 seconds and ensure the entire cotton is coated.
- Repeat at least 1 more time, you can do this 2-3 more times if you want to extend the burning time of the ghee candle.
- Place back in the metal container
- You can drizzle any remaining ghee over the top to ensure all the ends are covered
- Allow them to cool down and then seal tight and store away to use
- When you want to light your ghee lamp, take one out, place it in your lamp and light your flame!
If you want to extended the burning time, you can also add more ghee to the holder when you are about to light it!
Use your ghee lamp to transform any environment, room or as a ritual to begin your prayer, meditation or yogic practice!
Does your culture have symbolic value in candles or flames? I’d love to know about some of your rituals! Was this helpful? Comment and share below!