Light a candle, light up your life…or someone else’s. The simple ritual of lighting a candle will never lose its power. And rituals, religious or otherwise, do have power (even the Scientific American says so!)
Three reasons why you should light a candle:
1. Lighting a candle requires us to pause for a moment. It gives us an all-too-rare moment of reflection...time to gather our thoughts and realign with our deepest intent. It creates an opportunity to put focused attention on the person, emotion or situation we wish to bless.
2. Lighting a candle is a simple ritual that makes our values and intentions tangible and embodied. It is an invocation that "grounds" our mental thoughts, hopes and emotions into incarnated time and space (which is, after all, where we hope to see the benefit!)
3. Rituals benefit us and help us process our challenging lives. They can help us process grief, deal with anxiety and set our intentions on what we truly value. Have you been missing out on including simple rituals in your life? Have you mistakenly thought ritualistic behavior is archaic, primitive or superstitious? Even the Scientific American says“… rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work. “ Forbes magazine states"research...proves multiple benefits of ritualistic behavior..." and the Huffington Post quotes"The need for ritual is a basic human instinct, as real, as urgent and as raw as our need for food, shelter and love. ... ritual reminds us of a larger, archetypal reality and invokes in us a visceral understanding of such universal paradigms as unity, continuity, connectivity, reverence and awe."
"We see in every culture - and throughout history - that people who perform rituals report feeling better."
In our family we light candles at shared meals and during morning meditation. We have a decades-long habit of leaving one burning (in a safe container!) as a welcome for someone who is going to be arriving home late at night. It is a quiet, tangible act of love and connection. I will light a candle as a prayer for someone I am concerned about, and I will light a candle intending / praying to “shed light” on a troubling emotion I may be dealing with.
…even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public –do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence.
Nothing will ever replace the primal effect of real-live fire, but I confess I have discovered that the “virtual candle” lighting ritual offered at Gratefulness.org is a lovely way to let people know that I am thinking of them across the miles. Give it a try!
“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Anne Frank
"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." Eleanor Roosevelt
'How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.' William Shakespeare
Christmas season falls at the darkest time of the year. The Winter Solstice has always been a time for festivals and rituals of light. I invite you to light a candle, for yourself, for others, and for this world we live in. (Light one for me while you are at it!)
Do you have a favorite candle ritual?
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