Monday, February 14, 2011
I see An Icy Wonderland!
Candle Gazing or I See an Icy Wonderland
Mary, one of my younger yoga students who has the flexibility and aura of an up-and-coming yogi master, asked me if she could bring a candle to yoga class. "Yes, that would be nice," I heard myself tell Mary. A week later when Mary arrived for class with candle in hand, we lit the charred wick and then placed it on the floor in the center of our yoga circle after we finished our yoga poses and settled into meditation. The glow of the candle created a peaceful, warm space in the room. Aside from the random thoughts about flames, schools, and children running through my head, the presence of this once-burned light blue candle made me think about the first time I gazed into the flame of a candle (called trataka in Sanskrit) at my adult yoga/meditation class. I couldn't see what all the fuss was about and why in the world anybody would want to stare into a flame although I do remember staring for hours into a campfire flame as a child and how peaceful that made me feel. Having taken a few classes in Buddhist meditation and even more classes in yogic meditation, I find that I prefer to close my eyes and let my mind "watch" a beautiful white lotus flower unfold or recall the image of kayaking on Newfound Lake on a sweet summer morning. Those images help me feel centered and peaceful. Staring into a flickering flame just doesn't do it for me but different strokes for different yoga students and candle gazing, I thought, might really work for some of my students so I decided to give it a try. And, to my surprise, many of my students loved candle gazing, well gazing into a once-burned candle might be more accurate. Where I saw a yellow flame dancing around, distracting me from my own much-preferred mental images, my yoga students imagined a cave with all kinds of life in it, an ocean stopped in time, a icy wonderland full of imaginary creatures with a campfire burning bright in the night sky. Candle gazing into a candle that had burned in such a way so as to leave melted and then hardened wax had become a way for these students to project their thoughts and feelings onto an external object and let their imaginations take off. Next time I try candle gazing, I am most definitely going to stare into the flame of an old, well-burnt candle and remember to let my imagination take over :)