Candle Gazing Meditation is one of my personal favorite ways to meditate. It's simple and fun, and easily adaptable for kids. I always describe it as "a staring contest with a candle," and that's a pretty accurate description! If you and your kids love the calming sensation of staring into a campfire, you'll definitely want to give this a try.
Candle Gazing Meditation
What You'll Need:
A comfortable place to sit - I prefer sitting on a cushion or folded blanket on the floor, but you can practice this sitting in a chair or even while relaxing on a comfy couch.
A candle - This practice works best with a real flame, but if your little yogis are under the age of 7, I'd recommend using an electric light, as your eyes will be closed part of the time so you won't be able to monitor them. You know your kids best though - if your 4 year-old knows how to be safe with fire, give it a try! Just make sure to talk about fire safety beforehand, and watch them practice it first before you close your own eyes. You can share one candle or let each person have their own.
A yoga block or small table to rest the candle on so it's at eye level. You can also hold it in your hands in front of you (again, I recommend an electric light for this option).
How You Do It:
Step One: Sit down and get comfortable. If you're doing this with young children, you might want to do a few rounds of Sun Salutation to get some wiggles out before settling into stillness.
Step Two: Cultivate breath awareness. Take at least three deep breaths together and talk about the sensations you feel as you breathe in and out. Maybe you notice your belly expanding and contracting; maybe you feel the exhales tickling the hairs above your lips. Tell your kids what sensations you feel and ask them what they notice as they breathe. You might be surprised by the insightful things they share!
Step Three: Light your candle. If you like the smell of incense, you can light some to set the mood, too. If you're using an electric candle, you can make the lighting process playful and fun by telling the kids they have to say a magic word or phrase before the candle can light itself. You can choose the magic word - maybe "Namaste" or "Let There Be Light."
Step Four: Bring your gaze to the flame of your candle. Notice all the parts of the flame - the bottom near the wax, the middle part where it's widest, and the tip of the flame. Notice the colors. Notice the way it moves. Talk about what you observe and then allow some time for silent contemplation.
Step Five: Let the staring contest begin! Keep your eyes open and focused on the flame for as long as possible. Your eyes may begin to water, but keep them open as long as you can. If this becomes stressful or painful in any way, don't force it. Just stare at the flame for a while until you feel the urge to close your eyes.
Step Six: When you can't keep your eyes open any longer, close them. You may notice the reverse image of the flame behind your eyelids. If you do get this visual, see if you can bring it up to your third eye (the space between your eyebrows). If this seems too complicated or if you don't see the image of the flame, don't worry about it. Just allow your eyes stay closed for a few rounds of breath.
Step Seven: Repeat.When the reverse image fades, or after you've taken at least three rounds of breath, open your eyes and start again. Repeat Steps Five through Seven for as long as you like! You may notice that each round is a little different - sometimes you may only be able to keep your eyes open a few seconds, other times they may stay open for several rounds of breath.
Step Eight: Prepare to end the meditation. Agree to take one more round together and then blow out your candle. Sit in the silence that follows for a few moments or minutes. It's important to ease out of any meditation practice gradually. If you just get up and walk away suddenly, you're missing out on the best part! Take time to savor the silence and stillness, and allow your body and brain to soak up the benefits of the practice.
Step Nine: Close your meditation. You can do this in a number of different ways. I like to take a deep breath, stretch my arms overhead, and bring my hands to my heart with the exhale. I hold my hands in front of my heart and bow my head before saying "Namaste." You can try it this way or come up with a special ritual of your own. Anything goes!
I hope you enjoy practicing Candle Gazing with your little yogis! Give it a try and let us know how it goes.