Imagine if you will the vulnerable small flame of a candle, seeing it flicker and then burn, as the wick takes confidence and it burns true, upright and clear. Swayed by currents of air, the flame is vulnerable but when true stillness is found, it can burn steadily and strong. A candle needs air and space to stay illumined and bright, and a good steady base upon which to be placed. Trimming the wick, we carefully maintain its upright and unruffled potential to burn, a necessary step to keep the light energy well re-sourced.
How can we maintain the small flame within us at this dark time of year?
Observing a rather strong and tall ivory pillar candle, newly lit and all bright and clear, I imagined myself standing like it, well rooted through my legs and holding the spaciousness of its cylinder shape as I did the classic qi gong practice of ‘holding the one’. Sensing the wick going through the core of my being and rising out of the top of my head, visualising the flame bright and clear. Where does the flame stop and the air above it start, stretching upwards to infinity. It drew me up tall out of my body.
Taking just a small flame from the fire element made me consider its flickering vulnerability, and what it needs to continue to shine brightly. Similarly, we need to cultivate the right conditions for our own warmth and brilliance, especially when feeling we are stuck in the dark.
Taking this metaphor further, while doing the mudra form, I wondered what it would be like to imagine a flame in front of me – as we do with a strong, negative emotion (such as fear).
In Double Abhaya I became much more tentative in sensing how big and hot the flame was, and then really felt its radiance opening and joining with mine as I opened up to it.
It helped me consider the heat of a strong emotion or situation, and how we can easily get burnt. When using the fiery dragon’s breath in Vadra Mushti I became very aware how too much fire within me could extinguish the flame in another – could snuff out the light completely. All empathy gone, for myself included. An equanimous stepping in towards the flame was clearly much more helpful, if more challenging to try and do. And starting with just one flame in front of me was a whole heap easier to practise than a raging fire!! And at the end, in Vajra Pradhana, I relished simply visualising myself once more as a pillar candle, bright and true.
Then while doing the t’ai chi form, I tried to imagine the gentle flame within me – keeping steady as I stepped, yet still allowing the full expression of yang and yin to be danced through my body.
I felt a wonderful sense of stillness within and around me.
It is a different visualisation to having a bowl of water within us and keeping that steady, but with similar results. Maybe that is the practice for the summer solstice when we are in full yang and need to recall the quality of full yin!