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bringing ritual in: intention {self-portrait challenge}

liz lamoreux

bringing ritual in: candle lighting practice

I must admit, I am not one for new year’s resolutions because I invite guilt into my life enough without them (and the inevitability of me not following through with them). However, I do appreciate the idea of pausing as the calendar turns to a new year and thinking about what you hope to bring into your life. This month, I am going to focus on one aspect of myself that I realized in the latter months of 2006; I am a person who believes that ritual can shape the journey in a way that brings meaning and new layers of understanding. In 2007, I hope to invite more ritual into my life. To look for ways to add shape and meaning to the sometimes scattered life I lead. As I thought about SPC, I decided my focus will be this very thing, ways that I plan to bring ritual into my life.

In late December, I created an altar, a space that represents the spiritual side of my journey. I used to have an altar in my little room in our house, but there was never a good place for it; it was always tucked under things or too close to Millie’s level. And, I admit that I felt this need to hide it for some reason in the fear that people who came over, or my family when they visited, would not understand. I have little talismans that represent various ideas, memories, beliefs, hopes, and so on. I imagine that some days I will add certain things, like pictures or flowers or offerings, and other days I will take certain things away. It is a fluid altar in this sense.

The altar is in our family room now; the place where we spend the most time and the place I often work from throughout my day. Inspired by Carla’s candles that she creates and names with intention, I have started a new ritual of placing a candle on this altar and lighting it with intention. Sometimes I will focus on someone else, maybe knowing a person needs peace or a special awareness. Sometimes my focus will be inward, as it is today. Sometimes my husband and I will create an intention together, as we did last week when we focused on the power of two and sent healing out into the world.

Lighting a candle with intention is something that is done in many religions. Candles are often used to represent a higher power or the four elements. Lighting candles is also a way to bring in a spiritual practice without a need for the following of a specific religion. This practice can be used to begin meditation; then the candle is extinguished when the meditation draws to a close. The act of extinguishing the candle should be part of the ritual. My teacher once gently told me this has two reasons: The first being that it signifies the end to the practice and the second to remember to extinguish the candle as to avoid burning down the house. As I have mentioned here before, whenever I extinguish a candle, I send a blessing out into the world. It adds another layer of meaning to the practice.

As I was thinking about candles this weekend, I came across Marilyn’s post about two high school girls who set up 10,000 candles in a downtown park. To soak up this inspiration, read her post.

Also, if this idea of lighting a candle with intention speaks to you but your life is such that you cannot light a candle every day or you want to start your work day with an intention but don’t have the luxury of working from home like I do, visit this web site. It leads you through a practice where you can light a virtual candle.

(See more self-portraits at Self-Portrait Challenge.)

updated 1/3: A few of you have asked, so I added the link to Carla's candle site, Zena Moon. She is running a couple of specials through tomorrow, you might want to check them out.