Prior to COVID-19 we called it Work/Life Balance; a state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritized the demands of a career and the demands of a personal life. The balance has gone by the wayside; today I think of it more as Work/Life Confusion. For many, life itself has become their work. Some spend their days seeking employment while simultaneously helping their children complete online classes and assignments. Others, who must still report to a work site, find themselves jockeying for child care, as schools and day-care centers are closed. The lucky ones, as I call them, have made the transition to working from home, but find that sharing space, privacy and internet with children and others, makes for a challenging and often less than satisfactory work environment. All too many find they are burning the candle at both ends, and we all know what comes of that. But what if lighting the candle served to give us hope and direction as we seek to navigate the challenges that confront us?
While candles have certainly served a practical purpose for centuries, their use as a source of hope and spirituality is a practice that can be traced back thousands of years. There is a spiritual meaning to candle burning, and almost every religion has used the candle as a delivery system by which prayers, hopes, and dreams are sent to a more powerful force. On a practical level, candles help create an atmosphere conducive for prayer, meditation, healing, and other activities of contemplation. The candle’s flame lights the darkness and symbolically gives wings to our messages.
Think about all the times you’ve used a candle. Most of us keep them in stock for those periods when we lose electricity and need something to not only light our homes, but bring about a sense of calm while we await the return of power. We all remember having candles on our birthday cake and making a secret wish while blowing them out. We light candles in remembrance of those who have passed on or as a symbol of unity, and we light candles to celebrate two people coming together. We can also burn a candle at both ends, but not of the candle, rather at both ends of our day.
Taking a few moments to light a candle at the beginning and end of your day, and focusing on the flame, can lead to a transformative experience for your body and soul. Too many people begin the day with a sense of stress, anticipation of crisis, or negativity. Lighting a candle in the early morning and taking five minutes to focus on the flame literally calms the brain, bringing about a relaxed and creative state of mind from which we can approach our day. We begin calmer, with an improved outlook and heightened expectations. Likewise, a similar experience can be created at the end of the day, when we darken a room and light a single candle. The flame will again have a calming effect permitting us to de-stress and then reflect and contemplate our day – What went well, what can be improved, and for what and to whom should we be grateful? Once again the flickering flame serves to calm our brain, helping us relax and prepare for sleep.
Burning the candle at both ends simply serves to quickly burn-off the wick (our energy) and leave us feeling burnt out. However lighting a candle at the opposite ends of each day can provide us with a means to use the candle’s energy to refresh and renew our own, and even if it’s not your birthday, make a wish before you blow it out.