Beyond Candle Hour

My meditation group was hosting a retreat this weekend. We had guests from Washington, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands participating. One of our discussions centred on strategies for extending our practice beyond the set meditation times. It struck me that Earth Hour, the annual turn-out-your-lights-energy-conservation event organized by the World Wildlife Fund, was a good metaphor for us. Because it is all fine and dandy and self-satisfying to concentrate our efforts in that hour, but it’s more about what we’re doing to help the planet outside of that hour.

It’s the same for meditation. In that quiet time, we are attempting to still our minds, tap into deeper resources, and recharge the energy supply. But during the day, we must be careful how we expend that energy, ideally we don’t want to spill all our fuel in one wild outburst. We must be vigilant, slow down, and stay as present as possible, so that we can make wise choices throughout the day. My friends, family and co-workers can tell you how often I don’t live up to those ideals.

During the retreat yesterday, we were all on our best behaviour. Making healthy food choices, drinking our tea from travel mugs, putting our tea bags and apple cores into the compost bag. We were trying to make quiet, mindful transitions from one activity to another, instead of socializing too much; we were being polite and putting each other first. But it’s easy when you’re at a retreat with a group of like-minded folk. The next day, when you’re on your own, back to your own agenda, it is harder. And the day after that, harder still.

After the retreat, my friend and I returned to my home. It was around 8 o’clock, I had the flashlights and candles all ready to go. We got her bed all made up before the candle hour. Then we lit the candles and had the flashlights at the ready. But when I went into the bathroom to wash up before bed, I flicked the light switch on. It takes vigilance and plenty of practice to create new habits, whether you’re trying to still your mind, or save the earth.



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