John O’Donohue, in his book Anam Cara, A Celtic Book of Wisdom, talks about the dangers of “neon vision,” which he describes as the harsh, analytical light we often apply to ourselves when we follow the call of our spiritual hunger. I have mistakenly done this for years. While the self-awareness gained through mindfulness has been extremely fruitful, and while I have developed a rather eagle-eye in the world of inner-looking, that eye has a fierceness to it that can leave my skin feeling raw! I know I am not alone in this. Self-compassion is a big lesson for almost every serious seeker I know.
O’Donohue offers up “candlelight consciousness” as the alternative light within which to seek. I truly love this metaphor! He says, “Candlelight perception is the most respectful and appropriate form of light with which to approach the inner world.” Can you feel this? The softness, the romance, the “beloved” within that phraseology?
This morning, as I sat on the patio with my journal and tea, a squirrel skittered down the overhanging branch of a tree a few feet away and began to chatter loudly, insistently. Eventually, I realized he was talking to me, so I walked over to the tree limb, and said, “Hello!” He looked me squarely in the eye and responded in squirrel language. I said “Hello,” again. He responded again. I asked, “How are you?” He said whatever it was that he said. (I don’t speak squirrel, but I felt like he said, “It is important that you pay attention to me!”) This went on for 2-3 minutes, until I pulled out my phone from my robe pocket to take a picture, and of course, then he scampered away.
I relate this a bit to “neon consciousness, candlelight consciousness.” When I just enjoyed the moment for what it was, we communicated. The minute I tried to capture and substantiate it with the photograph, turn it into something, it was if the doorway into that other dimension closed. I don’t know. I could be making great leaps here. 🙂
But I googled the Native-American symbolism for squirrel and though there was the obvious imagery about “gathering,” the thing that jumped out at me was the message of “play.” I definitely need more play in my life. That feels like candlelight consciousness, too, doesn’t it? It is time to soften up. Yes, do our gathering for the changes ahead, but don’t go nuts with it! Yes, keep being watchful, but do so in the warmly lit landscape of kindness, of enjoyment. We are on a grand adventure, not stuck in an endless curriculum.
I think this could become a mantra for me – “Candlelight consciousness.” What do you think?