There was a tradition at my school when I was a child, in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Those are dark weeks here in Scandinavia and the mornings were pitch black – the sun didn’t rise until a good while after class had started – and icy cold.
Those mornings as the children went inside, the classroom wasn’t lit. We went to our desks and sat down all in the dark.
Then, as the teacher lit a candle at the teacher’s desk, we all would too. Every child had their own, a simple candlestick we had brought from home and a simple white candle. We were all quiet, not even the “naughty” children would make a noise, all would just sit and listen as the teacher read some text aloud.
I can’t actually remember what it was she read to us, I will admit I wasn’t really listening.
My focus lay on the little living flame before me, at the top of my candle. I watched it so intensely that the rest of the room seemed to disappear. I thought of nothing but that flame, for those ten minutes there was nothing else, only that. It brought an immense serenity, that focus. And not only that, it also brought a sense of knowledge. Not in the way of knowing facts but in the way of simply understanding.
As the moment passed, the teacher stopped reading and the lights came on, it left me wanting more. I could barely wait for the next morning to come when we would light those candles again, I longed for experiencing that feeling yet again. That meaningful emptiness and that focus.
I wasn’t aware of what I was doing, I was just a child of maybe seven or eight years old, but of course today I recognize it as meditation. Unguided and spontaneous but massively meaningful.