It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

My mother was a great believer in lighting a candle everyday and set it in front of her picture of the Sacred Heart. This was her devotions she used to tell me and if anyone was suffering I would let her know and their name would be added to the many others in her daily devotion.

Candles always amazed me as I remember reading that the flame of one candle does not diminish as it lights another candle and so on and so on.

When it comes to compassion the same applies—in fact we now know through neuroscience that when we carry out a compassionate act that the reward part of our brain is activated and dopamine is released—dopamine, gives us that good feeling, like if you saw a bargain and it was the last one of its size but it was your size, you feel fantastic – that’s your dopamine hit.

Within us all there is our compassion centre and one of the best ways for us to activate it for ourselves is mindfulness practice. We now know that mindfulness breeds compassion and by practicing mindfulness we activate our reward centre and our dopamine is increased and released for ourselves and others.

Mindfulness practice is so simple that the daddy of mindfulness in the West, John Kabat Zinn, says if it’s not simple it’s not mindfulness.

Here’s a couple of mindfulness practices that will be of benefit to you. An exercise that I love that strengthens my attention and focus is to light a candle (there’s the candle again) and focus your gaze on the flame of the candle and you’ll pick up on the beautiful colours of the flame, allow your attention to focus and explore the colours for a few minutes, maximum of five minutes. After the five minutes allow your eyes to close and rest for a further five minutes. It’s as if your eyes have bathed in the warm light and are relaxed.

The next exercise that is of great benefit is to be present to sound. Again this is a five minute exercise that has a wonderful way of settling us down especially after some drama and let’s be honest there’s a lot of drama about these days. Begin by sitting in a comfortable upright position, relaxed yet alert not too tight and not too loose. Lower your shoulders and hold your head upright. Settle into your breath and bring your attention to your soundscape, without judging, analysing, or interpreting, notice sounds— sounds within your room and expand your field of sound outside of the room. When you get distracted that’s okay—notice and return to your soundscape. If you’re hear the sound of a car passing by, notice without judging or debating whether it’s a Ford or a Mercedes— just notice without judgement.

Sounds appear and disappear and what I discover from this mindfulness practice is that we then are able to notice that thoughts also appear and disappear and we don’t need to hold them, just let them pass by and allow ourselves to wake up to this moment that has never happened before.

Let’s wake up to our wild and precious life.