Last Wednesday, our community gathered for our monthly Zoom Community Call. Behind our treasured mentor, George Harris Jr., we could see a familiar sight: a candle flickering in the background. For George, burning a candle carries cultural significance, and is a practice he learned from his Westholme Grandma (Halalt First Nation). Every day, George employs candle lighting as part of a ritual to set intentions and pray for those he cares about. He seems to harbour a sixth sense when it comes to knowing when someone is in need of the good medicine that comes from the flame; there have been more than a few times when he has messaged me to tell me that he has lit a candle and prayed for me during times when I am navigating something difficult. And every time, I feel a tiny bit stronger because of it.
Following our Community Call, George sat with Asli and I to explain what a burning candle means to him. He has given his permission to share this teaching with you:
"The lighting of a candle is a practice that was taught to me by my Westholme (Halalt) Grandma. In her faith, the burning of a white candle offers a way to become grounded, to set intention, and to offer protection. When I come to work in the morning, I always take a moment to light my candle, get quiet, and pray for my loved ones as well as the clients I will be seeing that day; I pray for their spiritual and physical wellness. I also pray for myself, and for protection of my sqwalawuns [good energy?]. Finally, I use the candle like a smudge, and draw the light over myself as a way to purify my heart and mind. I repeat this practice after lunch, and again before we gather with our Culturally Committed Community. I appreciate the way that this practice supports my spiritual wellness, and puts my heart in a place wherein I can offer the best of myself. I do this out of genuine caring for those I am interacting with -- they are all very important to me.”
George’s practice of lighting a candle with so much intention is deeply moving. During our calls, he always speaks thoughtfully and with care. As someone with a very busy (and often chaotic) life, I feel inspired to commit to taking time every day to set my intentions and become grounded so I may also offer my own best light for others.