Have you ever noticed how the universe’s macrocosm is reflected in its microcosms, that patterns repeat whether you look up close at the details or from a distance at the big picture? For example, the motions of the planets in the solar system are like the motions of electrons in atoms, and the actions of nations relate to the tendencies of the individual people within those nations. Likewise, the cycles within our own bodies or in a single ecosystem reflect the cycles of the whole planet.
In fact, we all experience that every single day as the sun makes its way across the sky. Every day is like a microcosmic version of our lives; daybreak is our metaphorical birth, and sunset is our metaphorical death. In between, we experience the bright sunshine and dark clouds that make up the content of our lives.
A Rebirth with Every Sunrise
Recently, I have been very interested in what helps some people live healthily and happily for a hundred years or more, while others become ill and depressed at half that age. One thing I have found is that attitude is of primary importance. People who stay positive and healthy into old age tend to view each day as a gift, while many others see only the drudgery and cruelty of life.
As I see it, every new day is a chance to renew one’s mindset, an opportunity to push the reset buttons on our brains. No matter how complicated and trouble-filled your life is right now, every day is like a rebirth, a time to begin again. Our burdens and troubles might remain day after day, but our perspectives, emotions, and attitudes can change instantly, and that can make all the difference in finding a new solution or a better way of living.
Greeting the Rising Sun
At the very least, I recommend making a habit of greeting the sun every morning with your gratitude and intentions for the new day. The sun itself then becomes a natural reminder to set and keep a grateful attitude. If possible, get up a little early and spend some time contemplating your intentions for the new day. If you don’t have time for that, you can do so while commuting to work or even at your desk before you begin work each day.
The best practice is to use meditation along with your greeting. You can do this occasionally, such as on an early morning hike, or as part of your daily routine, perhaps in your backyard or in a nearby park. As you meditate, feel the power of the sun’s energy flowing into you, restoring you and bringing you energy for your day. Here is a step-by-step guide to a complete early morning, outdoor sunrise meditation:
Steps of a Sunrise Meditation
Begin preparing yourself as you approach your location. Preferably, this should be somewhere a bit secluded and away from the noise and activity of other people, someplace that feels serene and sacred to you. You should head toward your spot before the sun begins to rise, so bring a flashlight if you need it and be careful on your way. As you go toward that place, keep a quiet mind, and avoid chit chat if you are with other people. Focus on these questions: How will I use this day? What am I meant to accomplish, and how can I grow today?Once you have found your spot, make yourself comfortable and continue to quiet your mind. Sit down facing directly eastward in the direction of the rising sun. You can take the traditional meditation posture, perhaps sitting on a mat of some kind. If that is not comfortable, you can use a bench or a folding chair.
Sit and focus on your breath, feeling the cool morning air entering and refreshing your body. The drowsiness of sleep is swept away with each breath. Remind yourself once again of your intention for the day, feeling deeply into the sincerity of that intention. If the sun is not yet above the horizon, keep your eyes open and focused gently on the horizon.
Continue to quiet your mind and to relax your body more deeply. As the sun begins to peek above the horizon, feel the awe that the beautiful light and colors brings to your being. As the light intensifies, close your eyes, being careful not to stare directly into the sun. Continue to observe the increasing light through your shut eyelids.
As the sun rises completely above the horizon, imagine that the light of the sun is pouring into the top of your head into the energy point there, known as the baek-hwe or crown chakra. Visualize that golden light energy flowing through your entire body, traveling through the meridians to every cell of your body. Visualize that energy powering you through your day to accomplish every intention for your day. Feel the waves of gratitude flow throughout your body and mind.
To conclude your meditation, once again return your attention to your breath. Slowly open your eyes as you exhale. Gently move your body and awaken to your brand-new day of action and goal accomplishment.
If you are housebound or the weather is poor, you can adapt this meditation to your circumstance. Instead of going outside to greet the sun, just do so in your mind’s eye. While closing your eyes, imagine all the steps above happening in your mind. Just use your gift of imagination. Brain science has shown us that simply imagining something can have the same positive effect as when you actually experience something—stress hormones, such as cortisol, decrease, and “happy hormones,” like serotonin, increase.
Happy Sunsets Are the Real Goal
Really, while starting your day is important, ending your day well is even more important. There is no better feeling at the end of the day when you know you have lived well that day—when you have done your best to work hard and to smell the roses, too. So, don’t forget at the end of the day to give your gratitude, too. (You can even do a sunset meditation, if you like!) Each day’s end can reflect how you will be when you die. Will you have regrets about goals left undone or love left unexpressed? Living well is the key to dying well, so start living well now, starting every morning with each new sunrise.