Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, falls on June 20 this year. It’s the day where the sun seems to “stand still” at that point on the horizon where it appears to rise and set, and then it appears to reverse its course over what it just traversed. It’s almost like a do-over. Shorter days now herald our march toward winter. Of the solstice, Margaret Atwood writes it’s
“…cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath.”
The day represents a pause in the cycle of nature, a time to reflect. How many of us will feel that cosmic change in radiant energy around and in us when the sun appears to stop its movement north? Or have we lost that connection between our soul and nature?
The ancients saw this physical event and changed it into an experience with meaning. Cultures have for thousands of years heeded this day’s significance.
Backward-looking and Forward-looking
In contemporary history, June 21 was declared a Day of Reflection in 2007 for the people of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Great Britain. As it’s a backward-looking and forward-looking day, they pause to remember the violence that tore its nation apart—the looking back—and also the looking forward to a peaceful new society, asking how and what they can do to rebuild and restore this new society. Inclusivity and sensitivity underpin the day’s honoring. It’s a neutral space, as the day’s significance is related to a naturally occurring event, and nature makes no division between races, creeds, or political viewpoints.
Cultivate an Hourglass Meditation
Based on one’s spiritual proclivities, many meditations for the Summer Solstice can be found on the web. I prefer focusing on change and light, two primary elements of this day, using the hourglass as a visual soul-crafting symbol. This meditation can be done in five minutes or thirty or more, and brings you into contact with your body’s wisdom—our bodies know things and send us messages, such as where stress makes its home in us. And it’s okay to keep paper and pencil handy to jot down any significant insights, but then move gently back into your breath. Make sure to relegate your ego to the back seat—now’s not the time for it to take control.
- Begin by moving into a comfortable position, whether that be sitting, walking, or lying down.
- Take a couple of deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly.
- Picture the large, upper rim of the hourglass, bringing in your current experiences—such as what your body feels: the air on your skin, how your body feels on whatever surface it is touching.
- Move into your body with your breath, to where you feel these physical sensations.
- Feel your lungs rise and fall with each air movement.
- Reject nothing, welcome all without judgments, including pain.
- At this place of acceptance, ask your inner light to bring into focus experiences from your past year, month, week, day—again, nonjudgmentally.
- Let yourself feel any accompanying emotions—emotions are teachers.
- Let light flood those experiences.
- Next visualize moving into the narrow neck of the hourglass, focusing on your breath.
- Stay with that space of non-change; visualize the light and energy of the sun hovering over you. Don’t rush it.
- Now move into the broad opening of the bottom of the hourglass. Can you sit with this cosmic energy shift and experience it in your body? As this day signifies a solar and energetic change, what surfaces for you? If nothing, that’s okay—something might surface later—or not. Don’t analyze what’s going on through thinking, only experience it and let your soul bring meaning to whatever’s arising. Allow the past to become the future.
Don’t wait for the summer solstice to practice the hourglass meditation. Every hour take five minutes to stop and visualize this vessel. You can sit at your desk with eyes open. Then breathe, open up to your body’s physical sensations, move into the hourglass’s constrictive space with just breathing, and then open back up to emotions, including any energy you feel is stuck in your body, such as stress in your shoulders, forehead, stomach, hips, hands, or arms. Breathe into those areas nonjudgmentally.
And may the long time Sun shine upon you, love surround you, and the pure light within you guide your way on!
Notes & Sources:
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon. He defines mindfulness meditation as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. For more information, refer to his many published works.
About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working, and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her spiritual connection at People House and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.