As we come to the darkest time of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the lightest time (in the South) we are called to reconnect with Father Sun, the source of all light. I would like to share with you my favorite sun meditations, but first a little history…
We have used sunshine for therapeutic purposes for thousands of years. The Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical text dating back to around 1550 BCE, has references to heliotherapy for treating skin conditions and other ailments. The Greek physician Hippocrates, regarded as the father of Western medicine, recommended exposure to sunlight for healing. In Rome, solariums, open-air enclosures for sunbathing, were used for therapeutic and relaxation purposes.
In Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient system of natural healing from India, sunlight is considered essential for balancing the body and promoting overall well-being. In Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, heliotherapy gained popularity as Dr. Auguste Rollier, a Swiss physician, established clinics in the Alps where patients received sun exposure daily. Heliotherapy was vital for the treatment of tuberculosis during the early 20th centuries.
Today, the benefits of sunlight have been eclipsed by the need for sun protection. And we live a large percentage of our lives indoors and lather ourselves with sunblock whenever we go outside, rightfully terrified of skin cancer. Yet the rates of skin cancer among Australian Aboriginal peoples who spend their entire lives outdoors in the sun is a fraction of what it is for Westerners! Could it be because they do not have been exposed to the toxins and assaults on their brains that we have?
Sky Gazing – My favorite Morning Practice
Sky Gazing is an ancient magical practice of Buddhist monks in Tibet, and it has tremendous health benefits. Not only do you get all the good vitamin D your body needs but the photons from morning light re-set your circadian rhythms in your brain. With this exercise, you welcome the light of the sun at dawn and connect through your breath with the nature around you. Even if you live in a busy city with no parks, you can imagine yourself in a forest or in the Amazon.
Exercise: Sky Gazing
Practice sky gazing in the early morning. Sit in a comfortable chair with your hands resting gently on your knees, eyes open, gazing straight ahead into the horizon. Take deep, gentle breaths. As you follow your breathing witness everything that surfaces in your awareness as if it were a cloud in the sky that appears and disappears of its own accord. Notice where your mind wanders off to, and then bring it back gently to focus on your breath as you gaze at the morning sky. Clouds come and go, thoughts come and go, sensations come and go.
With practice, all of the busyness and worries of the mind dissolve and you witness every feeling and thought with a smile.