Combat winter malaise with celestial contemplation—practice this meditation to honor the Sun.
It’s cold and dreary out. Again. The sky is that murky shade of gray common to Northeastern winters. When the ground is covered with snow, there is a wonder-inspiring sense of life in my habitat. Light reflects off the bright ground and twinkles in icicles. But when the snow melts, we enter a middle space—not winter, not spring. I become listless, prone to sleeping in. It’s hard to get going, and activities that once felt exciting now languish.
This isn’t exactly seasonal affective disorder, though some of my symptoms are similar. This is what I call my pre-spring malaise. And the solution is illumination. On days when the cloud cover is seamless, light therapy is in order. But other days, when warmth pierces through the haze, I cultivate my connection to the Sun.
Acknowledging Sacred Sun-ness
For thousands of years, humans have been in relationship with celestial bodies. These days, we are well aware of our biological reliance on the Sun and Moon. We may delight in watching a sunrise or sunset, but our focus tends to be on visual beauty instead of sacredness.
When it comes to modern spirituality, the Moon often takes priority. A wide range of Moon practices have been reclaimed from our ancestors or were created anew.
Curiously, solar practices have yet to reach the same popularity. (Unless you consider the secular tradition of “Spring Break,” or the annual flocking of birds and humans to warmer locales!) Even considering the concept of “Sun worship” may seem idolatrous to some. Judaism and Christianity, in general, have not been kind to Sun practices, necessarily distancing themselves from Egyptian peoples’ dedication to Ra, the Greeks’ commitment to Helios, the Hittites’ Arinna, and numerous other deities in Persia and Asia.
Or perhaps we are more comfortable with the Moon because our species has explored it physically. Yet, if we look closely enough, we can find hints of a sacred Sun: the salutations of yogic practice, midsummer Litha celebrations, and the Sun Dance of the Lakota. These practices raise curious questions: Are they merely about gratitude and celebration? Or is there something deeper going on here?
Is the Sun “Alive”?
As modern science expanded beyond a strictly Newtonian, cause-and-effect, mechanistic view, an image of our Universe as a living system appeared. As it did, the question of consciousness became increasingly relevant. Animal consciousness is now widely accepted for some species. But what about the trees in our yards and the plants underneath them? What about celestial bodies?
“Consciousness poses the most baffling problems in the science of the mind. There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain,” offers philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers. “All sorts of mental phenomena have yielded to scientific investigation in recent years, but consciousness has stubbornly resisted. Many have tried to explain it, but the explanations always seem to fall short of the target.”
Controversial biologist Rupert Sheldrake suggests that part of the problem may be that we have replaced living nature with mental abstractions. Hence, we’ve lost a sense of connection with the world beyond us. In his book Science and Spiritual Practices: Reconnecting through Direct Experience, he observes, “If nature is alive, if the universe is more like an organism than a machine, then there must be self-organizing systems with minds at all levels, including the earth, solar system, and the galaxy—and ultimately the entire cosmos.”
Many of us may be willing to go that far, but Sheldrake’s next stop might not be easy: “The sun sustains all life on earth. If we take panpsychism seriously, then new questions inevitably arise. Is the sun alive? Is it conscious?” By panpsychism, he is referring to the belief that everything made of matter has some element of consciousness to it. He does not necessarily mean everything functions at the same level. So, Sheldrake is not saying that the Sun thinks in the same way humans do, but rather that both humans and planets might be imbued with the same mysterious essence that we call consciousness.
Is he going too far? Sheldrake concedes, “As soon as you ask if the sun is conscious, you realize that you are violating a scientific taboo, the purpose of which is to stop us taking seriously what our ancestors believed…. I cannot prove the sun is conscious; but a skeptic cannot prove that it is unconscious. From a non-dogmatic point of view, the consciousness of the sun is an open question.”
A Practice for Celestial Contemplation
1. Grab your morning coffee or tea. Breathe deeply as it cools to a drinkable temperature. Yawn and stretch.
2. Step outside where you can feel the Sun. Find a place where you can sit comfortably. Settle in.
3. Acknowledge the importance of the Sun to your life:
Devoid of the Sun’s heat and light, our planet would be a dark, cold, ice-coated rock.
Absent the energy of the Sun, the plants that sustain us would not exist.
Without plants, there would be no oxygen for us to breathe.
As the heart of our solar system, the Sun’s gravity holds our Universe together.
Interactions between the Sun and Earth cause our seasons, drive our ocean currents, and determine our weather.
The Sun has complex electromagnetic activity, some of which gives us the daylight we see by.
4. Consider the following ideas:
The human brain also engages in electromagnetic activity, as neurons communicate with each other through electrical changes at different speeds based on our activities.
These changes can be measured, correlating brain waves with thought, emotion, and behavior.
How does this analogy land for you?
How might this idea influence your views about the beliefs of our Sun-worshiping ancestors?
Where do you draw the line (or do you draw a line) around consciousness?
Is there anything else you find yourself wondering about?
Science is a useful method for explaining our lived experiences. And yet, scientific theories are continuously redefined and superseded. Humanity has gone from believing in a flat, single Earth to exploring an expanding (and accelerating) Universe that we are only just beginning to understand.
Perhaps one day, we will know more about consciousness on a universal scale. Until then, maybe spirituality can step in to illuminate speculative possibilities.
Adapted from Spiritual Rebel: A Positively Addictive Guide to Finding Deeper Perspective and Higher Purpose by Sarah Bowen.
Spending more time outside? Check out these 10 natural skin-care options for your skin.