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Sunrise / Sunset: A Shift in Perspective with A Side of Ritual (10 steps of healing)

Updated: Feb 29

Sunrise in WA state

Ephemeral phenomena

Psychological research looks at the impact of natural events on human mood and behavior. “We all know the impulse to take a picture of a sunset or an unexpected rainbow. The term ‘sunset’ has over 300 million hashtags on Instagram,” says Alex Smalley, a PhD student at the University of Exeter and lead author of the research. “Our research indicates that engaging in activities such as getting up a little earlier for a sunrise or, for example, timing a walk to catch the sunset can have positive impacts on mental well-being.

Sunrise / Sunset ~ catching either and sometimes both is centering. Especially when some days never seem to end. Sunrise and/or sunset can be a meditative experience and also a ritual. These moments of connection to ephemeral phenomena offer us an opportunity to release the pain of impermanency, and all of our expectations and regrets of the day or the night or week or month or year or lifetime - for this moment we can just be. We can allow ourselves to be, to change, to exist right along with the sun.

By noting the ephemeral phenomena you can begin to cultivate mind states related to Sandi Prakash or from the Buddhist tradition Upekkha (equanimity)  

The real meaning of [upekkha] is equanimity, not indifference in the sense of unconcern for others. As a spiritual virtue, upekkha means equanimity in the face of the fluctuations of worldly fortune. It is evenness of mind, unshakeable freedom of mind, a state of inner equipoise that cannot be upset by gain and loss, honor and dishonor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. Upekkha is freedom from all points of self-reference; it is indifference only to the demands of the ego-self with its craving for pleasure and position, not to the well-being of one's fellow human beings. True equanimity is the pinnacle of the four social attitudes that the Buddhist texts call the "divine abodes"  - Bhikkhu Bodhi

In ancient Ayurvedic medicine sandhi prakash is the period between lightness and darkness that occurs at sunrise and sunset. Animals and humans evolved extremely complex systems to be prepared for environmental changes such as daily shifts in light, and shifts in seasons, temperatures, and weather. According to Ayurveda, the gap between these transitions provides us an opportunity to better sync our biological clocks to nature’s rhythms. Living in sync with nature in this way allows nature to stay in sync as well—we can live, breathe, and evolve based on these connections.

Sunset and Sunrise offer temporal ephemeral phenomena every damn day. A daily reminder of letting go and of renewal. We can join with the phenomena at these times and note acceptance of the passing of time, offer gratitude for marked beginnings and endings, and achieve true peace of mind. 

sunset at sunset beach oregon

A 10 step guide to offering yourself a healing ritual at sunrise or sunset.

  1. Find a spot ~ created or naturally occurring ~ thin places or personal space are of equal importance. 

  2. Note the time you want to be in your spot -  we are not primitive sun chaser worshippers but the ephemera has a lime limit that is showcased by the minute on your phone’s weather app. And to think that a short time ago, we used to have to tell time with the sun. Now put the damn phone away. 

  3. Settle in to your meditative seated, walking or standing - dancing or crawling - position a bit before the ephemera time. Offer yourself a few minutes to settle into your body and get comfortable. You are invited to slow your breath with your eyes closed before practicing a gazing meditation on what is soon to be occurring right before you. This is a time to release the stress of the day and/or offer hope to the energy of a new day or evening. You are being offered transitional moments in which you can cultivate a closeness to whatever magic you believe. Or the science - The natural phenomena occur with the waxing and waning of the earth, sun and moon and of your own breath. An ever changing process. 

  4. Now open your eyes. 

  5. Turn on the observer part of your brain and invite your mind to stay present as you approach the ephemeral phenomena and join with it in curiosity. Notice it’s states change from moment to moment - the patterns of light, colors, movements of clouds. Notice how you can join with it in allowing the changes and without being attached to them or to the inevitable outcome. You are not attached to the outcome. The sun will rise or it will set. It is this way right now - pink and fluffy- blue and ominous - it is that way now - closer to the horizon, more orange less purple, allowing without attachment and just being with it. You are also this way or that only in the same ephemeral moments that these rays of light hit and leave the horizon. Temporal. Universal. Free. 

  6. Notice the feeling ~ heart center can feel a pull toward some sensation of consciousness in which we aren’t separated but interconnected. It feels ancient yet purely new at the same time. Allow yourself to feel the support of grandmother earth - of all beings, woven together in this endless cycle of beginnings and endings. 

  7. In present centered interconnected awareness we can begin to let go of our separate self and allow ourselves to be just another being living and breathing in and out of our oxygen chambers and in and out of sunlight. Just sitting and breathing with the earth’s molecules all around you breathing with you. Breath in, breath out, sun rise, sun set. Allow yourself to practice just being in this moment, and then in this one - and so forth.

  8.  Go to the in between space. Let go of any fear of being there, as there is where all beings flourish. Acceptance of the shadow side is easy from this in between space. Light and darkness. Separate and Connected. Warm and Cold. Life and Death, The spaces in between where it is both/and, where all can be both - these are the spaces some media tells us to fear because deep within we know some sort of magic to happen then and there. The magic is so simple that it gets missed, the magic is maybe just in the feeling we may be able to hold only for a few seconds - the abundant peaceful feeling of that letting go into the interconnection of the in between.

  9. This wisdom and practice allows one to enter the mind space where we can truly feel that there are no absolutes. There is always an element of darkness to light and of death to life. It keeps things sweeter and is as ephemeral as the second the sun slips under the horizon. You cannot grasp it because it cannot last. Nothing lasts. The in betweenness of that statement, glad this will be over soon. Sad this will be ending. Stay present, in the nanosecond by nanosecond in between and observe that somehow the peace found in present centered interconnected awareness - it might get to be longer at sunset, or sunrise or more remarkable in some way. Maybe more magical, more healing, more meaningful because we offered the ritual.   

  10. Make a commitment to practicing more compassion with yourself and with others, because when you can feel the interconnection and hold the wisdom of the sun it is all that makes sense anymore.

sunset at Arches National Park, Utah

May you allow yourself to rise and set noticing the support of nature’s patterns that live within all beings. May you give some attention to feeling your interconnection to all beings - May you receive the support needed to let go of the separate self and rest in just being right along with every other living thing whose existence reacts to the presence and absence of sunlight and oxygen. May you abide, supported by the earth.

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