The Gaian Solar Meditation

When meditating, people are sometimes encouraged to visualize a flame, flickering and dancing on top of a candle, in order to focus their attention on one dynamic image, thus channeling the constant wandering of their minds. Sometimes a real candle is involved, sometimes a candle of the mind (which while perhaps slightly less mesmerizing is certainly more sustainable).

This beautiful video of the sun (below), spinning, sparking, and shooting out plasma over the course of a decade, which was recently published by NASA, has sparked a new meditation focal point for me. A solar visualization. Now, don’t go looking up at the sun for inspiration. But watching some minutes of this hour-long video (one second of the video equaling one day for a total of ten years of data) you can now visualize what the sun looks like as it warms the world 24 hours a day. Well at least one band of energy: 17.1 nanometers, which, as NASA explains, “is an extreme ultraviolet wavelength* that shows the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer—the corona.”

Now, for those of you who have practiced Trataka, or candle-gazing meditation, this will sound familiar. Some recommend having the candle present, staring at it for a while, closing your eyes to visualize and then if need be opening your eyes to refocus on the flame (if you get distracted), though you can also just revisualize it (eventually not needing a candle at all). I’d suggest a similar path for the solar meditation. Have the video open a few times if need be, but once you can visualize the sun, then simply leave your computer off and draw from your memory. As for the specifics of the meditation, this is what I have been doing:

  • Sit in a zazen or cross-legged position in a comfortable spot (and like all Gaian meditations, ideally outdoors if possible).
  • Place your hands together in your lap in a position to represent the sun. Cup one hand and place it on your lap, palm facing up. Cup the other and place it palm facing down on top of your first hand, making a ball with your hands (like you carefully caught a firefly and don’t want to hurt it, which, by the way, is another beautiful source of light, though probably too fluttery to be the source of a trataka-style meditation!). Your cupped hands represent the sun, or you can imagine the sun in your hands, radiating energy outwards.
  • Next, close your eyes and visualize the sun, either still or rotating as in the video. (Interestingly, the sun looks to be rotating in the video because the satellite is in an Earth orbit, thus going around the sun once every 365.25 days. But I did wonder if the sun rotates, and it turns out it does: once every 24-30 days depending on which part. As the sun is not solid, different parts rotate at different speeds: the equator faster, rotating every 24 days, the poles at a slower 30 days. Wow, huh?)
  • Breathe. Try different combinations of 11 seconds—which is the length, in years, of the solar cycle (the cycle the sun’s magnetic field goes through, with north and south poles flipping each cycle). Inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, pause for 1.** Or try breathing in for 3 seconds, pausing for 1, breathing out for 6, pausing for 1. (The first being more balanced, the second more relaxing—at least according to yoga breath ratios, and while I couldn’t find the science behind this, this meta-analysis does show the value of yogic breathing more generally, and this systematic review shows the many benefits of breathing fewer than 10 breaths per minute). Though if focusing on breathing distracts you from your visualization, just breathe slowly and regularly.
  • Continue for as long as you like, ideally at least 5 minutes. Or try 11 minutes, again to represent the solar cycle, though of course you can meditate longer.***

As you meditate, you can also try imagining the energy of the sun warming or filling you (I do this as my morning meditation, so get to feel the rising sun on my face as I do this, which helps). Or imagine the sun radiating outward from your sun hands. Or how the sun’s energy is nurturing and bringing life to Gaia and every living thing on Earth.**** Or don’t. Just come back to the image of the sun, solar flares dancing and shimmering, and let your mind stop for a bit.

Enjoy and feel calm. And if you try this meditation, let me know how it goes in a comment, or offer an improvement or variation.

*Extreme UV is the band of UV rays just before moving into X-Ray bands and are far smaller than UV rays we typically think of (UV-B and UV-A), which range from 280 to 400 nanometers.

**This came up in an earlier post. Pausing does not mean locking your breath. Instead, it’s almost like you’re still trying to breathe in/out but you’re full/empty. Kind of like the moment at the top of the rollercoaster. You didn’t stop though it feels like it—you’re just at the end of the up cycle and about to go down. Wheee!

***In fact, a full solar cycle is 22 years, as after 11 years the poles have been reversed, so 22 minutes is a longer form of the meditation to aspire to.

****There might need to be a “nearly” in that sentence, as perhaps geothermal vent feeders are the exception, though I’m not sure the environment would stay habitable to them without the rest of life thriving, so I’m going to err on the side of being overinclusive.

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4 Responses

  1. Bart Everson

    I’d tried it this morning in City Park. I find it always so hard to evaluate the experience of a meditation, a practice which for me usually involves suspending evaluation. I can report that when I came to the “end” (I set a timer) and got up from my seated position and back in motion, I found myself carrying the visualization forward, so to speak. Holding the image of the sun in my heart as I walked through the trees, actual sunlight filtering down through the branches above me.

    Thank you for sharing this practice.

    • Erik Assadourian

      And thanks for trying it and sharing how it went, Bart!

  2. Robert Engelman

    I see the Cosmos (I’m starting to use the term “Biocosmos”, with capitalization here indicating respect and reverence) in quite spiritual ways, with an intense warmth (so to speak) for the Sun, our local star. My own solar meditation (part of my basic daily loving-kindness meditation) consists of looking at the actual Sun — through eclipse glasses! Not gazing — even through the safety of eclipse glasses this quickly seems too intense an experience — just a passing but direct stare. Long enough to take in its perfect coin-like circularity and the remarkable steadiness and calmness it exhibits. I take a moment to contemplate, too, the randomness of the Solar System’s position in the Universe, in the outer reaches of a fairly typical spiral galaxy, one of many billions. It has no claim to centrality in the Universe — except that we ourselves are conscious and self-aware, and thus at the absolute center of *our” Universe, here on Earth. My verse acknowledges a few things about the Sun that move me: 1) It’s one of “uncountable myriads” of stars, approximately an estimated sextillion similar Beings, as I understand that number. 2) It’s a perfect sphere. (I read recently that if you put a human hair on a blown-up beach ball, that’s about the Sun’s variance from perfect sphericity.) 3) It is incredible in its steadfast brilliance; for all practical purposes unchanging in shedding its life-enabling energy. 4) We’re here with Gaia right in the middle of the Sun’s 9-billion-year life expectancy — it’s prime time! 5) All things must pass — including the Sun and Gaia. I don’t believe we’ll outgrow the Solar System and move on to others, though I suppose tha’s not impossible. 6) There are probably quadrillions of stars pretty much like the one that made Gaia possible. What are the chances that a Gaia-like world only exists — or existed or will exist in the trillions of years of the Universe — around this one fairly typical star? Erik raised privately the hazard that this line of thinking risks removing the centrality of the importance of our responsibility to Gaia, and after resisting this thought for a bit, I decided it’s a reasonable concern. There are indeed times when I feel a subtle despair about what humans are doing to our planet, and it gives me some comfort to have confidence that there are other quite habitable and lovely orbs out there, and no doubt life and even sentient and self-aware life (past, present or future). On the other hand, I don’t think I ever feel less responsibility for acting in defense of Gaia because I feel this way about the likely abundance of sentience in the vastness of the Cosmos. If anything, it helps me focus more strongly on the fact that I am an Earthling; this is my home. (An aside: the Old English word for “farmer”, without even an actual change of spelling, other than use of a single runic letter for our “th”: “earthling”!) Not believing in the likelihood human beings ever actually be able to settle and procreate on other habitable planets, I feel all the more the importance of the work of addressing the problem of human pressure on the Earth.

    • Erik Assadourian

      Thanks Bob. Quite a lot to digest. The sun is certainly awe-inspiring (or should I say awesun?). I certainly don’t think people would be less inclined to save Gaia knowing there are other planetary beings in the universe (if anything that reveals a connection to a larger family). Plus, the idea that there aren’t other planetary beings is planetcentric and hubristic. My only concern is that if human spirituality orients on the universe scale before we orient on the planetary scale, our attention becomes too diffuse. We can be in awe of the wonder of the universe and solar system without pursuing it either spiritually or technologically (study sure but let’s not waste resources foolheartedly trying to colonize it instead of using those resources to heal the Earth). And let’s focus on our spiritual relationship with our dying planet–for there will never be a chance to connect to the larger reality if we don’t prevent Gaia from shifting to a state that no longer allows for humanity/human civilization (in any form that allows scientific study).

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