This may come as a surprise to you, but our family is addicted to sunset gazing. It does not matter if we are by the beach or hiking or simply doing groceries. Whenever sunset is near its peak, we must drop whatever we are doing and recognize the earth’s rotational shift.
Evenings, for us, have magic calling to come together. Sometimes I like to think that our ancestors enjoyed a similar call.
During our time in California, we have realized how inspiring the sunsets on the west coast are. Therefore, when it comes to the twilight hours, this region shines a different light.
Our family enjoys those nightfall moments, and they last for however long we desire to enjoy their colorful presence. When I think about how close we get, as a family, during those moments, I can’t help to realize that meditation as a family is possible. Especially when we are under the beautiful spell of nature.
The last time we hike on the Appalachian trail, we camp at The Sky Meadows Campground. The first night we spent there, an incredible sunset happened. When we were walking, in silence, enjoying the beautiful surroundings, a group of young deers approached us. They got so close to our children that at some point, I was concerned with their nearness. But it was all safe. People fed them, so they are used to that. I do not recommend feeding wildlife. We should let them be in their natural habitats, untouched, as much as possible.
Some years later, when we visited Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle area, something similar happened. The sun was setting, and we were finishing our dinner when a couple of whitetail deers started to get close.
Our immediate quietness allowed us to hear the breathing of such beautiful animal species. A quiet exchange of presence and observation between the animals and us developed, which lasted for at least thirty minutes. After that, we were in complete reverence and meditative inertia. Especially our children, something that had me in utter amazement.
These moments happen very often, and to me, they are a straightforward and spontaneous way for meditation to happen.
Not to mention that every time we relate to the surroundings, and when we breathe peacefully, enjoying each other’s presence, we become a different tribe. Perhaps monks, while walking, working, or meditating in the sierras, experience a similar feeling.
As individuals, we can reach these states of meditative flow by simply paying attention to our environments. By studying how the trees move in the breeze. By recognizing how life in the wild seems to take part in a daily spontaneous and inclusive dance.
Similarly, each creature moves in specific patterns. Every leaf falls and dances in the wind, caressed by the choreographed harmony of gravity’s pull.
If you want to experience this simple awareness, all you need to do is open the doors and the windows in your house and pick one thing happening outside your home, and:
- Observe how it is occupying space
- Does it have a color or a specific shape?
- Is it an animal, a bush, a tree?
- See what it is doing without trying to interpret or understand the why
- If you can touch it, how does it feel? Is it rough, is it cold?
- Does it have a particular smell?
- How big is it?
- After noticing all these things, can you breathe with it?
- As it moves from one place to the other one, as it feeds on the grass, as it floats in the air, can you take deep breathes and flow with it?
- Look at it, see it, and pay attention to your breathing; feel the air as it comes in and out, as you breathe in and out.
- Cancel all thinking patterns. Try not to think about your plans for tomorrow or whatever happened yesterday. Instead, just experience your breath and how you are recognizing your surroundings for as long as you can.
Generally speaking, meditation is pure attention.
And we are constantly doing it. So next time you go for a hike, or a walk, leave your music behind. Leave the devices behind and see how things are happening around you.
Traffic smell and the continuous flow of life in the big city are something that we already meditate too much on. Even though this can be a source of meditation, we want to forget about all that for this exercise. Instead, we want to see, smell, feel and touch something different.
Take somebody with you and find a place where you can experience the serenity of placing your attention on something, your undivided attention.
Even if it is only for seconds at a time. Eventually, those seconds are going to turn into minutes and minutes into hours.
There is beauty out there waiting to be found and seen by you. We are surrounded by it, find it, and claim it as yours. Meditation is something we are always doing. Meditate on that which brings you some form of rest, release, peace, and joy. Start by watching sunsets. Make it a point to be available to see its flow. I promise you that you won’t regret it.