Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sunset Meditation Epilogue

My sunset meditation project has drawn to a close. It didn't go exactly as planned. Perhaps I should have looked at the weather report before promising myself seven nights of sunsets. In reality, I got seven nights of observing the sky get dark. Only three of those nights were sunsets. One night was pouring rain and three nights the cloud cover was so great that the setting sun was not visible.

My hypothesis was that taking the time to watch the sky each night, as the sun set would be a powerful experience. And as it turned out, even though most nights didn't deliver a sunset, my hypothesis was spot on, and in more ways than I expected.

I expected to be delighted by the beauty of the sky. And on the nights with the vibrant colors, I was. On the nights that were rainy or overcast, I made my pilgrimage to my viewing spots anyway to see what I could see. The first rainy night I felt a profound sense of disappointment in the sky. The sky had not delivered. And the next night, it made only a meager effort. From my vantage point on top of a hill, I could only see the narrowest band of pink between the low hanging clouds and the city skyline. I watched anyway, feeling a little ripped off.

The following night it was completely overcast. By now I was feeling pretty discouraged, but my sense of commitment kept me going. I drove out to the lake, sat on a pier and watched the sky. No sunset, but the sky was an incredible purple gray- simply beautiful. I watched a pair of swans floating around on the water. And when lightning flashed in the distance, for the briefest moment, the sky shone pink. That night my attitude started to shift. My annoyance at the sky made way for acceptance. Sunset or no sunset, I found that I was enjoying my nightly excursions.

Seeing a sunset is a treat, but because I wasn't able to see one each night, the ritual became more about saying goodbye to the day and feeling a connection to the transition into nighttime. This transition would happen with or without my participation, of course, but taking part in it made me feel a sense of grounding and a sense of place. I am, after all, one small being, on an immense planet spinning through space. It is nice to be reminded of that.

Observing the sky each night was a practice in paying attention and letting go of expectation, in taking in an experience without judgement or preconception. Life doesn't always deliver to us what we want. Nor does the sky. And of course, it is futile to be angry with the sky. So, after a few days, I stopped judging what was happening and I started experiencing it. There is a lesson there.

Now that the project has ended, I will miss this nightly ritual and the solitude and sense of peacefulness and awe that accompanied it. I am certain that I will devote more time than I used to for sunset gazing and the project, of course, is always there for me to repeat. I am looking forward to my next project, in a few weeks time, when I watch the sunrise each morning for one week. It will be interesting to see what that brings.


  1. I think one of the reasons I like camping is that I get to be out in nature, watching the sunsets. Without a clock, it's amazing how quickly you can begin to tell time by the light.

    Oh, and gazing into a fire every night for a week offers another way to open your mind!

  2. CLLarew-
    I agree- isn't it great to be free of clock-time? I would like to spend a good chunk of time- say a month without using a clock at all. I imagine that I would have to be out in a cabin in the woods for that to happen.

  3. I love how you took the unexpected weather and turned it around to letting go of expectations.

  4. TFMuse- It was a process- I think that was the benefit of committing to the project for a week. It took a few days to let go of those expectations.


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