New to Meditation? Consider gazing at stars . . . or at fireflies
Get comfortable, relax, and gaze at the sky to explore what’s happening within and around you.
Recently, I revisited a meditation known by different names depending on when you practice it - it's called cloud or sky gazing in the daytime, and at night it's called stargazing. In the afternoon, I put on a floppy hat and sunglasses and rested on a chaise lounge while gazing at the horizon. At night, I sat on the patio and looked at the stars. When there were fireflies, I watched them come, go, and change.
Stargazing cuts through many of the challenges people have when they learn to meditate. We relax, gaze at the sky, and explore what’s happening at the moment.
- Sit or lie down comfortably and relax. Settle into the natural rhythm of your breathing.
- When your body feels relaxed, move your attention to your out-breath and lightly rest it there. If you have a hard time relaxing, rest your attention on your exhale anyway and notice what happens in your mind and body.
- Look at the horizon and rest your gaze. Keep your eyes soft and open, not focused on any particular object.
- Notice any changes that you see in the sky.
- When thoughts, emotions, and body sensations bubble up, let them be. If you let them alone and don't engage with them, they tend to stay for awhile and then fade away on their own.
- Whatever happens in your mind and body is part of Stargazing, see if you can include whatever shows up and hold-back from analyzing it.
- Stargazing is not about spacing out; it's about staying with and seeing through the day-to-day comings and goings of your mind.
- Notice the instruction to ‘lightly’ rest your attention on your out-breath. Pema Chodron, one of the leading American teachers of meditation in the Tibetan tradition, explains this important instruction:
Some people prefer to focus only on the out breath. Either way, the attention should be so light that only one-quarter of our awareness is on the breath. The breath goes out and dissolves into space, then we breathe in again. This continues without any need to make it happen or to control it. Each time the breath goes out, we simply let it go. Whatever occurs – our thoughts or emotions, sounds or movement in the environment – we train in accepting it without any value judgments. (Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully 2012)
- Start with frequent but brief moments of stargazing and build to longer periods of practice.