Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Summer is fully upon us and the heat during the day keeps most inside. Have you ever tried mindfulness to make the most of a summer evening? Let’s try learning how mindfulness helps you see in the dark. A summer evening can be a delightful time to step outside and de-stress from your day.
No matter how hot the day, there’s something refreshing about a summer evening. I look forward to some time outside in the evening after a long day of work whether at the office or at home. It’s my little ritual for releasing the stress of the day, and grounding myself in the present. This helps me avoid my forward focus, thinking of all the things I need to do tomorrow and keeps me grateful for my day. Today I’ll share a few tips on how mindfulness helps you see in the dark so you can join me for some summer evening fun!
Try to connect with nature
I set aside time for mindfulness almost every evening and I make it a priority to do it outside. There’s really no mystery to my reasoning for this; I work inside all day and connecting with nature is a known stress relief technique. Though not a mandatory component, I highly recommend you do the same. My evenings are spent in my yard, which is by no means secluded, but we have many plants, insects and small wildlife to enjoy.
To reap the most benefit from this mindfulness practice it should be as simple as possible. You don’t have to “travel” anywhere, though you may choose to do that. Even if you live in an apartment, you can enjoy sitting on your balcony. It can be a simple backyard deck or front porch. You can create a little haven for yourself by including potted or hanging plants, bird feeders, wind chimes, and a comfy chair. Windsocks are delightful, too; I enjoy their color and the way they dance in the breeze.
“Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how rooted in being. Allow nature to teach you stillness. `Eckhart Tolle
Mindfulness is not bound by time
Mindfulness offers benefits no matter how long you are able to practice. This means you don’t have to struggle to fit it into your schedule. Each time you practice may look different and last for varying amounts of time. The point is that you do it! While I spend most evenings practicing mindfulness outside, I don’t always spend the same amount of time doing it, but I do feel the benefits every time.
My advice is to simply plan a time once the dinner rush is over at your house. Just shoot for 20-30 minutes maximum and see how it goes. Even 10 or 15 minutes is beneficial, so choose a small block of time to start. Remember the mindful check in we learned about? That takes 5 minutes and is a great way to start out, and then maybe close out with 5 more minutes focusing your awareness on your surroundings.
dusk or dark?
So you may be wondering what I mean by “how mindfulness helps you see in the dark” if we’re talking about a summer “evening”. Good question; it’s a little bit of a play on words which you’ll find out later. But I am going to share some tips for practicing mindfulness during “dusk” and then also when it’s “dark”.
Both times during a summer evening offer great opportunities for awareness training, grounding and mindful listening. Which you choose may depend on the time you have available or your preference. While I’m a total astronomy geek, getting up at 4:30 am puts a definite damper on staying up late enough in the summer for it to become completely “dark”. So my time is mostly early evening to dusk.
Mindfulness at dusk
This is a spectacular time to practice mindfulness! I find each part of the day has so much to teach us if we just open our eyes. Dusk begins with the sunset; a stunning good-bye to each day that is never duplicated. While the sun sets every day, it never does so the same way.
Tips For More Awareness at Dusk
- Always begin each session with either a mindful check in or mindful breathing.
- Start with the sunset if possible; notice colors, cloud formations around it, how it changes over a few moments. Consider: how many others are looking at the same sunset?
- Notice any wildlife; rabbits love to come out at this time to grab their evening meal. Birds often visit my birdbath at this hour, squirrels head for their home in the trees. Notice how their habits are more “quiet” and settled at this time.
- What sounds do you hear? Close your eyes; try mindful listening. Pick a sound and focus on that one sound for a moment or two. Then choose a different sound. See how many different sounds you can hear; crickets, birds, squirrels? What else?
- If there’s a breeze, close your eyes and focus on it caressing you, allow it to cool you, settle you. With eyes open watch how the tree leaves dance in the breeze, flowers or plants swaying. The rhythm is so relaxing!
- Fireflies! I love to watch the fireflies! Just as dusk fades into night, you can see them all over. You know they were there all along, but you can’t see them until the light fades. Just watching them is so soothing.
- Fragrances; close your eyes, take a few moments to breathe while noticing what you smell.
Mindfulness at Dark
The darkness of a summer evening holds an allure of its own. The splendor of the stars is enough to spend time focusing your awareness on, but there’s more. The darkness holds its own sounds and fragrances.
Tips For More Awareness When Its Dark
- As mentioned above under the tips for more awareness at dusk, if you are just beginning to practice at dark, start with a mindful check in or mindful breathing.
- If possible watch the sky transition from dusk to dark. Notice the colors and how the stars start to appear.
- Stargaze! Just looking at the sheer magnitude of the stars is fascinating. Check out a resource to learn to spot some easy constellations. See if you can trace the pattern of the star picture.
- As you stargaze, see if you can make your own patterns from the stars. Maybe it was just my rebellious nature, but as a child this was my favorite activity on a summer night.
- What sounds do you hear? Close your eyes and pick out a sound; focus on it a moment or two. If you’ve tried mindfulness at dusk, what sounds are different now compared to at dusk?
- Fragrances: there’s nothing like a summer night for fragrances. Sometimes though it takes a few moments of intentionally sensing these.
Wherever you are be all there
Although the tips I’ve shared with you will help you focus and immerse yourself in nature, “where” you are is not of utmost importance. Personally, I know the health and spiritual benefits of connecting with nature, and love to offer that benefit to others. But the beauty of mindfulness is the ability to use this practice to train your awareness and be more present anywhere.
I find amazing comfort hearing my neighbor washing her dinner dishes, children laughing two yards over or the fragrance of a meal on the stove. These things ground me into the present, like “comfort food” for my mind and spirit. I don’t find these noises distracting, or as interruptions to my nature encounter. To the contrary, they remind me of simpler times, and that life is “normal” in my world. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a lot of nature around for that connection. Just breathing in fresh air heals the body. Enjoy whatever sounds you hear around you; let them bring you to the present and settle you there.
HOw mindfulness helps you see in the dark
As I’ve mentioned before, the advantage of mindfulness is that it grounds you in the present, allowing you to more fully experience and live in the current moment. Practicing mindfulness in the evening gives you the opportunity to leave behind the cares of your day and worries about tomorrow. I had some fun focusing on what that might be like on a summer evening, but it is equally pleasurable on any evening.
Mindfulness helps you see what you were unable to see due to the cares and worries that so much occupy your mind. Practicing mindfulness in the evening, opens the eyes of your awareness to notice sounds, fragrances, colors, and things around you that you would not normally “see”. I am often surprised at the things mindfulness brings to my awareness that I did not notice before taking place in the evening.
Increased awareness of God’s presence is another magnificent blessing of practicing mindfulness at this time. God often reveals Himself to us in creation around us; the gentle caress of a breeze, the fragrance after the rain, a child’s laugh or the splendor of a sunset. Busyness or the cares of life can “darken” the eyes of our heart to His presence. However, mindfulness increases your awareness and helps you see in the dark what you’ve been missing all along. Leave a comment to let me know the things you discover!