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And Here Comes The Sun! December 21, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Japa-Ajapa, Life, Mala, Mantra, Mathematics, Meditation, Mysticism, Philosophy, Religion, Robert Frost, Science, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Happy Winter Solstice!” to all who are observing.

[The 75-minute Common Ground Meditation Center practice, in the spirit of generosity (“dana”), is freely given and freely received. You can use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You can request an audio recording of Monday’s practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

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Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.]

“One of his longtime students, Patricia Miller, who now teaches in Washington, D.C., recalls him leading a meditation by offering alternatives. He instructed students to close their eyes and observe the space between the brows, and then said, ‘Think of God. If not God, the sun. If not the sun, your parents.’ Krishnamacharya set only one condition, explains Miller: ‘That we acknowledge a power greater than ourselves.’”


– quoted from the Yoga Journal article entitled “Krishnamacharya’s Legacy” by Fernando Pagés Ruiz

There is a great power in the sun and great power in harnessing the sun’s power. Even before high school students used a magnifying glass to boil water or start a fire and long before people attached solar panels to their homes and businesses, people worshiped and honored the sun – and figured out ways to use the sun’s power. And long before Sri T. Krishnamacharya told his students to meditate on the sun or showed them how to “salute the sun,” people around the world told stories about the sun. For instance, in ancient Māori mythology and other Polynesian traditions, a clever and precocious young man named Māui figured out a way to quite literally harness the sun. With the help of his siblings (and sometimes using his sister’s hair), he lassos the sun and slows it down in order to give humankind more daylight to work, find food, and eat.

The indigenous people of islands in Central and South Pacific Ocean are not the only people with stories about the significance of the Sun. In fact, many cultures consider the Sun to be a god or goddess who flies through the sky at regular intervals. Their stories speak of an anthropomorphized deity who heals people and provides them with sustenance. Sometimes, he is depicted as part bird (e.g., the ancient Egyptians’ Ra); sometimes he has a winged chariot (e.g., the ancient Greeks’ Helios and the Hindus’ Sūrya); sometimes he has both bird characteristics and a horse with wings (e.g., Turkish sun god Koyash); sometimes he was a former human with noble qualities (e.g., the Aztec’s Nanāhuātzin); and sometimes, as I mentioned before, he is she – like Sól (or Sunna) in the Old Norse tradition and the goddess Amaterasu in Japan’s Shinto religion. Although these different cultures portray the Sun as more powerful than mere mortals, in most myths, the Earth (and its inhabitants) are still the center of the Universe.  

“This invocation, these our words may Heaven and Earth, and Indra and the Waters and the Maruts [storm deities] hear. Ne’er may we suffer want in presence of the Sun, and, living happy lives, may we attain old age.
Cheerful in spirit, evermore, and keen of sight, with store of children, free from sickness and from sin,
Long-living, may we look, O Sūrya, upon thee uprising day by day, thou great as Mitra is!
Sūrya, may we live long and look upon thee still, thee, O Far-seeing One, bringing the glorious light,”


– quoted from “Hymn XXXVII. Sūrya” (verses 6-8) in the Rig Veda (translated by Ralph T. H. Griffith)

Today, we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun and that it does so while also tilted and revolving around its own axis. This tilt, the way the Earth revolves around its own center, and the way it orbits the Sun results in the amount of daylight (and nighttime) we have at various times of the year as well as the change in temperature related to different seasons throughout the year. More often than not, we do not notice the gradual changes between dawn (“morning twilight”), daylight, dusk (“evening twilight”) and night. And, let’s not even get into whether or not we even know to notice the difference between the degrees of civil, nautical, and astronomical twilights – which are based on the position of the Sun (in nautical terms) or the Sun’s geometric center in relation to the horizon. More often than not, we notice what might be considered the end of these transitions – i.e., the quality of dawn, daylight, dusk, and night.

In the same way that we barely register the gradual changes during a 24-hour period, we may not always notice the gradual changes between seasons. Four times a year, there is a moment where the Earth is tilted and turned in a way we can perceive and have learned to understand. We know these four times as Winter Solstice, Vernal (or Spring) Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Autumnal (or Fall) Equinox.

The word “equinox” comes from the Latin meaning “equal night” and marks the point, twice a year, when the Sun is directly over the equator (or you can think of it as the equator being closest to the sun). It marks the beginning of astronomical Spring and Fall. It is often explained as the time when everyone in the world has the same amount of daylight and nighttime, but that’s not exactly true. It’s more precise to say that we have equal amounts of day and night on the “Equilux” (which is a word derived from the Latin meaning “equal light”), but people don’t necessarily know that’s actually a thing. Unlike the equinox, which happens at the same time for everyone, the equilux is based on latitude and happens a few days before or after the equinox (depending on the season and where you are in the world).

“He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   


My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.”


– quoted from the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin words meaning “sun” and “to stand still.” The solstice marks the moment, twice a year, when one hemisphere is tilted toward the Sun while the other is tilted away and it appears as if the Sun is hovering over one of the poles – thus creating the longest day (and the longest night) of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere today is Winter Solstice. It’s our shortest day and longest night, but it also marks the moment when we begin to perceive longer days (i.e., more daylight).

Throughout history, cultures all around the world have celebrated the Sun during this darkest (and longest) night. Specifically, people celebrate the Sun returning to their land and give thanks for the benefits of having sunlight. Traditional celebrations include the use of candlelight, bonfires, and Yule Logs. Some people will “sweep away” the old year and as they might during the other big season changes, some people mark this transition by practicing Sūrya Namaskar (“Salutes to the Sun”) 108 times.

There are different types of “Sun Salutations,” but it is traditional viewed as a series of twelve poses and, therefore, a practice of six (inhale-exhale) breaths. The movement mimics the body’s natural tendencies to extend, or lift up to the sun, on the inhale – which is the solar breath – and get closer to the earth on the exhale – which is the lunar breath. It is a mālā (“ring” or “garland”) meditation practice involving ajapa-japa (“not thinking-repeat” or explained as “repeat-remember”), similar to a reciting, chanting, or praying with a rosary or beads. In fact, there are chants and prayers which are sometimes used along with the movement. Not coincidentally, 108 corresponds with the way people use mala beads and the old fashioned rosaries – which had beads to recite 10 decades (10×10) plus 8 beads (for mistakes) (and the cross as the guru bead).

“According to the Surya Siddhanta, an ancient Indian astronomical work, the sunlight moves at a speed of 2,202 yojanas in 0.5 nimisha. One yojana is nine miles. 2,202 yojanas amount to 19,818 miles. One nimisha is equal to 16/75 of a second. Half a nimisha amounts to 8/75 of a second, which is 0.106666 seconds. A speed of 19,818 miles in 0.10666 seconds equals 185,793 miles per second. This is approximately in line with the modern calculations, according to which the speed of light is 186,282 miles per second. Modern science has arrived at this number with great difficulty and all kinds of instruments, while a few thousand years ago, they got this number by simple observation of how the human system and the solar system function together.”


– quoted from a talk about during a “Mahabharat – Saga Nonpareil” event by Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev)

There are a ton of reasons why 108 is considered auspicious, and these reasons come from a lot of different traditions and disciplines – not all of which are religious, spiritual, or metaphysical. The number 108 pops up in mathematics, geometry, physical science, and even baseball! Astronomically speaking, the sun’s diameter is just a little more than 108 times the diameter of the earth’s diameter and the average distance between the earth and the sun is almost 108 times the sun’s diameter. Additionally, the average distance between the moon and the earth just a little more than 108 times the moon’s diameter. Consider that evidence shows the sun’s diameter has increased (over centuries) and the moon’s diameter has decreased (also over centuries) – which means that there was a time when the ratios were presumed to be exactly 108. If the math is throwing you off, just remember that 108 is why the sun and moon appear to be similar in size (even though the sun is about 400 times bigger, and further away from us, than the moon).

Speaking of the way we perceive those gigantic objects in the sky, this year’s December solstice overlaps with “The Great Conjunction” or “meeting” of Jupiter and Saturn. People have been watching the two planets coming together over the last couple of nights. Shortly after sunset (Monday night) the two largest planets in the solar system will appear to merge. This happens about every 20 years, but this year they are the closets they have been in the last 800 years. People are referring to the appearance as “The Christmas Star” or “The Star of Bethlehem” and they won’t be this close again until 2080.

“To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your path, and don’t worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest.”


– Source unverified

There is no playlist for the Common Ground practices.


CHECK OUT THE CALENDAR! The First Friday Night Special in 2021 is on January 1st. You can kick off New Year’s Day 2 ways: with 108 Sun Salutations at 10:00 AM or with a Yin+Meditation practice beginning at 5:00 PM. All times are Central Standard. Details are posted on the class schedules calendar.


### SUNRISE ###


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