Some say it takes only three weeks to form a new habit, others say it takes nine. Well, after eight weeks of doing my Sun Project, I can say that watching the sunrise and sunset once a week has become engrained in my mental and physical clock. I know now that I will start every Wednesday with an observation, and that I will plan dinner and my study schedule around catching the sun just before it dips below the mountains. I have consciously integrated the sun, along with the changing of the seasons, into my daily life.
This may sound strange considering the fact that the sun has been and will always be part of my daily life. This is one of those “no shit, Sherlock” statements, right? But in all honesty, when was the last time you could predict when the sun would rise, to the minute? Have you ever noticed that the sun moves south along the horizon during the last half of the year, and north during the first? How often do you look up at the sky and note how far the sun has moved, or what angle it is at?
This new awareness is subtle, but enriching. If the sun was only a casual acquaintance 8 weeks ago, now he is a dear friend, and I take the time to ask where he rises each morning, how his day went before he tucks in for bed. The sun and I are on a first name basis.
While I appreciate being conscious of the Earth’s orbit and rotation and its relationship to the sun for the mere intellectual value, I have also tuned in to the more philosophical lessons that come with this awareness. After a few weeks, the sun began to teach me two contrasting yet interrelated lessons, the first on consistency and the second on impermanence.
The sun’s trajectory across our sky is one of the most consistent patterns in our world. The sun will rise and set without fail, and this we take for granted because the sun, since the beginning of human memory, has proved itself consistent. The natural world is full of repeating, predictable patterns—the changing of the seasons, the phases of the moon—that define the patterns of human life. And yet, in parenthesizes, there are elements of change. Where there is a pattern, there is always a deviation. The sun does not rise at the same point everyday; the moon’s cycle may be interrupted by an eclipse; the seasons behave differently as the Earth transforms, for better or for worse. In other words, even within consistency there is an element of impermanence. No pattern is repeated in quite the same way. The world, though it may be predictable, is always new.
Now what if this idea were applied to people? Are individuals a composition of consistent habits, behaviors, patterns? Do these consistencies change from decade to decade, year to year, day to day? What aspects of a personality are evanescent? What elements can be taken for granted, like the rise and fall of the sun?
When I turn these questions upon myself, I think of the many years I’ve spent going through the same motions, confronting the same challenges, fighting the same battles. I tackle the same obstacles—weight gain, depression, fatigue—in a predictable annual cycle. Yet I never approach these challenges in the same way, and over the years, I’ve found them easier to overcome. I have new strategies now, and I perceive these patterns differently. I have learned that my physical and emotional heaviness is impermanent, and it will fade, like daylight. My body and heart will rest the whole night through, and when I rise again to surmount the hurdles the day has set before me, I will do so with renewed vitality until, one crisp, bright morning, I will embrace the familiar, consistent trials as fleeting, impermanent opportunities for growth.
What has the sun taught you lately?
Smiles and all the best,