Solstice, from the Latin solstitium, meaning sun standing. On the longest day of the year, solstice heralds the beginning of summer, paving the way for sunshine, light nights and fun. It brings energy, transition and growth. As the sun rises it welcomes in a new phase, new beginnings, a time to press pause and reflect. At 3.30am this morning, that’s just what we did as we headed up to the famous Castlerigg Stone Circle in Keswick, Cumbria to join the celebrations. In that small early morning window of darkness we contemplated our place in this huge universe and how solstice is the perfect time to begin, reignite or go deeper into our mindfulness practice. We take a look at;
- Are you mindful (or not)
- Mindfulness benefits
- 4 magical mindful solstice practices
Castlerigg Stone Circle & Solstice
We’re so lucky to live just a hop skip and a jump away from one of English Heritage’s most famous sites. Come solstice, and the tilting of the earth’s axis, Castlerigg Stone Circle is established as one of the most stunning places to be in the UK to mark this ancient Pagan celebration. It was well worth the 3.30am bleary eyed start from Oak Cottage & Owl Barn to witness the awesome the sight of sun rising spectacularly from behind the Lake District fells. Solstice is the perfect time to reflect upon the year and begin or deepen our meditation practice.
Mindful or not?
If you’re new to mindfulness and are sitting there wondering if you’re mindful or not, head over to our free resources and take our free mindfulness test here Free Mindfulness Test
Or ask yourself a few simple questions;
- Do you find yourself neglecting your self care to get ‘more important’ things done?
- Are you constantly playing catch up and feeling anxious that your ‘To Do’ list never seems to end?
- Are you frequently on autopilot?
- Is it difficult to remain present in conversations with others?
- Does it feel as though you are hurtling through life at a million miles an hour?
- Are you constantly distracted by social media?
- Did you miss solstice altogether?
Recognise yourself? There’s nothing wrong with you, it’s the way our brains are wired. We all zone out from time to time, it’s who we are as human beings and at least some of the time we couldn’t live without our automatic pilot. The downside of cruising through your life on autopilot is that mind-less-ness can also become a trap, preventing us from truly experiencing and enjoying life. Solstice and mindfulness offer us an alternative. An opportunity to press pause and reflect. And it doesn’t stop at merely preventing you from zoning out.
The Benefits Of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness are many. Here are just a sample (ask us, there’s more!)
- Greater resilience
- Reduced stress
- Increased focus
- More flow moments
- Increased emotional intelligence
- A boosted immune system
- Increased happiness
- Improved relationships
- Greater ability to manage emotions
- Increased neuroplasticity
Evidence from empirical research demonstrates that regular Mindfulness practice for as little as ten minutes a day can improve performance, increase focus, improve neuroplasticity, reduce stress and anxiety as well as increasing your overall levels of happiness. For ten minutes a day that’s not a bad return. Here’s how to create some magical mindful solstice moments in 4 steps.
4 Magical Mindfulness Solstice Practices
1.Begin with Mindful Breathing
You don’t need to be up with sunrise, but if you can find somewhere outside, in nature to try to this practice, you’ll experience the benefits.
Using your breath as an anchor, this is a way of applying mindfulness to something that you already do – and we know that you breath! This can be a fantastic a strategy for setting the tone of the rest of your day and can be a great way to embed mindfulness as a habit. Setting an intention to be more mindful first thing will start your day on the right footing to build mindfulness into your routine. Make use of those light, early summer mornings as your mindful time.
Think about your morning routine, how do you usually begin your day? Waking, getting out of bed, cleaning your teeth, having your first dose of caffeine? Is there space for one minute of mindfulness practice? A mindful minute? If you’ve ever decided to run a marathon and followed a running plan you may be familiar with the strategy of run a minute, walk a minute on day 1, run two minutes, walk two minutes on day 2 as a starting point. Surprisingly, training your brain is no different to training your body. And that’s what you’re going to do. Think of it as near training, starting with a mindful breath. Solstice can be day 1.
Start with a minute of practice first thing in the morning on week one and build up to two minutes on week two. Start where you are and see how far you can build your morning practice. As you begin to see the benefits, you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes to incorporate mindfulness into your morning routine.
The STOP practice is deceptively simple. Sometimes mindfulness sounds more complicated than it really is and that can be off-putting (it doesn’t have to be). STOP is an easy win and it’s something that we can all do, at any time during the day for 60 seconds. It will help you to begin to disrupt habitual thinking or patterns of cognitive complacency by bringing you back to the present moment. When better to stop and consider where you are, where you want to be and how you’ll bridge that gap than solstice? Here’s how;
(T)ake a breath. Notice the flow of your breath in and out of your body.
(O)bserve your thoughts as you breath in and out, what is in your head, right here? Right now? How are you feeling? your body? What sensations are here? Do you notice tension, aches, or are you relaxed? How is it for you, right now in this moment?
(P)roceed. Once you’ve practice STOP simply keep calm and carry on with your day.
3. The Waiting Practice.
If you drive, you’ve been there. You’re stuck in traffic, the lights are at red refusing to change and you are willing them to switch to green with every fibre of your body. Solstice is an opportunity to pause and set the reset button. Perhaps you’re in a queue and the friendly conversation between the cashier and the person in front infuriates you as you glance at your watch. Don’t they know you’re on a schedule? Or perhaps your train is sitting in the station, delayed or cancelled for some unknown reason. Don’t they know you have somewhere to go? Annoying isn’t it? The irritation as you wait is an opportunity in disguise. This is your moment to practice mindfulness. Instead of fuming, try this three step waiting practice;
Bring your focus to your breath. Notice the cool stream of air above your upper lip as you inhale and a warmer sensation in the same area as you exhale.
Move your attention to your body.
What are you feeling? What kind of sensations are you able to detect? How does your frustration manifest itself in the body? Are you fists clenched? is your heart rate increasing? What do you notice as you scan your body?
Notice your thoughts; anger? annoyance? Impatience? Irritation? Recognize them and then allow them to be, just as they are without judging.
4. Stop Multitasking.
If only we could convince people that multitasking is a myth. It’s up there with the flying pigs, the Loch Ness Monster and the Yeti (but if you have photos of either we’d love to see them). Even though we’ve been taught to believe that it’s possible we know from research in the field of neuroscience that the ability to focus on several tasks at the same time just isn’t possible. All it does is increase our error rate it, prevent flow and leave us feeling burned out. Focus on one task at a time and watch your productivity increase and your stress levels fall.
Want to know more about Mindfulness?
For more mindfulness, meditation techniques, psychology tools or to find out more about our mindfulness at work programmes get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. As UK Registered Teachers and International Mindfulness Teacher Association members adhering to the UK Good Practice Guidelines for Mindfulness Teachers we work internationally delivering mindfulness at work programmes, our clients include UK Sport, Spotify, the V&A, Natural History Museum, Insure the Box and the Bonington Leadership Programme amongst others. We offer bitesize, one day, two day and 6 week mindfulness at work training programmes and mindful leadership courses. Just Get in touch we’d love to hear from you.